Military robots date back to World War II in the form of the German Goliath, an old mobile hardware used by Germans to track mines and tanks. Military robots were used for reconnaissance and for neutralizing explosive devices. Current robots are not merely used for surveillance and sniper detection but have been further developed to bear weapons and are teleoperated by humans. The super Aegis II, a South Korean made weapon, can recognize targets but will request permission from an operator before firing. In the future, these weapons may become abundant and easy to operate.
Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles are programmed to film everything that happens n the battlefield. Weapon bearing drones can fly into enemy territories and play crucial roles in counter-terrorism and spy operations. It is believed that unmanned aerial vehicles make up half of the United States Air force fleet. Advances in military technology are fueled by innovation and necessity; the need for faster and quieter aircrafts, better battlefield communication, and more humane non-lethal weapons. Non-lethal weapons are capable of incapacitating troops for a period of time using sound or light technology without causing death or severe casualties. This reduces situations where a local population is annihilated when targeted in error.
Robots can reduce instances of unethical behavior in wartime such as rape and torture. Robot medics can be used in rescue operations for civilians and for extracting wounded servicemen from the battlefield with less loss of lives. They also enable the army to undertake risky operations without casualties. Other types include bomb disposal robots used for bomb detection, dismantling and disposal without loss of personnel, and surveillance drones to detect terrorist operations.
In the US, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other parts of the military working with defense contractors are developing military hardware that has the potential to change the face of war. But this could bring about positive and negative results. The predator which flies at about 25,000 feet costs about $ 9,000 per hour to operate while the global hawk, which flies at 55,000 feet costs $27,000 per hour to fly. This is expensive for any military to maintain.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are easily destroyed by surface to air missiles and fighter jets because they have medium endurances and fly at lower altitudes than jets. They also require just as many airmen to operate as their manned counterparts.
Since the UAVS are controlled remotely from command posts, the possibility that weapon bearing drones may be taken over by enemy combatants is especially high when command posts are under attack. Professional hackers are capable of gaining access to the control frequency of drones laden with missiles and this could have catastrophic consequences.
Finally, UAVS have a “soda straw” effect which simply means that the field of view is too narrow to take in the whole picture and can lead to poor calculation by officers at command posts. Military robots are unable to accommodate for non-standard conditions since its operations are already pre-programmed. Technologists also fear that weapon carrying robots can constitute a great amount of danger if they develop technical or control faults in mid-air. It is expected that future researchers would rectify these shortcomings.
Another groundbreaking trend in military technology is genetic engineering, although most research in this field is still far from yielding results, and most governments believed to be sponsoring this research have kept it highly classified. The gene is the hereditary building block of any living organism. Researchers in genetic engineering are believed to have figured out ways of manipulating the human gene to build soldiers with heightened abilities.
Military industrial pharmaceutical complexes have developed drugs that can enhance natural abilities in humans. The use of certain amphetamine-based drugs is known to trigger alertness and prevent sleep in servicemen. However, these drugs can lead to poor judgment resulting in friendly fires. A Harvard University professor is rumored to be experimenting with propranolol, a beta blocker that can erase terrifying memories. This is expected to erase the psychological effects of war on soldiers and reduce the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Work is also being done to modify human red blood cells to produce and deliver protein antidotes throughout the body and with a blood transfusion could neutralize biological toxins for soldiers in the battlefield. The United States plans to plant nanosensors in soldiers to monitor their health in future battlefields and immediately respond to needs. Research has it that microchips can be modified to combat PTSD and make soldiers more resilient. It can monitor how the brain shifts into anxiety and depression, and send electrical stimulation to correct the abnormal brain patterns creating a brain-machine interface program.
In the future, genetic engineer research may produce results that will enable the world to treat certain challenges encountered in the military today. They include:
- How to trigger soldiers injured body into re-growing damaged/severed limbs.
- Turning fat into energy to enable soldiers to stay days without food in war zones.
- Production of contact lens-mounted displays that could focus information from drones and satellites directly onto the soldier’s eye.
- How to increase speed and muscular endurance beyond the natural thresh hold in servicemen.
These researchers in gene manipulation if successful will take the art of warfare into another phase: the era of the superhuman.
- Schafer, Ron (July 2003). “Robotics to play major role in future war fighting” United States Joint forces command. Retrieve 2013-04-30.
- “U.S Army Tests Flying Robot Sniper” Fox News (2009). Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Moraga, Roger. “Modern Genetics in the world of fiction” Clarkes world magazine Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- Lin, Bekey et al (2009). “Robots in war: issues of Risk and Ethics”.
ANENE OBINNA CHINEMELUM JR. is a native of Nibo in Awka-south local government area of Anambra state, Nigeria. He loves creative writing and participates in several writing contests. He is also a student of the University of Nigeria.