Monday, July 13, 2009
Space Birds, Sitting Ducks, and the Dogs of War [Fred Schwarz]
High-tech weaponry is an enormous advantage, but one analyst thinks America must keep in mind that other countries can build or buy countermeasures fairly easily:
Aircraft carriers, navy destroyers, short-range fighter aircraft and forward bases such as Guam and Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean are becoming increasingly vulnerable to technology and tactics being developed by America’s rivals, [Andrew] Krepinevich argues in the July issue of Foreign Affairs journal.
Even new areas of supremacy, such as US dominance of global positioning satellites that guide “smart” bombs to their targets, are becoming a “wasting asset” as states such as China develop the space technology to destroy them. China already has the ballistic missiles and laser technology to destroy low-orbit satellites on which the military depends.
Krepinevich claims America should devote more resources to cutting-edge nanosatellites to maintain its technological lead and should invest in missile interceptors and laser energy defences that could counter the threat from adversaries deploying their own “smart” weapons . . .
In wars of the future, “smart” rockets and missiles will be readily available to non-state forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, let alone traditional powers such as Russia and China, which already have the technology and the ability to sell it on. Despite this, the Pentagon is spending billions on short-range strike aircraft that need to operate from forward land bases or aircraft carriers vulnerable to missiles, submarines and drones.
The article discusses a 2002 war-games exercise in which “a surprise attack was launched on the US fleet by swarms of Iranian suicide vessels and anti-ship cruise missiles. More than half of the US ships were sunk or disabled in ‘the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.’” It’s reminiscent of Col. Billy Mitchell’s 1921 demonstration that the warships of the day were sitting ducks for bombers. That result began the U.S. Navy’s long shift to airpower, and it’s possible that Krepinevich’s article could cause a similar fundamental rethink.
Speaking of which, here’s one of my favorite high-tech military system nicknames (which is a lot more than just a cute name):
One of the reasons that the number [of] terrorist suicide bomb attacks, and casualties, are occurring at a lower rate in Afghanistan, compared to Iraq, is that there is better technology available to detect suicide bombers . . . One of the more recent purchases is 300 Fido XTi explosives detectors. This 2.7 pound device can detect explosives with the same accuracy as a dog. These electronic devices are expensive, at about $22,000 each, but they are small enough to mount on a robot, or, via a cable, a safe distance from the troops . . . everyone benefits because of the bomb attacks that are foiled, and the bombers who are taken alive, and interrogated to find the permanent (and difficult to replace) members of the bomber team.
These days, by the way, Afghan troops have replaced Americans at most of the roadblocks and checkpoints where bombers like to strike. I’ll bet Afghans perform most of the interrogations too.
07/13 07:53 PMShare