When thinking about military technology, it can sometimes sound like something out of a sci-fi book. Once authors wrote about night vision, and now it is integral to our mobile phone’s as part of the camera. Drones acted as assassins, now they are working in Hollywood as cameramen.
We are not here to buck that trend. We will not bore you with how military tech seems to trickle down into civilian life, like the internet starting as a codebreaker. Instead, we are looking at the future of military tech. What are the ‘wild ideas’ that will revolutionise military operations? Maybe sometime in the future that tech will be commonplace too?
At the moment, lasers are a great way to entertain your cat. In sci-fi lasers are beams of electricity sometimes emitting from Superman’s eyes, or a lightsabre, that will destroy everything in its wake.
That might change in the future. The US Navy is currently testing a Laser Weapon System, which, for one thing will do more than shine a beam of light. They are expected to be loaded onto ships as a defence against attack boats and drones, but also on trucks, called HEL MD or High-Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, to destroy mortar shells and drones.
Aerial warfare has always had a nasty habit of being too obvious. You can see them coming literally miles away. Well, investors like Northrop Grumman and a few subcontractors are seeking to fix that. Using reflective hardened shells on their bombers, the aircraft should change colour in the air and avoid radar with the simple concept of turning their skin into a mirror.
It is not quite as simple as that. There will be some control over how the plan changes, including light blue for the daytime sky, dark blue for night and white for cloud coverage, for example.
In the meantime, companies like Elbit are making smart tech commonplace in the cockpit. Remember the concept of Google glasses? The internet in front of your face? They are bringing that to aircraft helmets, so pilots can access the information they need to while in the cockpit.
Invisibility is a concept still elusive to man despite scientists concerted efforts. Nature has it mastered. There are birds and bugs that have developed exteriors that blend into their environment (their camouflage is so convincing they can appear invisible) and there are amphibians and lizards that are outright changing their exteriors to match their surroundings.
Among them is the squid, which the University of California has taken as their inspiration to create invisibility. The idea is not just to blend in, like camoflage outfits offer, but to evade the infrared vision systems common in the military by adding patches from the squid that emit the same wavelengths as night vision systems, avoiding detection.
If you are not a scientist, plasma could be interchangeable with lasers, except in sci-fi it leaves its victims turned into goo. That is not the goal of Boeing, who are looking to create plasma fields to deflect blasts to their vehicles with an ionised airfield.