Advanced Technologies of Importance to the Army
SELECTION OF MOST IMPORTANT TECHNOLOGIES
The Selection Process
The deliberations of the STAR Technology Groups produced a list of more than a hundred technologies with significance for the Army. (Individual technologies at this level of detail are listed in the TFA Scope sections of Chapter 3.) The Science and Technology Subcommittee selected a small number of these as the most likely to produce advances important to ground warfare in the twenty-first century.
The selection was made during a meeting of the Science and Technology Subcommittee in Irvine, California, in April 1990. At a meeting with the Army earlier that year in Washington, D.C., Army representatives had requested a short list of the highest-priority technologies from among those on the full list. The subcommittee group at the Irvine meeting, which included at least one representative from each of the technology groups except Basic Sciences, derived the requested short list by the following process.
The Subcommittee considered the approach of developing specific scenarios for ground warfare. However, this approach seemed too dependent on which scenarios were depicted and even on the details of each scenario. Given the wide range of threat possibilities in the new international environment (see Chapter 1 for details), a more generic picture of future ground warfare was constructed—one that would apply, albeit in a general way, to the gamut of potential
threats and conditions under which the Army would face them. This generic picture includes three elements:
Attack. Although the Army has many important roles, an essential mission is to be able to attack and defeat a strong enemy when circumstances require.
Defend. Directly associated with the ability to attack an enemy is the ability to defend itself and U.S. interests (be they civilians, key natural resources, trade routes, the territory of our allies, or the territory of the United States itself) from an enemy's attack. As potential enemies use advanced technologies in their own offensive operations, our defense must stay ahead of them.
Gather information. Information about the enemy's capability, actions, and intentions and about the terrain and weather in which operations will occur has always been crucial to the outcome of ground warfare. The information gathered must be communicated rapidly and often in voluminous detail from the point of initial reception to the nodes in the information network responsible for analysis, integration, decision-making, and action. Finally, those responsible for command and control must be able to understand and act on the information as soon as possible after it has been communicated. Modern warfare, like modern society in general, seems destined to become increasingly dependent on advanced technology for information gathering, processing, and communication. As Chapter 2 pointed out, Operation Desert Storm illustrated just how important winning the information war has become in modern ground warfare.
In considering the relative priority to be assigned to these roles as criteria for the importance of technologies, the Sciences and Technology Subcommittee settled on the following rationale. First, the Army spends most of its time neither attacking nor defending but in a mode of deterrence through readiness to defend and attack. The Army's need for information gathering, communication, and informed decision-making is continuous; it pervades all stages of deterrence, defense, and attack. Second, the traditional and presumably continuing posture of the United States has been to respond to military actions rather than to attack first. Thus, the ability to defend can logically be given second priority, with attack next. Finally, technologies that are key to ensuring that sophisticated technological systems work well and are well integrated with one another should be considered for importance, even if they do not fall into the first rank with respect to information, defense, or attack.
The Subcommittee used these general criteria to evaluate the full list of specific technologies in light of the assessments and forecasts
from the technology groups. Each technology group was asked to come up with one, or at most two, candidates, for discussion by the entire subcommittee. From that discussion emerged a list of nine technologies. The following set of nine high-payoff technologies therefore represents a best-judgment selection derived by consensus within a group of about 20 technology experts who had prepared the individual TFAs and had participated in the Subcommittee's deliberations throughout the STAR study.
The following nine technologies were selected by the STAR Science and Technology Subcommittee as having the highest priority for the Army:
technology for multidomain smart sensors;
secure wideband communications technology;
battle management software technology;
solid state lasers and/or coherent diode laser arrays;
genetically engineered and developed materials and molecules;
material formulation techniques for "designer" materials; and
methods and technology for integrated systems design.
Each of these technologies is described briefly below:
Multidomain smart sensors will be required to locate and target stealthy enemy in camouflage and deception. Passive infrared sensor elements provide information on the angle (direction) of received radiation and the emission intensity. A laser radar sensor element can provide information on reflection intensity, range, range extent, velocity, and angle. Millimeter-wave synthetic aperture radars provide high-resolution doppler images that are responsive to the material properties of targets.
A multidomain sensor incorporating elements such as these can be configured so that the active and passive components share the same optics. This provides pixel-registered images in a multidimensional space, which allows the creation of multidimensional imagery. The richness of the resulting display could give a human observer the capability to detect targets in motion or in concealment under camouflage and trees. Multidomain sensors could also provide high-resolution targeting or act as target designators for remotely launched
weapons. Multidimensional smart sensors can be used in counter-stealth systems.
A key area of sensor technology that will contribute to multidomain smart sensors includes multispectral infrared focal plane arrays and uncooled infrared detectors. Infrared focal plane arrays are the enabling technology for the next generation of night vision equipment. Because they direct more detectors toward the target, focal plane arrays can provide more range and greater sensitivity than previous common-module forward-looking infrared devices. Further development work can improve radiation hardness and spectral bandwidth as well as range and sensitivity. Multispectral (multicolor), wideband focal plane arrays will be needed for robust multimission weapon systems.
Uncooled focal plane arrays do not require cooling with liquid nitrogen, as do current infrared detectors; without the cryogenic cooling, the devices can be lighter and less expensive. For example, this revolutionary technology will allow the Army to expand night vision capability to rifles and weapon sights, passive terminal homing guidance for smart missiles, sights for transport vehicle drivers, and so on.
Improved sensors in smart weapons would reduce ammunition logistics demands, because fewer rounds would be needed to achieve an equivalent effect. Equipment such as a smart helmet for the individual soldier also depends on smart-sensor technology.
The fusion of sensor information by smart processors (derived from model-based or neural network algorithms) could provide the basis for autonomous smart weapons. These may be the best hope for replacing nuclear weapons as the mainstay of defense.
Terahertz electronic devices will be required for increased sensitivity and speed. Electronic devices are the fundamental components of electronic systems such as radar, communications, electronic intercept equipment, and weapon guidance seekers. They are used in front-end receivers and transmitters as preprocessors, as well as in signal processing and automatic target recognition systems.
Today's best electronic devices approach only gigahertz frequencies (a billion cycles per second), but a thousandfold increase in speed to terahertz capability is foreseen. Terahertz electronic devices will be capable of amplifying signals with frequencies as high as a trillion hertz and switching signals at intervals measured in picoseconds (trillionths of a second). These faster devices will make possible much better target identification. Because they are also the building blocks of computers, a great increase in speed from terahertz devices would produce a vast increase in computational power.
Terahertz electronics technology will have the following applications:
determination of enemy intentions, including likely location of attack,
surveillance of enemy force movement,
recognition and identification of enemy forces, and
guidance of weapons by intelligent seekers.
Secure, wideband communication links are vital for carrying out global army responsibilities. Advanced satellite communications systems will provide sensory access to all parts of the world. However, the complex flow of data from space, air, and ground sensors will require secure high-bandwidth links, even if local preprocessing occurs at the sensor before data are transmitted. Millimeter-wave and optical communication links to satellites, as well as fiber optics networks, offer the greatest potential for secure high-bandwidth transmission for both long distances and local information distribution.
Spread-spectrum electromagnetic links to remotely operated air and ground vehicles will also provide the basis for "telepresence," which enables the intelligence of humans and smart machines to be merged for many applications, including reconnaissance and targeting. The very high bandwidths provided by secure fiber optics systems will permit redundant distribution of sensory and communication information, which is key to robustness in distributed processing.
Battle management software, in the form of a battle control language and associated support, is needed for computer-assisted decision support and battle management. The capacity of computer hardware to process data has increased at a tremendous rate. This capacity is expected to grow by two orders of magnitude every decade. The constraint on fuller use of this capacity is the development of software programs to carry out the types of analysis required for efficient and reliable intelligence extraction, synoptic organization of the intelligence, and interpretation of command decisions into detailed directives to the active elements. For battlefield management, this will continue to be a critical area; it will probably be the pacing factor in implementing an agile-force strategy.
Battle control languages are a layered structure of computer languages. The syntax and semantics of the topmost language duplicate standard military operational and logistical terminology. Statements in this top-level language will look like map graphics, operation orders, or report formats. A series of intermediate languages will provide the ability to modify software at varying levels of abstraction.
Battle control languages will enable Army personnel to move data, extract information, compare courses of action, and even make automated decisions, all without concern for the details of computation. This technology offers capabilities for:
simulating and evaluating alternative courses of action,
exercising command and control over the battlefield in near real time with accurate and reliable information, and
providing an unprecedented degree of realism in training exercises and analytical work.
Among laser technologies of interest to the Army, the two that were judged to have the highest potential payoff were solid state lasers pumped by diode laser arrays and coherent diode laser arrays. One or both of these technologies could prove valuable for a number of advanced applications.
Solid state lasers based on the rare earth elements and pumped by diode laser arrays are a promising technology for advanced military applications of optics, photonics, and directed energy devices. In contrast to flashlamps, which are the historical method of pumping solid state lasers, diode lasers emit in a narrow spectral band that couples more efficiently into the narrow pump band of the rare earths, delivering the necessary excitation with a much reduced thermal load. This leads to an increase in electrical efficiency of about a factor of 10, with a corresponding reduction in the thermal management needed.
Excessive size and weight for any given performance level have been the major factors inhibiting the use of lasers in military roles; they have been limited to applications requiring only low average power (less than several watts of output power), as in rangefinders and target designators. By relieving the size-performance constraints, diode pumping opens the door to medium-and even high-power applications—up to hundreds of kilowatts. Recent advances in the fabrication technology of diode laser arrays have resulted in cost reductions sufficient to make this approach affordable. Combined with various techniques, both new and old, for wavelength shifting and modulation, the impact of diode pumping on military applications of lasers is likely to be revolutionary. In particular, weapon applications such as antipersonnel weapons, antisensor weapons, and heavy-duty antiaircraft weapons are coming into the realm of practicality. Rangefinders can be expected to expand their performance range to include some search capability and target diagnostics (which may be useful in IFFN). Designators will grow into roles supporting interceptor systems for antisatellite and ballistic missile
defense. Diode pumping will also open the door to very compact low-power applications, such as active terminal guidance for projectiles and missiles and target designation for the personal weapon of the individual soldier.
For coherent diode-laser arrays, diode laser arrays are coherently coupled to produce the output beam, rather than being used to pump another laser. The Propulsion and Power Technology Group has forecast that power levels of 10 to 1,000 W per modular unit, with energy fluxes as high as 1 kW/cm2, can be achieved in the next 5 to 10 years. Efficiencies of 50 percent have been forecast. To reach the level of weapon system power (tens to hundreds of kilowatts), this laser technology must be able to extend the mechanisms for phase locking to hundreds or even thousands of diode laser modules into one extended coherent array, while managing the waste heat from high-power operation. Potential applications for coherent diode laser arrays include:
antisensor weapons to attack enemy surveillance devices and smart weapons;
eye-safe and covert rangefinders and other sensors;
small laser radars (ladars) for special applications, such as motion and vibration sensing;
sensors for battlefield IFFN; and
line-of-sight wideband communications.
Genetically engineered and developed materials and molecules. Within 15 to 30 years, biosensors derived from the human immune system will provide early warning of chemical, toxin, and biological warfare (CTBW) agents. Soldiers will be immunologically enhanced for global protection from naturally occurring endemic infectious disease organisms, which will probably remain the largest casualty producer in future combat situations. Expert medical diagnostic systems in palm-top computers will allow nonspecialist personnel to make rapid diagnoses. Using very rapid recombinant DNA technology, disease organisms can then be isolated and specific vaccines produced within days.
Biotechnology will be able to produce both natural and artificial materials—such as composites and customized polymers—with specified physical, chemical, and electrical properties. Advances in this area will depend on the simultaneous development of computer-aided biomolecular design and low-temperature manufacturing. These are
some of the potential implications of materials produced with biotechnology:
increasing the number of effective personnel in battle by speeding the return to duty of injured soldiers;
providing greater troop mobility by defeating CTBW barriers;
using unmanned sensors (UAVs or UGVs) carrying CTBW biosensor systems to detect the presence of CTBW threats before troops move into an area; and
providing biologically derived aerosols and other ''soft kill'' weapons to defeat enemy vehicles by causing engine malfunction.
Electric-drive technology can increase battlefield mobility and effectiveness of ground vehicles. Integrated propulsion systems that combine electric drives with advanced diesel or gas turbine engines for primary power offer major gains in total battle zone effectiveness and mobility. Combining an advanced engine with an advanced electric drive that distributes power flexibility to each wheel or track will significantly improve power density and weight distribution while decreasing signatures and fuel consumption. Power plant options for these integrated systems include ultra-high-temperature quasi-stoichiometric gas turbines with high-pressure ratios and nonrecuperative simple cycles.
The basic modules of an integrated electric-drive system could be used interchangeably among different vehicle types or in other battle zone systems of a highly "electrified" Army of the future. Power distribution systems for mobile platforms based on electrical power would complement the electric-powered weapons in the battlefield of the future. The benefits of this technology include (1) greater vehicle design flexibility; (2) greater power density and vehicle mobility; (3) reduced fuel consumption, which will reduce the logistics burden; and (4) integration of electric-powered weapons with the vehicle propulsion system.
Advanced material formulation techniques and advanced materials will provide specific properties to satisfy the performance requirements of future systems. Conventional primary materials such as steel, aluminum, or titanium cannot provide the combination of properties required for many advanced Army requirements. For example, the success of advanced rail gun concepts may well hinge on developing hybrid or multifunctional materials that simultaneously provide extremely high values for electrical conductivity, wear resistance, and stiffness. Only tailored macrocomposites (combining advanced metallic, polymeric, and ceramic materials) are likely to provide
the requisite combination of structural, optical, and electronic properties.
Integrated system design technologies can dramatically lower system costs, shorten development cycles, and enhance system effectiveness, reliability, and flexibility. Concurrent development methods, coupled with computer-based design environments and applications of artificial intelligence, provide a powerful new tool for developing optimal designs rapidly. Set-based inference systems allow the development of low-cost systems that will accommodate a wide range of manufacturing and environmental variations.
High-level representation languages, with associated compilers, already speed very-large-scale electronic circuit integration (VLSI) and software design. They are beginning to be applied to the design of complex mechanical systems as well. Simulation and fast prototyping techniques allow quick and early checks on design feasibility. Newly evolving methods for managing the design process can replace rigid and arbitrary specifications with the simultaneous and systematic exploration of alternatives and trade-offs among doctrine, product, and manufacturing process. Working synergistically over the next 30 years, these technologies are expected to lower costs while enabling swifter, more reliable, and more flexible development.
GENERAL CONCLUSIONS FROM THE SELECTION PROCESS
As the Science and Technology Subcommittee deliberated on its selection of a short list of high-payoff technologies, its members were led to several general conclusions that the Subcommittee thought will have as much significance to the Army as any list of a few particular technologies. The STAR Committee believes that these conclusions, drawn by a representative body of the STAR study's technology experts, are important enough to the major themes of this main report that they bear repeating. Parenthetical comments have been added to indicate where the theme of each conclusion is further elaborated.
The foreseeable evolution of technology will profoundly affect warfare. (Chapter 6 elaborates some of the prospects for long-term implications of technological changes on force structure and strategy.)
There are so many technologies with important military consequences that a primary problem for Army technology management will be to select focal interests and implement them effectively. (Chapter 5 addresses the need for a technology implementation strategy with a defined set of focal interests.)
Many important technological advances are occurring outside the United States. The Army will need to consider how to make effective use of technology from worldwide sources.
Advanced military technologies will be widely available throughout the world. The Army will need the means to deal with well-equipped and sophisticated enemies, even in smaller conflicts. (The section of Chapter 6 on near-term force structure implications addresses this issue)
ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES FOR NOTIONAL SYSTEMS
Although the selection of high-payoff technologies addresses the Army's request for a short list of the highest priorities, there is much significant technology that any such list must omit. Figure 4-1 summarizes the relevance of the broader range of advanced technologies discussed in Chapter 3 to the notional systems envisioned by the eight STAR systems panels.
The columns of Figure 4-1 were selected from among the key notional systems described briefly in Chapter 2 and more fully in the systems panels' reports. The rows of this matrix are classified under headings corresponding to the eight technology group reports. The individual rows under a heading correspond to subheadings used in Chapter 3, which also reflect the topical structure of the technology groups' reports.
The symbols entered in this matrix indicate the STAR Committee's assessment of the degree of relevance the technology (or area) has to a notional system (or class of functionally related systems). This assessment is based primarily on the findings of the systems panels and technology groups. Figure 4-1 is not intended as a definitive statement of the importance of specific technologies to different systems. Its primary purpose is to serve as a reader's guide to the more complete presentations found in the systems panels' reports and the Technology Forecast Assessments.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER TECHNOLOGY LISTS
Appendix A compares the STAR lists of high-payoff technologies and high-payoff notional systems with three other lists: (1) the Army Technology Base Master Plan, (2) the Defense Critical Technologies List prepared by the Department of Defense, and (3) the list presented in the Report of the National Critical Technologies Panel.