69. Demons in the Tall Grass

[Editor’s Note:  Mad Scientist is pleased to present Mr. Mike Matson‘s guest blog post set in 2037 — pitting the defending Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade with Russian advisors and mercenaries against a Namibian Special Forces incursion supported by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Special Operators.  Both sides employ autonomous combat systems, albeit very differently — Enjoy!]

Preface:  This story was inspired by two events. First, Boston Dynamics over the last year had released a series of short videos of their humanoid and animal-inspired robots which had generated a strong visceral Internet reaction. Elon Musk had commented about one video that they would “in a few years… move so fast you’ll need a strobe light to see it.” That visual stuck with me and I was looking for an opportunity to expand on that image.

The second event was a recent trip to the Grand Tetons. I had a black bear rise up out of an otherwise empty meadow less than 50 meters away. A 200-kilo predator which can run at 60kph and yet remain invisible in high grass left a strong impression. And while I didn’t see any gray wolves, a guide discussed how some of the packs, composed of groups of 45-kilogram sized animals, had learned how to take down 700-kilogram bison. I visualized packs of speeding robotic wolves with bear-sized robots following behind.

I used these events as the genesis to explore a completely different approach to designing and employing unmanned ground combat vehicles (GCVs). Instead of the Russian crewless, traditional-styled armored vehicles, I approached GCVs from the standpoint of South Africa, which may not have the same resources as Russia, but has an innovative defense industry. If starting from scratch, how might their designs diverge? What could they do with less resources? And how would these designs match up to “traditional” GCVs?

To find out what would happen, I pitted an Angolan mechanize brigade outfitted with Russian GCVs against South African special forces armed with a top secret indigenous GCV program. The setting is southern Angola in 2037, and there are Demons in the Tall Grass. As Mr. Musk said in his Tweet, sweet dreams!  Mike Matson

 

Source: Google Maps

(2230Z 25 May 2037) Savate, Angola

Paulo crouched in his slit trench with his squad mates.  He knew this was something other than an exercise.  The entire Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade had road marched south to Savate, about 60 kilometers from the Namibian border. There, they were ordered to dig fighting positions and issued live ammunition.

Everyone was nervous. Thirty minutes before, one of their patrols a kilometer south of them had made contact.  A company had gone out in support and a massive firefight had ensued. A panicked officer could be heard on the net calling in artillery on their own position because they were being attacked by demons in the tall grass. Nobody had yet returned.

A pair of Uran-9s, line abreast; Source: RussianDefence.com / Lex Kitaev

Behind Paulo, the battalion commander came forward. With him were three Russian mercenaries.  Paulo knew the Russians had brought along two companies of robot tanks. The robot tanks sported an impressively large number of guns, missiles and lasers. Two of them had deployed with the quick reaction force.  Explosions suggested that they had been destroyed.

Paulo watched the Angolan officer carefully. Suddenly there was a screamed warning from down the trenches.  He whipped around and saw forms in the tall grass moving towards the trenches at a high rate of speed, spread out across his entire front. A dozen or more speeding lines headed directly towards the trenches like fish swimming just under the water.

“Fire!” Paulo ordered and started shooting, properly squeezing off three round bursts. The lines kept coming. Paulo had strobe light-like glimpses of bounding animals. Just before they burst from cover, piercingly loud hyena cries filled the night.  Paulo slammed his hand on the nearby clacker to detonate the directional mines to his front. The world exploded in noise and dust.

(Earlier That Morning) 25 Kilometers south of Savate

Captain Verlin Ellis, Bravo Group, SANDF, crouched with his NCO, his soldiers, and his Namibian SF counterpart at dawn under a tree surrounded by thick green bush.

“Listen up everyone, the operation is a go. Intelligence shows the brigade in a holding position south of Savate. We are to conduct a recon north until we can fix their position. Alpha and Charlie groups will be working their way up the left side. Charlie will hit their right flank with their predator package at the same time we attack from the south and Alpha will be the stopper group with the third group north of town. Once we have them located, we are to hold until nightfall, then attack.”

The tarps came off Bravo Group’s trucks and the men got to work unloading.

Source: BigDog / DeviantArt

First off were Bravo Group’s attack force of forty hyenas. Standing just under two feet high on their articulated legs, and weighing roughly 40 kilos, the small robots were off-loaded and their integrated solar panels were unfolded to top off their battery charges.

The hyenas operated in pack formations via an encrypted mesh network. While they could be directed by human operators if needed and could send and receive data via satellite or drone relay, they were designed to operate in total autonomy at ranges up to 40 kilometers from their handlers.

Each hyena had a swiveling front section like a head with four sensors and a small speaker. The sensors were a camera and separate thermal camera, a range finder, and a laser designator/pointer. Built into the hump of the hyena’s back was a fixed rifle barrel in a bullpup configuration, chambered in 5.56mm, which fired in three round bursts.

On each side there was a pre-loaded 40mm double tube grenade launcher. The guided, low velocity grenades could be launched forward between 25-150 meters. The hyenas were loaded with a mix of HE, CS gas, HEAT, and thermite grenades. They could select targets themselves or have another hyena or human operator designate a target, in which case they were also capable of non-line-of-sight attacks. The attack dogs contained a five-kilo shaped charge limpet mine for attaching to vehicles. There were 24 attack hyenas.

Source: Fausto De Martini / Kill Command

Second off came the buffalos, the heavy weapons support element. There were six of the 350 kilo beasts. They were roughly the same size as a water buffalo, hence their name. They retained the same basic head sensor suite as the hyenas, and a larger, sturdier version of the hyena’s legs.

Three of them mounted an 81mm auto-loading mortar and on their backs were 10 concave docking stations each holding a three ounce helicopter drone called a sparrow. The drone had a ten-minute flight radius with its tiny motor. One ounce of the drone was plastic explosive. They had a simple optical sensor and were designed to land and detonate on anything matching their picture recognition algorithms, such as ammo crates, fuel cans, or engine hoods.

The fourth buffalo sported a small, sleek turret on a flat back, with a 12.7mm machine gun, and the buffalo held 500 rounds of armor-piercing tracer.

The fifth buffalo held an automatic grenade launcher with 200 smart rounds in a similar turret to the 12.7mm gun. The grenades were programmed as they fired and could detonate over trenches or beyond obstacles to hit men behind cover.

The sixth carried three anti-tank missiles in a telescoping turret. Like the mortars, their fire could be directed by hyenas, human operators, or self-directed.

Source: KhezuG / Deviantart.com

Once the hyenas and buffalos were charging, the last truck was carefully unloaded.  Off came the boars — suicide bombs on legs. Each of the 15 machines was short, with stubbier legs for stability. Their outer shells were composed of pre-scarred metal and were overlaid with a layer of small steel balls for enhanced shrapnel. Inside they packed 75 kilos of high explosive. For tonight’s mission each boar was downloaded with different sounds to blare from their speakers, with choices ranging from Zulu war cries, to lion roars, to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Chaos was their primary mission.

Between the three Recce groups, nine machines failed warmup. That left 180 fully autonomous and cooperative war machines to hunt the 1,200 strong Angolan 6th Mechanized Brigade.

(One Hour after Attack Began) Savate

Paulo and his team advanced, following spoor through the bush.  The anti-tank team begged to go back but Paulo refused.

Suddenly there was a slight gap in the tall grass just as something in front of them on the far side of a clearing fired. It looked like a giant metal rhino, and it had an automatic grenade launcher on top of it. It fired a burst, then sat down on its haunches to hide.

So that’s why I can’t see them after they fire. Very clever, thought Paulo. He tried calling in fire support but all channels were jammed.

Paulo signaled with his hands for both gunners to shoot. The range was almost too close. Both gunners fired at the same time, striking the beast. It exploded with a surprising fury, blowing them all off their feet and lighting up the sky. They laid there stunned as debris pitter-pattered in the dirt around them.

That was enough for Paulo and the men. They headed back to the safety of the trenches.

As they returned, eight armored vehicles appeared. On the left was an Angolan T-72 tank and three Russian robot tanks. On the right there was a BMP-4 and three more Russian robot tanks.

An animal-machine was trotting close to the vegetation outside the trenches and one of the Russian tank’s lasers swiveled and fired, emitting a loud hum, hitting it. The animal-machine was cut in two. The tanks stopped near the trench to shoot at unseen targets in the dark as Paulo entered the trenches.

The hyena yipping increased in volume as predators began to swarm around the armored force. Five or six were circling their perimeter yipping and shooting grenades. Two others crept under some bushes 70 meters to Paulo’s right and laid down like dogs. A long, thin antenna rose out of the back of one dog with some small device on top. The tanks furiously fired at the fleeting targets which circled them.

Mortar rounds burst around the armor, striking a Russian tank on the thin turret top, destroying it.

From a new direction, the ghost machine gun struck a Russian robot tank with a dozen exploding armor-piercing rounds. The turret was pounded and the externally mounted rockets were hit, bouncing the tank in place from the explosions. A robot tank popped smoke, instantly covering the entire armored force in a blinding white cloud which only added to the chaos. Suddenly the Russian turrets all stopped firing just as a third robot tank was hit by armor-piercing rounds in the treads and disabled.

Silent Ruin;  Source: Army Cyber Institute at West Point / Don Hudson & Kinsun Lo

If you enjoyed this blog post, read “Demons in the Grass” in its entirety here, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

Mike Matson is a writer in Louisville, Kentucky, with a deep interest in national security and cyber matters. His writing focuses on military and intelligence-oriented science fiction. He has two previous articles published by Mad Scientist: the non-fiction “Complex Cyber Terrain in Hyper-Connected Urban Areas,” and the fictional story, “Gods of Olympus.”  In addition to Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington, DC, he has lived, studied, and worked in Brussels, Belgium, and Tallinn, Estonia. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from The American University and an M.S. in Strategic Intelligence from the National Intelligence University, both in Washington, DC. He can be found on Twitter at @Mike40245.

67. “The Tenth Man”

Source: Yahoo

[Editor’s Note: In the movie World War Z (I know… the book was way better!), an Israeli security operative describes how Israel prepared for the coming zombie plague. Their strategy was if nine men agreed on an analysis or a course of action, the tenth man had to take an alternative view.

This Devil’s Advocate or contrarian approach serves as a form of alternative analysis and is a check against group think and mirror imaging. The Mad Scientist Laboratory will begin a series of posts entitled “The Tenth Man” to offer a platform for the contrarians in our network (I know you’re out there!) to share their alternative perspectives and analyses regarding the Future Operational Environment.]

Our foundational assumption about the Future Operational Environment is that the Character of Warfare is changing due to an exponential convergence of emerging technologies. Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Autonomy, Quantum Sciences, Nano Materials, and Neuro advances will mean more lethal warfare at machine speed, integrated seamlessly across all five domains – air, land, sea, cyber, and space.

We have consistently seen four main themes used to counter this idea of a changing character of war, driven by technology:

Source: danovski11 / DeviantArt

1. Cost of Robotic Warfare: All armies must plan for the need to reconstitute forces. This is particularly ingrained in the U.S. Army’s culture where we have often lost the first battles in any given conflict (e.g., Kasserine Pass in World War II and Task Force Smith in Korea). We cannot afford to have a “one loss” Army where our national wealth and industrial base can not support the reconstitution of a significant part of our Army. A high-cost, roboticized Army might also limit our political leaders’ options for the use of military force due to the risk of loss and associated cost.

Gartner Hype Cycle

2. Technology Hype: Technologists are well aware of the idea of a hype cycle when forecasting emerging technologies. Machine learning was all the rage in the 1970s, but the technology needed to drive these tools did not exist. Improved computing has finally helped us realize this vision, forty years later. The U.S. Army’s experience with the Future Combat System hits a nerve when assumptions of the future require the integration of emerging technologies.

Source: Fallout 4

3. Robotic Warfare: A roboticized Army is over-optimized to fight against a peer competitor, which is the least likely mission the Army will face. We build an Army and develop Leaders first and foremost to protect our Nation’s sovereignty. This means having an Army capable of deterring, and failing that, defeating peer competitors. At the same time, this Army must be versatile enough to execute a myriad of additional missions across the full spectrum of conflict. A hyper-connected Army enabled by robots with fewer Soldiers will be challenged in executing missions requiring significant human interactions such as humanitarian relief, building partner capacity, and counter-insurgency operations.

4. Coalition Warfare: A technology-enabled force will exasperate interoperability challenges with both our traditional and new allies. Our Army will not fight unilaterally on future battlefields. We have had difficulties with the interoperability of communications and have had gaps between capabilities that increased mission risks. These risks were offset by the skills our allies brought to the battlefield. We cannot build an Army that does not account for a coalition battlefield and our allies may not be able to afford the tech-enabled force envisioned in the Future Operational Environment.

All four of these assumptions are valid and should be further studied as we build the Army of 2028 and the Army of 2050. There are many other contrarian views about the Future Operational Environment, and so we are calling upon our network to put on their red hats and be our “Tenth Man.”

If you have an idea or concept that challenges or runs contrary to our understanding of the Future Operational Environment as described here in the Mad Scientist Laboratory, The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare paper, and The Changing Character of Future Warfare video, please draft it up as a blog post and forward it to our attention at:  usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil — we may select it for our next edition of “The Tenth Man”!

64. Top Ten Takeaways from the Installations of the Future Conference

On 19-20 June 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Mad Scientist Initiative co-hosted the Installations of the Future Conference with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment (OASA (IE&E)) and Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).  Emerging technologies supporting the hyper-connectivity revolution will enable improved training capabilities, security, readiness support (e.g., holistic medical facilities and brain gyms), and quality of life programs at Army installations. Our concepts and emerging doctrine for multi-domain operations recognizes this as increasingly important by including Army installations in the Strategic Support Area. Installations of the Future will serve as mission command platforms to project virtual power and expertise as well as Army formations directly to the battlefield.

We have identified the following “Top 10” takeaways related to our future installations:

Source: Laserfishe

1. Threats and Tensions.Army Installations are no longer sanctuaries” — Mr. Richard G. Kidd IV, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army, Strategic Integration. There is a tension between openness and security that will need balancing to take advantage of smart technologies at our Army installations. The revolution in connected devices and the ability to virtually project power and expertise will increase the potential for adversaries to target our installations. Hyper-connectivity increases the attack surface for cyber-attacks and the access to publicly available information on our Soldiers and their families, making personalized warfare and the use of psychological attacks and deep fakes likely.

2. Exclusion vs. Inclusion. The role of and access to future Army installations depends on the balance between these two extremes. The connections between local communities and Army installations will increase potential threat vectors, but resilience might depend on expanding inclusion. Additionally, access to specialized expertise in robotics, autonomy, and information technologies will require increased connections with outside-the-gate academic institutions and industry.

Source: pcmag.com

3. Infrastructure Sensorization.  Increased sensorization of infrastructure runs the risk of driving efficiencies to the point of building in unforeseen risks. In the business world, these efficiencies are profit-driven, with clearer risks and rewards. Use of table top exercises can explore hidden risks and help Garrison Commanders to build resilient infrastructure and communities. Automation can cause cascading failures as people begin to fall “out of the loop.”

4. Army Modernization Challenge.  Installations of the Future is a microcosm of overarching Army Modernization challenges. We are simultaneously invested in legacy infrastructure that we need to upgrade, and making decisions to build new smart facilities. Striking an effective and efficient balance will start with public-private partnerships to capture the expertise that exists in our universities and in industry. The expertise needed to succeed in this modernization effort does not exist in the Army. There are significant opportunities for Army Installations to participate in ongoing consortiums like the “Middle Georgia” Smart City Community and the Global Cities Challenge to pilot innovations in spaces such as energy resilience.

5. Technology is outpacing regulations and policy. The sensorization and available edge analytics in our public space offers improved security but might be perceived as decreasing personal privacy. While we give up some personal privacy when we live and work on Army installations, this collection of data will require active engagement with our communities. We studied an ongoing Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) support concept to detect gunshot incidents in Louisville, KY, to determine the need to involve legislatures, local political leaders, communities, and multiple layers of law enforcement.

6. Synthetic Training Environment. The Installation of the Future offers the Army significant opportunities to divest itself of large brick and mortar training facilities and stove-piped, contractor support-intensive Training Aids, Devices, Simulations, and Simulators (TADSS).  MG Maria Gervais, Deputy Commanding General, Combined Arms Center – Training (DCG, CAC-T), presented the Army’s Synthetic Training Environment (STE), incorporating Virtual Reality (VR)“big box” open-architecture simulations using a One World Terrain database, and reduced infrastructure and contractor-support footprints to improve Learning and Training.  The STE, delivering high-fidelity simulations and the opportunity for our Soldiers and Leaders to exercise all Warfighting Functions across the full Operational Environment with greater repetitions at home station, will complement the Live Training Environment and enhance overall Army readiness.

Source: The Goldwater

7. Security Technologies. Many of the security-oriented technologies (autonomous drones, camera integration, facial recognition, edge analytics, and Artificial Intelligence) that triage and fuse information will also improve our deployed Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The Chinese lead the world in these technologies today.

Source: TechViz

8. Virtual Prototyping. The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is developing a computational testbed using virtual prototyping to determine the best investments for future Army installations. The four drivers in planning for Future Installations are:  1) Initial Maneuver Platform (Force Projection); 2) Resilient Installations working with their community partners; 3) Warfighter Readiness; and 4) Cost effectiveness in terms of efficiency and sustainability.

9. Standard Approach to Smart Installations. A common suite of tools is needed to integrate smart technologies onto installations. While Garrison Commanders need mission command to take advantage of the specific cultures of their installations and surrounding communities, the Army cannot afford to have installations going in different directions on modernization efforts. A method is needed to rapidly pilot prototypes and then determine whether and how to scale the technologies across Army installations.

10. “Low Hanging Fruit.” There are opportunities for Army Installations to lead their communities in tech integration. Partnerships in energy savings, waste management, and early 5G infrastructure provide the Army with early adopter opportunities for collaboration with local communities, states, and across the nation. We must educate contracting officers and Government consumers to look for and seize upon these opportunities.

Videos from each of the Installations of the Future Conference presentations are posted here. The associated slides will be posted here within the week on the Mad Scientist All Partners Access Network site.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following:

• Watch Mr. Richard Kidd IV discuss Installations of the Future on Government Matters.

• Read Mad Scientist Ed Blayney’s takeaways from the Installations of the Future Conference in his article, entitled We need more Mad Scientists in our Smart Cities.

• See the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise’s:

–  The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

–  Evolving Threats to Army Installations video.

• Review our Call for Ideas winning submissions Trusting Smart Cities: Risk Factors and Implications by Dr. Margaret Loper, and Day in the Life of a Garrison Commander by the team at AT&T Global Public Sector — both are graciously hosted by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

• Re-visit our following blog posts: Smart Cities and Installations of the Future: Challenges and Opportunities and Base in a Box.

60. Mission Engineering and Prototype Warfare: Operationalizing Technology Faster to Stay Ahead of the Threat

[Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist is pleased to present the following post by a team of guest bloggers from The Strategic Cohort at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC). Their post lays out a clear and cogent approach to Army modernization, in keeping with the Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Mark A. Milley’s and Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper’s guidance “to focus the Army’s efforts on delivering the weapons, combat vehicles, sustainment systems, and equipment that Soldiers need when they need it” and making “our Soldiers more effective and our units less logistically dependent.” — The Army Vision,  06 June 2018 ]

 

 

“Success no longer goes to the country that develops a new fighting technology first, but rather to the one that better integrates it and adapts its way of fighting….” The National Defense Strategy (2018).

 

 

Executive Summary
While Futures Command and legislative changes streamline acquisition bureaucracy, the Army will still struggle to keep pace with the global commercial technology marketplace as well as innovate ahead of adversaries who are also innovating.

Chinese Lijian Sharp Sword Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) — Source: U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News

Reverse engineering and technology theft make it possible for adversaries to inexpensively copy DoD-specific technology “widgets,” potentially resulting in a “negative return” on investment of DoD research dollars. Our adversaries’ pace of innovation further compounds our challenge. Thus the Army must not only equip the force to confront what is expected,

Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAV — Source: USNI News

but equip the force to confront an adaptable enemy in a wide variety of environments. This paper proposes a framework that will enable identification of strategically relevant problems and provide solutions to those problems at the speed of relevance and invert the cost asymmetry.

To increase the rate of innovation, the future Army must learn to continually assimilate, produce, and operationalize technologies much faster than our adversaries to gain time-domain overmatch. The overarching goal is to create an environment that our adversaries cannot duplicate: integration of advanced technologies with skilled Soldiers and well-trained teams. The confluence of two high level concepts — the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Mission Engineering and Robert Leonard’s Prototype Warfare (see his Principles of Warfare for the Information Age book) — pave the way to increasing the rate of innovation by operationalizing technology faster to stay ahead of the threat, while simultaneously reducing the cost of technology overmatch.

Mission Engineering
OSD’s Mission Engineering concept, proposed by Dr. Robert Gold, calls for acquisitions to treat the end-to-end mission as the system to optimize, in which individual systems are components. Further, the concept utilizes an assessment framework to measure progress towards mission accomplishment through test and evaluation in the mission context. In fact, all actions throughout the capability development cycle must tie back to the mission context through the assessment framework. It goes beyond just sharing data to consider functions and the strategy for trades, tools, cross-cutting functions, and other aspects of developing a system or system of systems.

Consider the example mission objective of an airfield seizure. Traditional thinking and methods would identify an immediate needed capability for two identical air droppable vehicles, therefore starting with a highly constrained platform engineering solution. Mission Engineering would instead start by asking: what is the best way to seize an airfield? What mix of capabilities are required to do so? What mix of vehicles (e.g.,  Soldiers, exoskeletons, robots, etc.) might you need within space and weight constraints of the delivery aircraft? What should the individual performance requirements be for each piece of equipment?

Mission Engineering breaks down cultural and technical “domain stovepipes” by optimizing for the mission instead of a ground, aviation, or cyber specific solution. There is huge innovation space between the conventional domain seams.

Source: www.defenceimages.mod.uk

For example, ground vehicle concepts would be able to explore looking more like motherships deploying exoskeletons, drone swarms, or other ideas that have not been identified or presented because they have no clear home in a particular domain. It warrants stating twice that there are a series of mission optimized solutions that have not been identified or presented because they have no clear home in the current construct. Focusing the enterprise on the mission context of the problem set will enable solutions development that is relevant and timely while also connecting a network of innovators who each only have a piece of the whole picture.

Prototype Warfare

Prototype Warfare represents a paradigm shift from fielding large fleets of common-one-size-fits-all systems to rapidly fielding small quantities of tailored systems. Tailored systems focus on specific functions, specific geographic areas, or even specific fights and are inexpensively produced and possibly disposable.

MRZR with a tethered Hoverfly quadcopter unmanned aircraft system — Source: DefenseNews / Jen Judson

For example, vehicle needs are different for urban, desert, and mountain terrains. A single system is unlikely to excel across those three terrains without employing exotic and expensive materials and technology (becoming expensive and exquisite). They could comprise the entire force or just do specific missions, such as Hobart’s Funnies during the D-Day landings.

A further advantage of tailored systems is that they will force the enemy to deal with a variety of unknown U.S. assets, perhaps seen for the first time. A tank platoon might have a heterogeneous mix of assets with different weapons and armor. Since protection and lethality will be unknown to the enemy, it will be asymmetrically challenging for them to develop in a timely fashion tactics, techniques, and procedures or materiel to effectively counter such new capabilities.

Potential Enablers
Key technological advances present the opportunity to implement the Mission Engineering and Prototype Warfare concepts. Early Synthetic Prototyping (ESP), rapid manufacturing, and the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence (AI) provide ways to achieve these concepts. Each on its own would present significant opportunities. ESP, AI, and rapid manufacturing, when applied within the Mission Engineering/Prototype Warfare framework, create the potential for an innovation revolution.

Under development by the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), ESP is a physics-based persistent game network that allows Soldiers and engineers to collaborate on exploration of the materiel, force structure, and tactics trade space. ESP will generate 12 million hours of digital battlefield data per year.

Beyond the ESP engine itself, the Army still needs to invest in cutting edge research in machine learning and big data techniques needed to derive useful data on tactics and technical performance from the data. Understanding human intent and behaviors is difficult work for current computers, but the payoff is truly disruptive. Also, as robotic systems become more prominent on the battlefield, the country with the best AI to control them will have a great advantage. The best AI depends on having the most training, experimental, and digitally generated data. The Army is also acutely aware of the challenges involved in testing and system safety for AI enabled systems; understanding what these systems are intended to do in a mission context fosters debate on the subject within an agreed upon problem space and associated assessment framework.

Finally, to achieve the vision, the Army needs to invest in technology that allows rapid problem identification, engineering, and fielding of tailored systems. For over two decades, the Army has touted modularity to achieve system tailoring and flexibility. However, any time something is modularized, it adds some sort of interface burden or complexity. A specific-built system will always outperform a modular system. Research efforts are needed to understand the trade-offs of custom production versus modularity. The DoD also needs to strategically grow investment in new manufacturing technologies (to include 3D printing) and open architectures with industry.

Associated Implications
New challenges are created when there is a hugely varied fleet of tailored systems, especially for logistics, training, and maintenance. One key is to develop a well-tracked digital manufacturing database of replacement parts. For maintenance, new technologies such as augmented reality might be used to show mechanics who have never seen a system how to rapidly diagnose and make repairs.

Source: Military Embedded Systems

New Soldier interfaces for platforms should also be developed that are standardized/simplified so it is intuitive for a soldier to operate different systems in the same way it is intuitive to operate an iPhone/iPad/Mac to reduce and possibly eliminate the need for system specific training. For example, imagine a future soldier gets into a vehicle and inserts his or her common access card. A driving display populates with the Soldier’s custom widgets, similar to a smartphone display. The displays might also help soldiers understand vehicle performance envelopes. For example, a line might be displayed over the terrain showing how sharp a soldier might turn without a rollover.

Conclusion
The globalization of technology allows anyone with money to purchase “bleeding-edge,” militarizable commercial technology. This changes the way we think about the ability to generate combat power to compete internationally from the physical domain, to the time domain. Through the proposed mission engineering and prototype warfare framework, the Army can assimilate and operationalize technology quicker to create an ongoing time-domain overmatch and invert the current cost asymmetry which is adversely affecting the public’s will to fight. Placing human thought and other resources towards finding new ways to understand mission context and field new solutions will provide capability at the speed of relevance and help reduce operational surprise through a better understanding of what is possible.

Source: Defence Science and Technology Laboratory / Gov.UK

If you enjoyed this post, join SciTech Futures‘ community of experts, analysts, and creatives on 11-18 June 2018 as they discuss the logistical challenges of urban campaigns, both today and on into 2035. What disruptive technologies and doctrines will blue (and red) forces have available in 2035? Are unconventional forces the future of urban combat? Their next ideation exercise goes live today — watch the associated video here and join the discussion here!

This article was written by Dr. Rob Smith, Senior Research Scientist; Mr. Shaheen Shidfar, Strategic Cohort Lead; Mr. James Parker, Associate Director; Mr. Matthew A. Horning, Mission Engineer; and Mr. Thomas Vern, Associate Director. Collectively, these gentlemen are a subset of The Strategic Cohort, a multi-disciplinary independent group of volunteers located at TARDEC that study the Army’s Operating Concept Framework to understand how we must change to survive and thrive in the future operating environment. The Strategic Cohort analyzes these concepts and other reference materials, then engages in disciplined debate to provide recommendations to improve TARDEC’s alignment with future concepts, educate our workforce, and create dialogue with the concept developers providing a feedback loop for new ideas.

Further Reading:

Gold, Robert. “Mission Engineering.” 19th Annual NDIA Systems Engineering Conference, Oct. 26, 2016, Springfield, VA. Presentation.

Leonard, Robert R. The Principles of War for the Information Age, Presidio Press (2000).

Martin, A., & FitzGerald, B. “Process Over Platforms.” Center for a New American Security, Dec. 13, 2013.

FitzGerald, B., Sander, A. & Parziale, J. “Future Foundry A New Strategic Approach to Military-Technical Advantage.” Center for a New American Security, Dec. 14, 2016.

Kozloski, Robert. “The Path to Prototype Warfare.” War on the Rocks, 17 July 2017.

Hammes, T.X. “The Future of Warfare: Small, Many, Smart vs. Few & Exquisite?” War on the Rocks, 7 Aug. 2015.

Smith, Robert E. “Tactical Utility of Tailored Systems.” Military Review (2016).

Smith, Robert E. and Vogt, Brian. “Early Synthetic Prototyping Digital Warfighting For Systems Engineering.” Journal of Cyber Security and Information Systems 5.4 (2017).

59. Fundamental Questions Affecting Army Modernization

[Editor’s Note:  The Operational Environment (OE) is the start point for Army Readiness – now and in the Future. The OE answers the question, “What is the Army ready for?”  Without the OE in training and Leader development, Soldiers and Leaders are “practicing” in a benign condition, without the requisite rigor to forge those things essential for winning in a complex, multi-domain battlefield.  Building the Army’s future capabilities, a critical component of future readiness, requires this same start point.  The assumptions the Army makes about the Future OE are the sine qua non start point for developing battlefield systems — these assumptions must be at the forefront of decision-making for all future investments.]

There are no facts about the future. Leaders interested in building future ready organizations must develop assumptions about possible futures and these assumptions require constant scrutiny. Leaders must also make decisions based on these assumptions to posture organizations to take advantage of opportunities and to mitigate risks. Making these decisions is fundamental to building future readiness.

Source: Evan Jensen, ARL

The TRADOC G-2 has made the following foundational assumptions about the future that can serve as launch points for important questions about capability requirements and capabilities under development. These assumptions are further described in An Advanced Engagement Battlespace: Tactical, Operational and Strategic Implications for the Future Operational Environment, published by our colleagues at Small Wars Journal.

1. Contested in all domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber). Increased lethality, by virtue of ubiquitous sensors, proliferated precision, high kinetic energy weapons and advanced area munitions, further enabled by autonomy, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with an increasing potential for overmatch. Adversaries will restrict us to temporary windows of advantage with periods of physical and electronic isolation.

Source: Army Technology

2. Concealment is difficult on the future battlefield. Hiding from advanced sensors — where practicable — will require dramatic reduction of heat, electromagnetic, and optical signatures. Traditional hider techniques such as camouflage, deception, and concealment will have to extend to “cross-domain obscuration” in the cyber domain and the electromagnetic spectrum. Canny competitors will monitor their own emissions in real-time to understand and mitigate their vulnerabilities in the “battle of signatures.” Alternately, “hiding in the open” within complex terrain clutter and near-constant relocation might be feasible, provided such relocation could outpace future recon / strike targeting cycles.   Adversaries will operate among populations in complex terrain, including dense urban areas.

3. Trans-regional, gray zone, and hybrid strategies with both regular and irregular forces, criminal elements, and terrorists attacking our weaknesses and mitigating our advantages. The ensuing spectrum of competition will range from peaceful, legal activities through violent, mass upheavals and civil wars to traditional state-on-state, unlimited warfare.

Source: Science Photo Library / Van Parys Media

4. Adversaries include states, non-state actors, and super-empowered individuals, with non-state actors and super empowered individuals now having access to Weapons of Mass Effect (WME), cyber, space, and Nuclear/Biological/ Chemical (NBC) capabilities. Their operational reach will range from tactical to global, and the application of their impact from one domain into another will be routine. These advanced engagements will also be interactive across the multiple dimensions of conflict, not only across every domain in the physical dimension, but also the cognitive dimension of information operations, and even the moral dimension of belief and values.

Source: Northrop Grumman

5. Increased speed of human interaction, events and action with democratized and rapidly proliferating capabilities means constant co-evolution between competitors. Recon / Strike effectiveness is a function of its sensors, shooters, their connections, and the targeting process driving decisions. Therefore, in a contest between peer competitors with comparable capabilities, advantage will fall to the one that is better integrated and makes better and faster decisions.

These assumptions become useful when they translate to potential decision criteria for Leaders to rely on when evaluating systems being developed for the future battlefield. Each of the following questions are fundamental to ensuring the Army is prepared to operate in the future.

Source: Lockheed Martin

1. How will this system operate when disconnected from a network? Units will be disconnected from their networks on future battlefields. Capabilities that require constant timing and precision geo-locational data will be prioritized for disruption by adversaries with capable EW systems.

2. What signature does this system present to an adversary? It is difficult to hide on the future battlefield and temporary windows of advantage will require formations to reduce their battlefield signatures. Capabilities that require constant multi-directional broadcast and units with large mission command centers will quickly be targeted and neutralized.

Image credit: Alexander Kott

3. How does this system operate in dense urban areas? The physical terrain in dense urban areas and megacities creates concrete canyons isolating units electronically and physically. Automated capabilities operating in dense population areas might also increase the rate of false signatures, confusing, rather than improving, Commander decision-making. New capabilities must be able to operate disconnected in this terrain. Weapons systems must be able to slew and elevate rapidly to engage vertical targets. Automated systems and sensors will require significant training sets to reduce the rate of false signatures.

Source: Military Embedded Systems

4. How does this system take advantage of open and modular architectures? The rapid rate of technological innovations will offer great opportunities to militaries capable of rapidly integrating prototypes into formations.  Capabilities developed with open and modular architectures can be upgraded with autonomous and AI enablers as they mature. Early investment in closed-system capabilities will freeze Armies in a period of rapid co-evolution and lead to overmatch.

5. How does this capability help win in competition short of conflict with a near peer competitor? Near peer competitors will seek to achieve limited objectives short of direct conflict with the U.S. Army. Capabilities will need to be effective at operating in the gray zone as well as serving as deterrence. They will need to be capable of strategic employment from CONUS-based installations.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following items of interest:

    • Join SciTech Futures‘ community of experts, analysts, and creatives on 11-18 June 2018 as they discuss the logistical challenges of urban campaigns, both today and on into 2035. What disruptive technologies and doctrines will blue (and red) forces have available in 2035? Are unconventional forces the future of urban combat? Their next ideation exercise goes live 11 June 2018 — click here to learn more!

56. An Appropriate Level of Trust…

The Mad Scientist team participates in many thought exercises, tabletops, and wargames associated with how we will live, work, and fight in the future. A consistent theme in these events is the idea that a major barrier to the integration of robotic systems into Army formations is a lack of trust between humans and machines. This assumption rings true as we hear the media and opinion polls describe how society doesn’t trust some disruptive technologies, like driverless cars or the robots coming for our jobs.

In his recent book, Army of None, Paul Scharre describes an event that nearly led to a nuclear confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. On September 26, 1983, LTC Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet Officer serving in a bunker outside Moscow was alerted to a U.S. missile launch by a recently deployed space-based early warning system. The Soviet Officer trusted his “gut” – or experientially informed intuition – that this was a false alarm. His gut was right and the world was saved from an inadvertent nuclear exchange because this officer did not over trust the system. But is this the rule or an exception to how humans interact with technology?

The subject of trust between Soldiers, Soldiers and Leaders, and the Army and society is central to the idea of the Army as a profession. At the most tactical level, trust is seen as essential to combat readiness as Soldiers must trust each other in dangerous situations. Humans naturally learn to trust their peers and subordinates once they have worked with them for a period of time. You learn what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are, what they can handle, and under what conditions they will struggle. This human dynamic does not translate to human-machine interaction and the tendency to anthropomorphize machines could be a huge barrier.

We recommend that the Army explore the possibility that Soldiers and Leaders could over trust AI and robotic systems. Over trust of these systems could blunt human expertise, judgement, and intuition thought to be critical to winning in complex operational environments. Also, over trust might lead to additional adversarial vulnerabilities such as deception and spoofing.

In 2016, a research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology revealed the results of a study entitled “Overtrust of Robots in Emergency Evacuation Scenarios”. The research team put 42 test participants into a fire emergency with a robot responsible for escorting them to an emergency exit. As the robot passed obvious exits and got lost, 37 participants continued to follow the robot and an additional 2 stood with the robot and didn’t move towards either exit. The study’s takeaway was that roboticists must think about programs that will help humans establish an “appropriate level of trust” with robot teammates.

In Future Crimes, Marc Goodman writes of the idea of “In Screen We Trust” and the vulnerabilities this trust builds into our interaction with our automation. His example of the cyber-attack against the Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges highlights the vulnerability of experts believing or trusting their screens against mounting evidence that something else might be contributing to the failure of centrifuges. These experts over trusted their technology or just did not have an “appropriate level of trust”. What does this have to do with Soldiers on the future battlefield? Well, increasingly we depend on our screens and, in the future, our heads-up displays to translate the world around us. This translation will only become more demanding on the future battlefield with war at machine speed.

So what should our assumptions be about trust and our robotic teammates on the future battlefield?

1) Soldiers and Leaders will react differently to technology integration.

2) Capability developers must account for trust building factors in physical design, natural language processing, and voice communication.

3) Intuition and judgement remain a critical component of human-machine teaming and operating on the future battlefield. Speed becomes a major challenge as humans become the weak link.

4) Building an “appropriate level of trust” will need to be part of Leader Development and training. Mere expertise in a field does not prevent over trust when interacting with our robotic teammates.

5) Lastly, lack of trust is not a barrier to AI and robotic integration on the future battlefield. These capabilities will exist in our formations as well as those of our adversaries. The formation that develops the best concepts for effective human-machine teaming, with trust being a major component, will have the advantage.

Interested in learning more on this topic? Watch Dr. Kimberly Jackson Ryan (Draper Labs).

[Editor’s Note:  A special word of thanks goes out to fellow Mad Scientist Mr. Paul Scharre for sharing his ideas with the Mad Scientist team regarding this topic.]

54. A View of the Future: 2035-2050

[Editor’s Note: The following post addresses the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050) and is extracted from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) G-2’s The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, published last summer. This seminal document provides the U.S. Army with a holistic and heuristic approach to projecting and anticipating both transformational and enduring trends that will lend themselves to the depiction of the future.]

Changes encountered during the Future Operational Environment’s Era of Accelerated Human Progress (the present through 2035) begin a process that will re-shape the global security situation and fundamentally alter the character of warfare. While its nature remains constant, the speed, automation, ranges, both broad and narrow effects, its increasingly integrated multi-domain conduct, and the complexity of the terrain and social structures in which it occurs will make mid-century warfare both familiar and utterly alien.

During the Era of Contested Equality (2035-2050), great powers and rising challengers have converted hybrid combinations of economic power, technological prowess, and virulent, cyber-enabled ideologies into effective strategic strength. They apply this strength to disrupt or defend the economic, social, and cultural foundations of the old Post-World War II liberal order and assert or dispute regional alternatives to established global norms. State and non-state actors compete for power and control, often below the threshold of traditional armed conflict – or shield and protect their activities under the aegis of escalatory WMD, cyber, or long-range conventional options and doctrines.

It is not clear whether the threats faced in the preceding Era of Accelerated Human Progress persist, although it is likely that China and Russia will remain key competitors, and that some form of non-state ideologically motivated extremist groups will exist. Other threats may have fundamentally changed their worldviews, or may not even exist by mid-Century, while other states, and combinations of states will rise and fall as challengers during the 2035-2050 timeframe. The security environment in this period will be characterized by conditions that will facilitate competition and conflict among rivals, and lead to endemic strife and warfare, and will have several defining features.

The nation-state perseveres. The nation-state will remain the primary actor in the international system, but it will be weaker both domestically and globally than it was at the start of the century. Trends of fragmentation, competition, and identity politics will challenge global governance and broader globalization, with both collective security and globalism in decline. States share their strategic environments with networked societies which increasingly circumvent governments unresponsive to their citizens’ needs. Many states will face challenges from insurgents and global identity networks – ethnic, religious, regional, social, or economic – which either resist state authority or ignore it altogether.

Super-Power Diminishes. Early-century great powers will lose their dominance in command and control, surveillance, and precision-strike technologies as even non-state actors will acquire and refine their own application of these technologies in conflict and war. Rising competitors will be able to acquire capabilities through a broad knowledge diffusion, cyber intellectual property theft, and their own targeted investments without having to invest into massive “sunken” research costs. This diffusion of knowledge and capability and the aforementioned erosion of long-term collective security will lead to the formation of ad hoc communities of interest. The costs of maintaining global hegemony at the mid-point of the century will be too great for any single power, meaning that the world will be multi-polar and dominated by complex combinations of short-term alliances, relations, and interests.

This era will be marked by contested norms and persistent disorder, where multiple state and non-state actors assert alternative rules and norms, which when contested, will use military force, often in a dimension short of traditional armed conflict.

For additional information on the Future Operational Environment and the Era of Contested Equality:

•  Listen to Modern War Institute‘s podcast where Retired Maj. Gen. David Fastabend and Mr. Ian Sullivan address Technology and the Future of Warfare

•  Watch the TRADOC G-2 Operational Environment Enterprise’s The Changing Character of Future Warfare video.

52. Potential Game Changers

The Mad Scientist Initiative brings together cutting-edge leaders and thinkers from the technology industry, research laboratories, academia, and across the military and Government to explore the impact of potentially disruptive technologies. Much like Johannes Gutenberg’s moveable type (illustrated above), these transformational game changers have the potential to impact how we live, create, think, and prosper. Understanding their individual and convergent impacts is essential to continued battlefield dominance in the Future Operational Environment. In accordance with The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Future Warfare, we have divided this continuum into two distinct timeframes:

The Era of Accelerated Human Progress (Now through 2035):
The period where our adversaries can take advantage of new technologies, new doctrine, and revised strategic concepts to effectively challenge U.S. military forces across multiple domains. Game changers during this era include:

• Robotics: Forty plus countries develop military robots with some level of autonomy. Impact on society, employment.
Vulnerable: To Cyber/Electromagnetic (EM) disruption, battery life, ethics without man in the loop.
Formats: Unmanned/Autonomous; ground/air vehicles/subsurface/sea systems. Nano-weapons.
Examples: (Air) Hunter/killer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) swarms; (Ground) Russian Uran: Recon, ATGMs, SAMs.

• Artificial Intelligence: Human-Agent Teaming, where humans and intelligent systems work together to achieve either a physical or mental task. The human and the intelligent system will trade-off cognitive and physical loads in a collaborative fashion.

• Swarms/Semi Autonomous: Massed, coordinated, fast, collaborative, small, stand-off. Overwhelm target systems. Mass or disaggregate.



• Internet of Things (IoT): Trillions of internet linked items create opportunities and vulnerabilities. Explosive growth in low Size Weight and Power (SWaP) connected devices (Internet of Battlefield Things), especially for sensor applications (situational awareness). Greater than 100 devices per human. Significant end device processing (sensor analytics, sensor to shooter, supply chain management).
Vulnerable: To Cyber/EM/Power disruption. Privacy concerns regarding location and tracking.
Sensor to shooter: Accelerate kill chain, data processing, and decision-making.

• Space: Over 50 nations operate in space, increasingly congested and difficult to monitor, endanger Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)

GPS Jamming/Spoofing: Increasingly sophisticated, used successfully in Ukraine.
Anti Satellite: China has tested two direct ascent anti-satellite missiles.

The Era of Contested Equality (2035 through 2050):
The period marked by significant breakthroughs in technology and convergences in terms of capabilities, which lead to significant changes in the character of warfare. During this period, traditional aspects of warfare undergo dramatic, almost revolutionary changes which at the end of this timeframe may even challenge the very nature of warfare itself. Game changers during this era include:

• Hyper Velocity Weapons:
Rail Guns (Electrodynamic Kinetic Energy Weapons): Electromagnetic projectile launchers. High velocity/energy and space (Mach 5 or higher). Not powered by explosive.
No Propellant: Easier to store and handle.
Lower Cost Projectiles: Potentially. Extreme G-force requires sturdy payloads.
Limiting factors: Power. Significant IR signature. Materials science.
Hyper Glide Vehicles: Less susceptible to anti-ballistic missile countermeasures.

• Directed Energy Weapons: Signature not visible without technology, must dwell on target. Power requirements currently problematic.
Potential: Tunable, lethal, and non-lethal.
Laser: Directed energy damages intended target. Targets: Counter Aircraft, UAS, Missiles, Projectiles, Sensors, Swarms.
Radio Frequency (RF): Attack targets across the frequency spectrum. Targets: Not just RF; Microwave weapons “cook targets,” people, electronics.

• Synthetic Biology: Engineering / modification of biological entities
Increased Crop Yield: Potential to reduce food scarcity.
Weaponization: Potential for micro-targeting, Seek & destroy microbes that can target DNA. Potentially accessible to super-empowered individuals.
Medical Advances: Enhance soldier survivability.
Genetic Modification: Disease resistant, potentially designer babies and super athletes/soldiers. Synthetic DNA stores digital data. Data can be used for micro-targeting.
CRISPR: Genome editing.

• Information Environment: Use IoT and sensors to harness the flow of information for situational understanding and decision-making advantage.




In envisioning Future Operational Environment possibilities, the Mad Scientist Initiative employs a number of techniques. We have found Crowdsourcing (i.e., the gathering of ideas, thoughts, and concepts from a wide variety of interested individuals assists us in diversifying thoughts and challenging conventional assumptions) to be a particularly effective technique. To that end, we have published our latest, 2-page compendium of Potential Game Changers here — we would like to hear your feedback regarding them. Please let us know your thoughts / observations by posting them in this blog post’s Comment box (found below, in the Leave a Reply section). Alternatively, you can also submit them to us via email at: usarmy.jble.tradoc.mbx.army-mad-scientist@mail.mil. Thank you in advance for your contributions!

51. Black Swans and Pink Flamingos

The Mad Scientist Initiative recently facilitated a workshop with thought leaders from across the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, other Government agencies, industry, and academia to address the unknown, unknowns (i.e., Black Swans) and the known, knowns (i.e., Pink Flamingos) to synthesize cross-agency thinking about possible disruptions to the Future Operational Environment.

Black Swans: In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s original context, a black swan (unknown, unknowns) is an event or situation which is unpredictable, but has a major effect. For this conference, we used a looser definition, identifying possibilities that are not likely, but might have significant impacts on how we think about warfighting and security.

Pink Flamingos: Defined by Frank Hoffman, Pink Flamingos are the known, knowns that are often discussed, but ignored by Leaders trapped by organizational cultures and rigid bureaucratic decision-making structures. Peter Schwartz further describes Pink Flamingos as the “inevitable surprise.” Digital photography was a pink flamingo to Kodak.

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Black Swans:

Naturally Occurring Disaster: These events (i.e., Carrington Event — solar flare frying solid state electronics, super volcano eruptions, earthquake swarms, etc.) would have an enormous impact on the Army and its ability to continue to operate and defend the nation and support national recovery operations. While warning times have increased for many of these events, there are limited measures that can be implemented to mitigate the devastating effects of these events.


Virtual Nations: While the primacy of Westphalian borders has been challenged and the power of traditional nation-states has been waning over the last decade, some political scientists have assumed that supranational organizations and non-state actors would take their place. One potential black swan is the emergence of virtual nations due to the convergence of blockchain technologies, crypto-currency, and the ability to project power and legitimacy through the virtual world. Virtual nations could be organized based on ideologies, business models, or single interests. Virtual nations could supersede, supplement, or compete with traditional, physical nations. The Army of the future may not be prepared to interact and compete with virtual nations.


Competition in Venues Other than Warfare (Economic, Technological, Demographic, etc.) Achieving Primacy: In the near future, war in the traditional sense may be less prevalent, while competitions in other areas may be the driving forces behind national oppositions. How does the Army need to prepare for an eventuality where armed conflict is not as important as it once was?


Alternate Internet — “Alternet”: A distinct entity, separate from the general commercial internet, only accessible with specific corresponding hardware. This technology would allow for unregulated and unmonitored communication and commerce, potentially granting safe haven to criminal and terrorist activities.

At the workshop, attendees identified the following Pink Flamingos:

Safe at Home: Army installations are no longer the sanctuaries they once were, as adversaries will be able to attack Soldiers and families through social media and other cyberspace means. Additionally, installations no longer merely house, train, and deploy Soldiers — unmanned combat systems are controlled from home installations -— a trend in virtual power that will increase in the future. The Army needs a plan to harden our installations and train Soldiers and families to be resilient for this eventuality.


Hypersonics: High speed (Mach 5 or higher) and highly maneuverable missiles or glide vehicles that can defeat our air defense systems. The speed of these weapons is unmatched and their maneuverability allows them to keep their targets unknown until only seconds before impact, negating current countermeasures.


Generalized, Operationalized Artificial Intelligence (AI): Artificial intelligence is one of the most prominent pink flamingos throughout global media and governments. Narrow artificial intelligence is being addressed as rapidly as possible through ventures such as Project MAVEN. However, generalized and operationalized artificial intelligence – that can think, contextualize, and operate like a human – has the potential to disrupt not only operations, but also the military at its very core and foundation.


Space/Counterspace: Space is becoming increasingly congested, commercialized, and democratized. Disruption, degradation, and denial in space threatens to cripple multi-domain warfare operations. States and non-state actors alike are exploring options to counter one another, compete, and potentially even fight in space.


Quantum Sciences: Quantum science – communication, computing, and sensing – has the potential to solve some intractable but very specific problem sets. Quantum technology remains in its infancy. However, as the growth of qubits in quantum computing continues to expand, so does the potentiality of traditional encryption being utterly broken. Quantum sensing can allow for much more precise atomic clocks surpassing the precision timing of GPS, as well as quantum imaging that provides better results than classical imaging in a variety of wavelengths.


Bioweapons/Biohacking: The democratization of bio technology will mean that super-empowered individuals as well as nation states will have the ability to engineer weapons and hacks that can augment friendly human forces or target and degrade enemy human forces (e.g., targeted disease or genetic modifications).


Personalized Warfare: Warfare is now waged on a personal level, where adversaries can attack the bank accounts of Soldiers’ families, infiltrate their social media, or even target them specifically by their genetics. The Army needs to understand that the individual Soldier can be exploited in many different ways, often through information publicly provided or stolen.

Source: ommbeu / Fotolia
Deep Fakes/Information Warfare: Information warfare and “fake news” have played a prominent role in global politics over the last several years and could dominate the relationship between societies, governments, politicians, and militaries in the future operational environment. Information operations, thanks to big data and humanity’s ever-growing digital presence, are targeted at an extremely personal and specific level. One of the more concerning aspects of this is an artificial intelligence-based human image/voice synthesis technique known as deep fakes. Deep fakes can essentially put words in the mouths of prominent or trusted politicians and celebrities.


Multi-Domain Swarming: Swarming is often thought about in terms of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but one significant pink flamingo is swarming taking place across multiple domains with self-organizing, autonomous aerial, ground, maritime (sub and surface), and even subterranean unmanned systems. U.S. defense systems on a linear modernization and development model will not be capable of dealing with the saturation and complexity issues arising from these multi-domain swarms.


Lethal Autonomy: An autonomous system with the ability to track, target, and fire without the supervision or authority of a human in/on the loop. The U.S. Army will have to examine its own policy regarding these issues as well as our adversaries, who may be less deterred by ethical/policy issues.


Tactical Nuclear Exchange: While strategic nuclear war and mutually assured destruction have been discussed and addressed ad nauseam, not enough attention has been given to the potential of a tactical nuclear exchange between state actors. One tactical nuclear attack, while not guaranteeing a nuclear holocaust, would bring about a myriad of problems for U.S. forces worldwide (e.g., the potential for escalation, fallout, contamination of water and air, and disaster response). Additionally, a high altitude nuclear burst’s electromagnetic pulse has the potential to fry solid state electronics across a wide-area, with devastating results to the affected nation’s electrical grid, essential government services, and food distribution networks.

Leaders must anticipate these future possibilities in determining the character of future conflicts and in force design and equipping decisions. Using a mental model of black swans and pink flamingos provides a helpful framework for assessing the risks associated with these decisions.

For additional information on projected black swans for the next 20+ years, see the RAND Corporation’s Discontinuities and Distractions — Rethinking Security for the Year 2040.