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C4ISR systems and the kill web

I looked at five market reports, and they basically break things down into five areas: naval, airborne, land-based, space-based, and fully integrated systems.

The largest C4ISR market segment is in land-based platforms (ground combat vehicles, tanks, armored personnel carriers, command centers, etc).

Wherever the enemy moves tanks, soldiers, planes, or ships into position (first, second, and third generation warfare: massed manpower, massed firepower, and maneuver warfare), that location becomes the battlefield and the Kill Web fires the appropriate weapons at those targets (sixth generation warfare: manipulation of space and time).

Only after the enemy’s command and control systems are severely diminished, and his primary defensive capabilities are destroyed, do we send-in ground troops.

That doesn’t give us much clarity, so it’s best that we integrate the market reports on platform volumes from the previous articles, to get a better perspective.

I’ll recap those for you here: starting in 2019, we’re talking about 43,500 military ground vehicles, 324 fighter planes, maybe three to five bomber aircraft, 450 military helicopters, about 5,000 UAVs (mostly small ones), and maybe 15 or 20 warships purchased per year.

Then, consider that many existing tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, and big UAVs will be upgraded with new advanced C4ISR systems.

For the next few years, I suspect that the unit volumes for upgrades will be larger than the unit volumes for new platforms, based on the military budgets and the political climate.

The reports on this segment include systems used in commercial fishing, seafloor mapping, ichthyology students looking for sharks, and military sonar.

One reports says this market is growing at about 10 percent, from 2018 to 2028, driven by the need to integrate ISR systems and weapons into the network.

I looked at 10 or 15 different market report links, and none of them openly disclosed the market size in dollars or unit volumes in their press releases.

But, the articles did say that ground systems is the largest segment of SIGINT, and the total market is growing at nearly 7 percent per year.

On the first day, U.S. and British planes and ships fired their cruise missiles and destroyed 31 Taliban air defense systems, communications facilities, training camps, and airfields.

After the third day, using information from the C4ISR network, Predator drones hunted-down emerging targets and destroyed them with Hellfire missiles, just like Skynet fed targeting information to the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 killing machines.

Researching the topics in this series of articles tangentially discovered a number of videos, that illustrate many astonishing weapons and gadgets that could be coming to the kill web in the future.

This fall, for instance, the president who swore he was going to give us an infrastructure plan that would blow our minds discovered that, after a tax cut for billionaires, a ballooning national debt, and a staggering $716 billion Pentagon budget, there were few dollars left over for much of anything else.

On Tuesday, the newly nominated head of U.S. Central Command, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and insisted that any future Pentagon budget below $733 billion would “increase risk and that risk would be manifested across the force.”

(And here’s a little footnote to that change in numbers: Senator Inhofe walked out of that lunch and within the week had purchased “tens of thousands of dollars of stock in one of the nation’s top defense contractors.”

claimed to know nothing about it, and cancelled the order.) And then, of course, there’s always the purely secondary question: What is the U.S. military -- its budget already bigger than of that those of god-knows-how-many-other countries combined -- going to spend all that money on?

Kennedy faced just such a moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and, after envisioning the catastrophic outcome of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange, he came to the conclusion that the atomic powers should impose tough barriers on the precipitous use of such weaponry.

With artificial intelligence, or AI, soon to play an ever-increasing role in military affairs, as in virtually everything else in our lives, the role of humans, even in nuclear decision-making, is likely to be progressively diminished.

Rather than focusing mainly on weaponry and tactics aimed at combating poorly armed insurgents in never-ending small-scale conflicts, the American military is now being redesigned to fight increasingly well-equipped Chinese and Russian forces in multi-dimensional (air, sea, land, space, cyberspace) engagements involving multiple attack systems (tanks, planes, missiles, rockets) operating with minimal human oversight.

“The major effect/result of all these capabilities coming together will be an innovation warfare has never seen before: the minimization of human decision-making in the vast majority of processes traditionally required to wage war,”

“In this coming age of hyperwar, we will see humans providing broad, high-level inputs while machines do the planning, executing, and adapting to the reality of the mission and take on the burden of thousands of individual decisions with no additional input.”

Ordinarily, national leaders seek to control the pace and direction of battle to ensure the best possible outcome, even if that means halting the fighting to avoid greater losses or prevent humanitarian disaster.

Yes, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or drones, have been widely used in Africa and the Greater Middle East to hunt down enemy combatants, but those are largely ancillary (and sometimes CIA) operations, intended to relieve pressure on U.S. commandos and allied forces facing scattered bands of violent extremists.

To ensure continued military supremacy, he added, the Pentagon would have to focus more “investment in technological innovation to increase lethality, including research into advanced autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, and hypersonics.”

Self-driving cars, for instance, rely on specialized algorithms to process data from an array of sensors monitoring traffic conditions and so decide which routes to take, when to change lanes, and so on.

Similarly, someday drone aircraft -- without human operators in distant locales -- will be capable of scouring a battlefield for designated targets (tanks, radar systems, combatants), determining that something it “sees”

As General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress in 2017, “It is very compelling when one looks at the capabilities that artificial intelligence can bring to the speed and accuracy of command and control and the capabilities that advanced robotics might bring to a complex battlespace, particularly machine-to-machine interaction in space and cyberspace, where speed is of the essence.”

Aside from aiming to exploit AI in the development of its own weaponry, U.S. military officials are intensely aware that their principal adversaries are also pushing ahead in the weaponization of AI and robotics, seeking novel ways to overcome America’s advantages in conventional weaponry.

As the fighting intensifies, however, communications between headquarters and the front lines may well be lost and such systems will, according to military scenarios already being written, be on their own, empowered to take lethal action without further human intervention.

Advocates of the new technology claim that machines will indeed become smart enough to sort out such distinctions for themselves, while opponents insist that they will never prove capable of making critical distinctions of that sort in the heat of battle and would be unable to show compassion when appropriate.

However, strategists worry that, in a future hyperwar environment, such systems could be jammed or degraded just as the speed of the fighting begins to exceed the ability of commanders to receive battlefield reports, process the data, and dispatch timely orders.

As a report from the Congressional Research Service puts it, in the future “AI algorithms may provide commanders with viable courses of action based on real-time analysis of the battle-space, which would enable faster adaptation to unfolding events.”

Incoming data from battlefield information systems would instead be channeled to AI processors focused on assessing imminent threats and, given the time constraints involved, executing what they deemed the best options without human instructions.

Keep in mind, then, that the very nature of such a future AI-driven hyperwar will only increase the risk that conventional conflicts could cross a threshold that’s never been crossed before: an actual nuclear war between two nuclear states.

Such a danger arises from the convergence of multiple advances in technology: not just AI and robotics, but the development of conventional strike capabilities like hypersonic missiles capable of flying at five or more times the speed of sound, electromagnetic rail guns, and high-energy lasers.

Such weaponry, though non-nuclear, when combined with AI surveillance and target-identification systems, could even attack an enemy’s mobile retaliatory weapons and so threaten to eliminate its ability to launch a response to any nuclear attack.

scenario, any power might be inclined not to wait but to launch its nukes at the first sign of possible attack, or even, fearing loss of control in an uncertain, fast-paced engagement, delegate launch authority to its machines.

They certainly are capable of processing vast amounts of information over brief periods of time and weighing the pros and cons of alternative actions in a thoroughly unemotional manner.


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