The trends in weapon system innovation are fairly predictable in the near term. We can see the slow evolution and see the new technology explained online and in defense magazines. We all know that cyber war is advancing fast, and stealthy aircraft, drones, and hypersonic aircraft too. I'd like to take a few minutes and discuss some of these tools of warfare if I might.
First, let's talk about robotics, specifically military aerial robots. UAVs and UASs (unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aerial systems) are on a steep graphical incline in usage – nearly every nation has a UAV development program or is purchasing UAVs. China for instance is making in-house UAVs, some copies, some home-grown tech and they are selling like hotcakes across the globe.
The USA is working on CUAVs (combat unmanned aerial vehicles) capable of landing on aircraft carriers, aerial refueling and stealth capabilities too. Speaking of which the current stealth fighters may end up being the last new fighters built which are flown by actual human beings, at least that is starting to look like the case for the United States.
Hypersonic and Ballistic Missile Assets are also being developed in several nations, such fast movers are hard to hit, making them a truly lethal threat. Only a couple of nations have the capability or purport the capability of defending against them. China claims to have their "Carrier Killer" ballistic missile and although not tested against an evasive unwilling moving target, they seem to be working to perfect it as we are discussing the reality of its capability.
Stealth Fighter 5th Generation Aircraft are in production in the US and being tested, developed, researched now by Russia, China, and on the drawing board with many other nations; Japan, Turkey, India, Pakistan, South Korea, and others. However, if they are not built yet, and being tested, it's too late for this round of 5th generation fighters, they will have to buy them from Russia, China or the USA, and then wait until the next round; sixth generation. Still, there is no such thing as an invisible aircraft, so even stealth is a matter of degree.
Thus, we can expect new missile defense systems with multiple types of radars which use AI to sort out the massive inflow of data to prevent false positives. Such is the game of new weapons throughout history – each new weapon finds its counterpart defense system and the push for technological advantage continues.
There have been some scary weapon system concepts floated recently, shipping cargo container offensive missile system – the ultimate Trojan Horse – exploiting free-trade logistics to get close to an enemies shore line, and the concept of using large passenger aircraft in a similar fashion. Indeed, I hope humans don't go there, because such disruption in global trade, communication, and travel would send shock waves through the global economy, however in a situation of 'total war' if one nation is losing, they will pull out all the stops to win, rather than be conquered and forfeit their civilization. Cite: History. But pretend I didn't go there; I'd rather keep the conversation light and on the topic of the global defense industry. If you are wondering what keeps me up at night, it would be that, and yes, the proverbial threat of an EMP throwing a modern nation back to the stone age.