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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The military have the best toys

12 May 2021

There is nothing like a war to ramp up the pace of technological innovation.

One only has to look at the breakthroughs that were achieved during WW2 to see that war is a great catalyst for the fast-tracking of research and development where the technologies involved can be harnest for defense or offense.

Back in the 1940s we saw radar elevated to a key factor in Britain's winning of the air-war against the Luftwaffe over its territory. Likewise, the development of jet and rocket engines by the Germans may well have swung the outcome -- if only they'd been a little faster off the blocks.

And then, of course, there were the nuclear bombs that effectively put an end to hostilities against Japan.

There is no doubt about it, when sovereignty is involved, there are no artificial limitations placed on the amount of effort or money thrown at science and technology development.

Why am I writing about this today?

Well it was the video below that got me all stirred up.

This is a pretty awesome demonstration of the "Iron Dome" defensive technology developed as a counter-measure against missile attacks and it is impressive, very impressive.

Radar-guided surface to air missiles can be seen rapidly changing direction and zeroing in on incoming rockets before exploding and using a fragmentation charge to detonate or disable those rockets.

The amount of tech that goes into producing such a system is pretty eye-watering. Not only are their complex electronics involved but the engineering of missiles with this measure of maneuverability and control is damned impressive.

The USA has a version of this in their arsenal, along with the infamous Phalanx, C-RAM and THAAD systems, all based on radar-guided ordnance (RGO).

Of course, good as these systems are, they cost an awful lot of money to build and to use. It's easy to see how even a small attacking force could cost the defending nation a king's ransom in expensive RGO merely by flinging some low-tech unguided rockets or even drones at them.

Mind you, many countries like the USA seem to have no problem spending whatever it takes to ensure their military might is up to the task -- whilst poverty and limited health-care remains a problem that kills thousands in their own back yard, every year.

To put my political hat on, it seems that protecting one's power is more important than protecting one's people and their welfare -- in some countries at least.

(takes political hat off).

Looking further down the track, I have to wonder what the electrification of transport will mean to future wars.

Transporting liquid fuels such as diesel, petrol, Jet-A1, etc is pretty easy. It can be done with pipelines, tankers ships or whatever. Likewise, it's pretty easy to store this stuff for long periods quite covertly and replenishing front-line operations is not that hard.

What happens when liquid fuels are a thing of the past? What happens when we've transitioned entirely to electricity as the power behind our vehicles?

Not so easy to transport a few megawatts to the front line is it and taking out a few key power generators or key grid locations would be a very effective way of crippling an enemy if their military forces were heavily reliant on EVs and such.

For this reason, I suspect that one of the very last areas to be electrified will be our defense machinery. Don't look for electric tanks, troop carriers, helicopters or such any time in our lifetimes. EVs simply require too much infrastructure to be an effective defense or offense technology and the energy density of batteries is still much less than the equivalent weight or volume of diesel.

However... if there is another major war and fossil fuels are not an option, you can be sure that no limits will be placed on researching ways to mitigate these problems.

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