With the rapid evolution of technology, soldiers fighting on the battlefields of 2050 may not look too different from a science fiction movie or a video game, a senior Army leader said.
“Think about if you’re playing a first-person shooter video game, you’re going on the map, you have visibility on your heads-up display, you know where the enemy is, you have unlimited ammo and you have this amazing ability to never die,” said Young Bang, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.
“Now, we’re not quite there yet, but if you think about some of the things we’re working on right now, those are the foundational pieces to get us there," Bang said May 17 at the Association of the U.S. Army’s LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Honolulu.
Bang said the Army is working hard to transform for the future. Citing as an example the 24 new technologies the Army plans to deliver in fiscal 2023, Bang said those capabilities are “foundational pieces” so that the Army, along with its allies and partners, can “drive this whole thing called integrated deterrence.”
From drone resupply to exoskeletons, the Army is looking at how it can make soldiers more lethal and agile, Bang said. “Take unlimited ammo,” he said. “We’re not quite there but imagine what you could do with drones.”
The Army is experimenting with that at Fort Moore, Georgia, he said. “They were literally dropping off ammo as soldiers were needing it,” Bang said. “It’s an experiment, but those are the possibilities we’re looking at, and the Army needs industry’s help to get us there.”
Soldiers also are testing the use of exoskeletons to carry heavy equipment, and the Army continues to fine-tune its Integrated Visual Augmentation System and develop robotic combat vehicles, among other capabilities, Bang said. “Imagine what the possibilities will be if you tie all that together,” he said.
As the Army continues its modernization, it faces an increasingly changing world, Bang said. “Change is constant, and the pace is increasing, and technology is increasing the pace of change,” he said. “With technology that’s driving change, humans have to be able to adapt.”
For the Army, that means “you train, you experiment together with the joint and multinational force,” he said. “The humans have to adapt,” he added. “They have to know how to use that technology and think about it differently.”
The Army also must be light, mobile and flexible, and it must view technology as an enabler instead of the solution to every problem, Bang said. “A lot of people, including me, get enamored by the shiny bauble,” he said. “We’ve got to shift from just the technology to also include the procedural—the teaming, the strategy, the employment. How are we going to use this?”
Ultimately, the Army must move from industrial warfare and even information warfare to digital warfare, Bang said. “That’s where we need to be, that’s our future state,” he said.
This requires open and modular systems capable of accepting plug-and-play updates, he said. The Army also must flatten and simplify its architecture and improve the way it manages data.
“Data is foundational, but we’ve got to simplify that data,” he said. “We have way too much information. Commanders don’t need all that. They need courses of action, they need information to make decisions, but they don’t need it all.”