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Military

Slowing Military Change


Slowing Military Change - Cover

Authored by Dr. Zhivan Alach.

October 2008

105 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author looks at the development of military technology in recent years. He examines three major platforms: fighter aircraft, tanks, and cruisers, examining the gaps between generations as well as the capability gains of each succeeding type. While development has slowed, at the same time capability increases have also slowed: it takes longer to get new equipment, and that new equipment is less of an improvement over its predecessor than its predecessor was over its predecessor. Only in electronics and computer technology was that shown to be somewhat untrue, but even there military technology has lagged significantly behind commercial advances. This relative military stasis, in technology at least, has a range of causes: the end of the Cold War, bureaucratic changes, political cultures, scientific limits, cost inflation, a focus on new characteristics that cannot be so easily measured. The author also looks at the strategic environment to see whether that has evolved rapidly while technology has proven more dormant.

Summary

This monograph looks at the development of military technology in recent years. It examines three major platforms: fighter aircraft, tanks, and cruisers, examining the gaps between generations as well as the capability gains of each succeeding type. While it shows that development has slowed, at the same time capability increases have also slowed: it takes longer to get new equipment, and that new equipment is less of an improvement over its predecessor than its predecessor was over its predecessor. It is thus a period of declining gains. Only in electronics and computer technology was that thesis shown to be somewhat untrue, but even there military technology has lagged significantly behind commercial advances, and thus to call it innovative and rapidly developing is to draw a long bow. This relative military stasis, in technology, at least, has a range of causes: the end of the Cold War, bureaucratic changes, political cultures, scientific limits, cost inflation, a focus on new characteristics that cannot be so easily measured. The monograph also looks at the strategic environment to see whether that has evolved rapidly while technology has proven more dormant. While many of the issues that characterize the post-Cold War period were also present during the Cold War; they may be newly important, but they are not necessarily new. Indeed, the contemporary period may be seen as a return to military normalcy after the lengthy anomaly of the Cold War. It is a shift away from state-on-state conflict, away from large scale war, away from a view that sees armies as forces designed solely for decisive, Clausewitzian battles. Yes, there has been change since the end of the Cold War, but it should not be exaggerated; rather than innovation, it might be taken as reaction, and the Cold War should be examined from a new perspective as a period of radical innovation in strategic terms, which would further be reinforced by the rapid technological development that characterized it.

This monograph, as the centerpiece of its method, examines the development of a range of military systems; one of the most indicative of these is the F/A-22. The F/A-22 is expected to remain in service until 2050; this will be 66 years since the detailed requirements for the Advanced Tactical Fighter were set. This is a long time in military history; 66 years ago, a fighter known as the P-51 was entering service. That is an argument from extremes, but it is still valid nonetheless. Today’s military environment moves slowly; let us be willing to accept that, rather than assume that because it is our environment, it must somehow be more innovative than those that have gone before. Let us use the time that this relative military stasis affords us to examine the strategic environment both more closely and from a greater distance.


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