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Top US general predicts troops will have to always be on the move and be ‘nearly invisible’ to survive on future battlefields

U.S. Army soldiers take part in a joint military drill of South Korea and the United States in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.U.S. Army soldiers take part in a joint military drill of South Korea and the United States in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

  • Gen. Mark Milley painted a terrifying picture of what future battlefields will look like in a new podcast interview.
  • The top US general that technology is rapidly changing the ways that wars are fought.
  • Soldiers will have to be almost invisible to survive on battlefields that are far more lethal, he warned. 

The top US general has offered a terrifying and bleak picture of future battlefields, predicting that soldiers will have to be constantly mobile, dispersed, and almost completely hidden from the enemy in order to survive. 

Technology is proving to be the driving force behind what is currently the “most fundamental” change — across all of recorded history — in the ways that wars are fought, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Foreign Affairs in a podcast that aired on Tuesday.

Breakthroughs in this space include the development of long-range precision munitions, the emergence of hypersonic weapons, an increased ability to sense and track environments, and integration of unmanned robotic systems. Milley said whichever country can harness these technologies for military purposes will have a noteworthy advantage on the battlefield and be successful in future wars.  

“I would argue that the future operating environment will be extraordinarily more lethal than that which we’ve seen in the past,” the general said, according to a transcript of his interview with Foreign Affairs. “Why? Because you can see better. Sense the environment better. You can hit it with precision better. You can probably hit at speed with, for example, a hypersonic weapon.”

U.S. soldiers participate in a joint military drill with South Korea in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, March 16, 2023.U.S. soldiers participate in a joint military drill with South Korea in Paju, South Korea, Thursday, March 16, 2023.

AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

To be a successful military depends on survival, Milley said.

“Because it’s going to be a highly lethal environment, you’re going to be able to be seen,” he said. “What are some of the attributes of a future force? It is entirely conceivable to me that a future force will need to be lots of small entities, small organizations that are in constant states of movement in order to survive on a highly lethal battlefield.”

“You’ll have to be invisible,” Milley added, “either through technology or through basic cover and concealment sort of thing. But speed, size, and being nearly invisible will be fundamental to survival on a future battlefield.” 

In a practical sense on the battlefield, troops will have to look for ways to not simply physically camouflage their presence but also manage noise, heat signatures, exhaust emissions from vehicles, electronic signatures, and more that could give away their position to drones, infrared sensors, thermal imaging systems, and so on that are becoming more of a threat.

Some of these threats to deployed forces can be seen in the war in Ukraine, where drones have become ubiquitous amid artillery battles and trench warfare. One expert previously described the fighting in Ukraine to Insider as “World War I with 21st century ISR,” or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

In the podcast interview, Milley appeared to predict that these battlefield challenges will only become more difficult going forward.

U.S. Army soldiers pass by South Korean army's armored vehicles during a joint military drill of South Korea and the United States in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.U.S. Army soldiers pass by South Korean army’s armored vehicles during a joint military drill of South Korea and the United States in Paju, South Korea, Friday, Jan. 13, 2023.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

In order to overcome these potential challenges of future combat, Milley said the US will need to “transform our military.” He noted that 70 percent of the country’s navy, air force, and army will still be fully functional in 10 years as it is now, but a third of the force will need to “fundamentally transform” to outpace the capabilities of Russia and China.

Milley’s latest comments about emerging technology as a catalyst in the changing of warfare echo similar remarks that the highest-ranking US general made in a podcast in late March, when he told the Eurasia Group Foundation he predicts much of the world’s armies, navies, and air forces will be robotic within the next 15 years — if not sooner. 

The US military already operates many different robotic and unmanned systems, like drones, and more are in development. Navy officials are looking at manned-unmanned teaming in the maritime space that would potentially see US ships could operate with uncrewed autonomous vessels and aircraft while the Army has been exploring the possibilities of robotic ground vehicles for everything from logistics to combat.

Beyond these capabilities, the US military has also been trying to find ways to incorporate artificial intelligence into its combat systems. As a recent example, the Air Force allowed AI to pilot a fighter jet, a test that built off past work, such as simulated AI dogfights and other testing and research.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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