The top 5 military technologies of tomorrow



1. The Russian Sukhoi T-50 fighter

russian jet

Russia’s air force has been lagging behind the USA’s for some time now. However the US’ economic troubles means a huge cutback in spending, taking the number of the world’s most advanced fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, out of the skies in huge numbers, and allowing the Russian T-50 to come into the fold. It has been developed since the early 2000s as the plane to combat the USA’s aerial dominance, and dominance in the air is crucial in all military operations. The new fighter has a low, supersonic flying speed with a maximum flight time of 3.3 hours (meaning the ability to “supercruise”), just longer than the F-22. It has a maximum take-off weight of 37,000 kg meaning in can carry a devastating payload of air-to-air, air-to-surface and air-to-ship missiles. It’s design is somewhat peculiar, but innovative. The vertical stabilizers on the tail fin of the plane are fully moveable, and it is made largely out of titanium and composite material. It has the capability to fly very low to avoid radar, it’s design can be undetected by basic radar and it carries technology intelligence machinery on board. It can also be more cheaply produced than the F-22.


2. The Punisher Super Rifle

punisher sniper

In combat situations enemy personnel hidden behind doors, windows or fixed objects can be very hard to eliminate. However, the US Army’s new rifle will make it much harder to survive a military scenario against the US ground forces. The so-called “punisher” is designed to be a hand-held grenade launcher, build and used like a normal gun but with a timed, semi-automatic grenade coming out of it. It can hit a target with immense precision up to 500 metres away. With a built-in laser target finder and a micro-ship smart inside the grenade which times the blowing-up of the grenade to perfection, it is immensely difficult to avoid being hit by the grenade. The grenades can be blown up in the air, meaning for example, right outside the window of where the enemy is hiding. The computer chip is pre-programmed to detonate at a certain distance, which can be done at a moment’s notice in a combat scenario. The gun will soon have armour-piercing capability.

3. The Free Electron Laser


The US Navy’s new defence-system laser seems like something out of a sci-fi film. The new laser will actually become an integral part of the Navy’s boat defence system, with the ability to shoot missiles out of the sky. Such programs have never been seen before in war, although it has been in the US military’s research and development program since the premiership of Ronald Reagan. Normally lasers are produced by a machine that energy, mirrors and lenses to energise atoms, which produces light and energy, which is ten directed into an intense beam of light. Each laser operates at a wavelength, determined by the amount of atoms involved. The Free Electron Laser will focus many wavelengths at once, and for a long period of time, allowing it to build up 1 megawatt of energy. This means that unlike conventional lasers, it will not weaken as it travels over distance (normally weakened by environmental factors, such as rain). The main advantage of the laser is that aside from emitting a very powerful laser, it has no downtime between shots, meaning it can destroy multiple targets at once, giving the US Navy the upper hand in defending their ships.

4. Kongsberg’s new stealth cruise missile


Norway is not normally associated with military breakthrough, but defence and aerospace firm Kongsberg’s new stealth cruise missile offers an incredibly useful and destructive conventional threat to land targets. The new weapon is designed for the US Air Force’s F-35 stealth fighters. It has a range of up to 100 miles and can deliver a 900 pound bomb. The missile will also be used for the Norwegian and Polish Air Forces. What makes the missile so astonishing is its manoeuvrability. It can literally skim the surface of the sea, flying only a metre above the water. It has advanced terrain reference systems, meaning it can hug the ground and move very quickly over the ground, changing direction suddenly. It has built in GPS to guide it to its target an can perform quick, random G-force manoeuvres to avoid being destroyed. It is very hard to track, destroy, and its manoeuvrability and range mean it will become the weapon of choice for various fighter aircraft.

5. RSM-56-Bulava

missile 2

Lastly, the Russian Navy, not to be outdone by the British or American Navies, has recently developed a new nuclear capable missile with terrific capability. Like the most advanced nuclear delivery-systems in the world, the missile will be launched from a submarine. It was developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology with the aim of being on par with the American delivery system, and work began as far back as the 1990s. After some testing failures, the missile became fully operational in December 2011. It has a range of 9000 kilometres, and can carry ten 100-150 kiloton nuclear bombs. Each one of these missiles would be 5-7 times greater than the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. It is a very light missile a low flight trajectory, giving it added stealth against enemy radar. It also has built-in defence systems – it can survive a nuclear explosion from 500 metres away and is totally resistant to physical and electromagnetic pulse damage, and has built-in decoys. It is a very manoeuvrable missile during warhead separation (as the missile breaks apart and each individual missile is released toward its target). This is due to the 3rd stage of separation being propelled by liquid, rather than solid fuel as in the first two stages. Each warhead in the missile can travel at hypersonic speed and be individually guided.


  1. Now I have a bit more time, here are a few more comments:

    Re the T-50 – The Sukhoi PAK FA (to give it its proper name) is not a stealth fighter in the same way as the F-22 or F-35, nor is it designed to be. Its Russian designers have said right from the start that while it does incorporate low-observable features, their priority is capability over absolute stealth. It definitely will not be invisible to radar, because no stealth aircraft is invisible to radar. Likewise, flying low to avoid detection is not an innovative feature of this aircraft. It is a tactic that has been used by Air Forces all over the world for over 50 years. The design and manufacturing techniques are also not innovative or revolutionary in any way. Again, they have been used on multiple platforms all over the world for decades.
    Finally, “supercruise” does not mean the ability to fly long distances at supersonic speeds. “Supercruise” is the ability to accelerate to and sustain supersonic speeds without using reheat (of ‘afterburner’) to provide additional engine thrust. One of the first aircraft to have this capability was the EE P1 in the 1950s, which was later developed into the Lightning. Concorde could also supercruise, and it is a capability enjoyed by aircraft such as the F-22, F-35, Typhon and Rafale. Again, not a new, revolutionary or innovative design feature.

    Re the “Punisher Super Rifle” – This would be better referred to by its proper designation, the XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement System (CDTES), rather than a tabloid nickname. While its capabilities are impressive, the rifle is in its early development stages and is many years from being manufactured or deployed. It also has the serious disadvantage of being large and bulky, preventing anyone assigned to carry it from carrying any other personal weapon (the same problem affected the M79 40mm grenade launcher in Vietnam). There is a very long way to go before this is ready for service, assuming that it isn’t cancelled as impractical in the same way as the Offensive Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) that had similar capabilities and was due to replace the M16 rifle.
    Re the Free Electron Laser – As Stuart says, this is a very early “proof-of-concept” and many of the roles for which this has been touted are being filled with electromagnetically propelled projectile weapons (aka “railguns”). The time it takes the laser to actually destroy a target make this an impractical point defence weapon for anything other than slow-moving, small targets that are not performing any kind of evasive maneouvers. It has potential for the future, but like the XM-25 it is a very long way from being a practical weapons system.
    Re the Kongsberg Stealth Cruise Missile – The correct name for this is the Joint Strike Missile. It is designed to be carried by the F-35, however it is neither revolutonary nor ground-breaking. There are many weapons already in existence that offer the same capabilities, including Storm Shadow (in service with several nations and first deployed by the RAF in 2003), AGM-154 JSOW (in service with the US Navy since 1999), AGM-158 JASSM (in service with the US Air Force since 2009) and the AGM-84E SLAM-ER (in service with the US Navy since 2000).
    Re the RSM-56 – Again, as Stuart says this is not a revolutionary weapon, merely a development an existing weapon (the SS-27 ‘Sickle B’ ICBM). Capability-wise it is almost identical to the Trident missiles that have been in service with the UK and US Navies since the late 1980s, and it has been plagued with reliability issues in development, at one point suffering a 50% failure rate.

  2. The laser is more of a weapon for “the day after tomorrow” than something we’re likely to see in service any time soon. For a lot of the jobs lasers were originally touted for, railgun-fired projectiles are likely to end up being the way forward.

    The RSM56 is already in service. It doesn’t represent revolutionary technology, and has had a large number of hiccups in development. It is half-a-step of an advance from the technology of Trident.

    The incorrect Sea Dart pic is even older technology, it went out of service with the return of HMS Edinburgh from her final deployment a few weeks ago!

    • Sea Dart went out of service even before that. HMS Edinburgh conducted the final firing in April 2012, and both she and HMS York completed their final deployments with their Sea Dart systems deactivated.

  3. Quick note for the editors:
    The photograph used to illustrate the Kongsberg missile is incorrect. Far from being a Kongsberg, it appears to be a Trident D-5 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile.
    The photograph used to illustrate the RSM-56 missile is not an RSM-56. It is, in fact, a Sea Dart missile launcher from a Royal Navy Type 42 Destroyer.


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