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A terrifying new arms race

  • 07 August 2017


Today’s highly technological era amazes us with possibilities for human growth and innovation, but in our amazement we often forget to tackle various pitfalls. Arguably, the biggest risk is the emerging military technology, about which there are many unanswered questions. We are faced with many uncertainties: security risks due to loss of competitiveness, potential control over advanced weapons by terrorists and, most importantly, reduced comprehension by the wider society—let alone any participation in the decision making process as the frenzied pace of technological development increases.

The 21st century is marked by the advancement and innovation of technology. The latter is increasingly shaping our lives: from the connectivity of the Internet, social media, to the cellphones containing more information than a US president had access to 20 years ago. Emerging technologies undoubtedly offer many possibilities for human growth and development, but they can also impose threats. A new arms race is emerging between the world’s leaders and technology appears to be in the middle of it.

Hypersonic speed is nowadays popular in the armed forces as a result of its growing scientific feasibility. In June, Russia reportedly tested the hypersonic missile Zircon travelling almost at a mind-blowing 6 times the speed of sound, which makes it highly unlikely to be targeted or intercepted. ‘It will greatly reduce the reaction time that they (Western military) have to deploy their own defenses and counter-measures,’ analyst Tim Ripley told international broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Meanwhile, Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) successfully tested a hypersonic ramjet engine having the potential to be mated to a missile. In order to reach hypersonic speed, the engine needs to travel at more than 3853mph—five times faster than the speed of sound, making it unavoidable at close range fire.

The U.S. and Australia also completed major hypersonic missile tests in mid-July at the Woomera Test Range in Australia involving a HiFiRE scramjet vehicle. Significant advancements were made since the start of the program in 2009 with regards to design assembly and mechanism control.

Another pivotal area of research is Artificial Intelligence which impacts so called ‘autonomous warfare’. The Australian government recently announced the closure of a $101 million deal for micro drones to improve Defence Force surveillance capabilities. These devices can be controlled from up to 5 km away and can fly up to 50 minutes at an altitude of 152 metres.

Similarly, In January 2017 U.S. Department of Defense launched 103