Solomon, blogging at SNAFU, commented on the problems currently being experienced with the Marine Corps' new CH-53K helicopter. In that article, he observed:
NO ONE WEAPON SYSTEM is indispensable. You equip the man, you don't man the equipment!
I applauded the sentiment at first . . . but then I thought about it. That was certainly true during my military service, and it obviously remains a public talking point - just look at all the companies in the "military-industrial complex" who spout public relations glurge about "equipping the warfighter". However, in many cases, their operations seem more geared towards the latest gee-whiz factors than towards the poor soldier who'll have to use their equipment. Furthermore, in some cases, they aren't designing for the individual soldier, sailor or airman at all. They're designing technology that can be "optionally manned" - indicating that sooner or later, it can be operated remotely, perhaps even autonomously (i.e. self-directed via artificial intelligence) instead of requiring a "human in the loop".
So many of the weapons we put into the hands of our armed services are aimed and guided by electronics, rather than people. During World War II, I daresay 99% of the rounds fired (whatever they were fired from) were aimed by eye, or by analog calculations such as a warship's gears-and-wheels fire control system. The first Persian Gulf War brought "smart weapons" to bear for the first time in large numbers. Today, it seems "smart weapons" are taking over wholesale. Even field artillery is now relying to an overwhelming extent on guided shells. (There's a very interesting discussion on restocking artillery shells and rockets, and the impact of technology on army logistics in general, over at Strategy Page. Go read it for more information.)
We've seen an increasing reliance on automated assistance in flying planes (even civilian airliners), driving cars, and so on. Are we now seeing the same reliance developing in our combat arms? Will the individual soldier, sailor or airman be, in so many words, just one element in a weapons system - and not the most important element, at that? Will new equipment acquisitions (such as the CH-53K helicopter) be driven by human concerns first, or by "the system" (military administration) determining what "systems" (equipment) will be needed to deliver and support other "systems" (weapons, etc.), and ordering accordingly, without major regard to the people involved? Will casualties caused by incomplete weapons development (see, for example, the V-22 debacle) simply be regarded as unavoidable "collateral damage" - part of the process?
I haven't thought this through to any great extent yet; but Snafu's comment made me wonder. How about you, readers? Would those of you who are current or former military concur that this is going to be the wave of the future? Please discuss in Comments.