In May 1940, the Allied and German Armies squared off in what was expected to be an extended campaign for the conquest of France. Six weeks later, the victorious German Army marched down the Champs-Elysees in Paris. How was it that the Germans, with fewer tanks, fewer trucks, fewer troops, less artillery and access to roughly equivalent technologies, managed to accomplish such a remarkable feat? While leadership, luck, and a host of other factors were at play, the decisive factor was the remarkable way in which a few German inter-war military thinkers envisioned and developed a new way of warfare, known to the Allies as the blitzkrieg. German doctrine successfully integrated current technologies in aircraft, radios, and tanks into a coherent and integrated way of fighting and then applied it to great effect.The result was amplified because the Germans fought an enemy that in many cases failed to account for the possibilities enabled by the new combination of these technologies.
We are now on the cusp of a similar revolution in warfare with the opportunity to integrate several current and near term technologies into our concept of how we will conduct military operations in the not-to-distant future. The winner of the next conflict will not likely be determined primarily by the state of their technologies, but by how well a nation’s military thinkers conceptualize future warfare in an integrated manner and then apply robotic systems, or warbots, appropriately to our way of fighting. For purposes of this discussion, warbots can be defined as robotic combat systems that can detect, identify, and apply lethal force to enemy combatants within prescribed parameters and without immediate human intervention. Using the historical lens of the blitzkrieg, we will examine two key trends that can help inform our concept of future warfare and our ability to wage it. They include: the rise of lethal warbots as primary combatants and adapting current leadership methods to a future era of manned-unmanned, or Centaur, teaming.
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