By now everyone is aware of the SOCOM development of exoskeleton combat suits which are slated for an alleged initial 2018 deployment. So far, I haven’t met anyone who has the slightest concern for this development in warfare. I tend to be of the opinion that introducing such a radical piece of equipment will upset the balance between nations and upend the global arms race.
Often times there’s a hyper focus on provocations or escalations with regards to disrupting MAD with strategic weapons or developing/deploying missile shields, nukes, space based weaponry and projected energy research. I think the same concern should be applied to any military application. There’s little difference in my mind when you have a country suddenly become impervious to nuclear missile strikes thanks to a missile shield versus having a country’s infantry forces become an unstoppable force on the battlefield and subsequently making the concept of ground warfare with that nation unviable.
I am not advocating that the military or the US staunch the flow of technology or halt pioneers in military science. I simply hope and pray that people above my paygrade are paying attention to and analyzing the risks of deploying such atypical equipment on a global strategic scale.
There is a potential perfect storm brewing with this deployment of exoskeletons. There have been a number of countries that have pulled out of the ICC, questioning it’s legitimacy and undermining it’s authority in the international community. You could argue that the ICC is not part of the Geneva conventions, or that it is a separate apparatus, but I think as a whole it is integral and influential in regard to the universal application of human rights and the idea of no safe haven, ending impunity and enforcing accountability.
Additionally, it doesn’t help that the U.S. has been waivering it’s own written laws about war crimes for the sake of expediency, or that our military has been making incredibly flimsy interpretations of international law to justify deploying JHP.
As robotic industrialization marches onward, the exoskeletons will be economized and will become cheaper. This will eventually roll out to the entire army if they are proven successful, just like the SOCOM Bloc 1 SOPMOD kit did. When countries find themselves facing unstoppable US forces in battle, there could be a mad dash to deploy and or develop counter-exo suites with a complete disregard for the laws of land warfare or international human rights law.This could include the indiscriminate use of banned munitions, and the proliferation of dumb area denial weapons such as land mines.
It is the nature of every animal and human to fight with brutality and determination when backed into a corner. Will exoskeletons essentially back adversarial nations into a corner? Possibly, as we’ve already seen the Ratnik program in Russia begin, mimicking our own ambitions. One could say all day long that this is just the latest face of the money pit that was originally called “future force warrior” or “Land Warrior” depending on how old you are. While this is true, these programs’ products are getting better and more viable. Having used some of the Land Warrior gear in a combat environment I can say that if they really do implement all their visions effectively it well and truly will turn infantry combat on it’s head.
While there’s a high probability of CHICOM or RU production models of whatever we come up with flooding the market to compensate for the lack of balance, there will always be forces, particularly asymmetric forces, that will never have access to this level of equipment. Infantry warfare is where the rubber meets the road. If we change the landscape all at once who knows what will happen?
(McRaven alleges 2018 deployment)
(African countries departing ICC)
(DOS, POTUS waivering recruitment and use of child soldiers)