History is the enumeration of facts about warfare. War forms the basis of the discipline of studying history. And one salient fact of war is the Wonder-weapon. The Wonder-weapon is a technological marvel that changes tactics, and initially provides a decisive edge. Initially, until a counter-wonder-weapon is created or the weapons become too expensive to maintain, causing a collapse of the economy of the culture that created the weapon.
First there was stone weapons, then metals. To protect against stone and metal man adapted hunting techniques to create ‘stand-off range’ in order to mitigate damage from mastodon or maniple. Stand-off distance was countered by speed of maneuver using horses and camel and oxen. Before the stirrup and horse bridles and side reins (before those, horses were choked as you can see from contemporary friezes), speed was achieved through the adaptation of carts in chariots, and combined with stand-off distance weapons in slings and stones, and bows and arrows.
Then came weapons of defense: the shield and body armor. Shields were defeated by different weapons, such as hooks or simply stabbing through them or around them. To counter-defeat the attacks the shields got heavier, and once warfare progressed so that the shield became irrelevant, they become smaller and more ornate. From stone-age hunters through Romans to knights, each age saw new technology, but combat remained infantry grunts going toe-to-toe with the enemy.
In the US we saw the battles of the Monitor and the Merrimack, but it was the battle of the shovel around Richmond that finished off the Confederacy. The Germans of World War II provide the most dramatic search for wonder-weapons. The V1 and V2 missiles, jet planes and monstrous tanks that sank into the earth. For every weapon developed, an army division had to maintain horses and mules in order to transport logistics. Lacking quality, quantity, or speed of delivery of logistics, once the close battle was closed, the Germans got their butts kicked. Today in the US we are seeing the same phenomenon: for each wonder-weapon like the Zumwalt and the F-35, our military becomes less capable. For each new thing, we have to give up the core of combat: to close with and destroy the enemy.
Impossible!, you say? Our Navy lacks a projectile to support Marines and soldiers. When combined with the naval gunfire capability of the Littoral Combat Ship, our Marines are on their own. Our Navy has no plans to create such a round. Meanwhile China is mass-producing warships. Thank you Slater for this article on China’s PLAN.
But wait! There’s another wonder-weapon on the horizon that will completely change naval artillery and defeat China’s quantities! Except the weapon is reliant on the internet-of-things, also known as ‘imminently hackable’ and easily mitigated.
Warfare is changing and technology and easy money are driving those changes. Historically, whenever a country relies on a single weapon that country fails relatively soon after. That includes reliance on humans forming that weapon: the Roman legion, the Japanese samurai, the Cossacks and the Field Artillery. Example: US Navy sailors who are politically correct, and can’t sail their ships. Wonder-weapons are hell, and the US military is bathing in brimstone.