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The Dreadnaught Factor

This is a discussion on The Dreadnaught Factor within the Professional Discussions forums, part of the China Defense & Military category; The US military is so superior to the rest of the world that it possessed "strength beyond challenge." The main ...

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    IDonT is offline Junior Member
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    The Dreadnaught Factor

    The US military is so superior to the rest of the world that it possessed "strength beyond challenge." The main reason for this is that the cost of entry to superpowerhood is too great and time consuming that no country in the world will even try gain parity with the US on all fronts. (Land, sea, air, electronic, and space)

    In 1904, the Royal Navy held the same advantage. It had more ships than any other in the world. Enter the HMS Dreadnaught. This single ship suddenly made all other battleships in the world obsolete, including the RN's own. So a naval advantage of more than 100 ships was reduced to 1. It made the RN, beatable by its rival, the German navy.

    The question today is: will there be a Dreadnaught type revolution in military technology that renders all others obsolete? I call this the dreadnaught factor. There have been several new technologies that made older ways of fighting obsolete in the past few years. However, the US military has held the monopoly of these technology . In addition, its technological lead is so great that no other nation or coalition of nations even have a fraction of the US capability.

    Examples of this technologies are:
    1.) Stealth - the closest other nations came are in terms of "shaping" but have not produced a single all aspect stealth aircraft comprable in stealth observability as to the 30 year old F-117.
    2.) GPS - European has plans for Gallileo, but they are still plans. The US GPS has entrenched itself that civilian cars and backpackers are using it.
    3.) Network Centric Warfare - No other military force has networked its military so intensely has the US military.
    4.) Any more?


    The question is, will there be a dreadnaught factor that will gave other nations a fighting chance of challenging the US Military?

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    bd popeye's Avatar
    bd popeye is offline The Last Jedi
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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    Excellent posting IDonT.

    Perhaps in the near future the first nation to actually demonstrate an EMP wepon will then have the Dreadnaught Factor. Imangine a weapon so powerful that it renders all most all other weapons useless in a single stroke.

    The technology is available for such a weapon. But do they exist in reality? If so in my opinion they are the "Dreadnaught Factor".
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    Norfolk is offline Junior Member
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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    Quote Originally Posted by bd popeye View Post
    Excellent posting IDonT.

    Perhaps in the near future the first nation to actually demonstrate an EMP wepon will then have the Dreadnaught Factor. Imangine a weapon so powerful that it renders all most all other weapons useless in a single stroke.

    The technology is available for such a weapon. But do they exist in reality? If so in my opinion they are the "Dreadnaught Factor".
    This is a very good idea for a thread and I think that it may well be timely, too. Take both GPS and Network Centric Warfare that IDonT has listed amongst other possible Dreadnaught Factors. The heavy reliance of many (especially Western) militaries on GPS to do a lot of the "leg" work that used to be done for everything from land navigation to artillery survey et al (never mind GPS-guided weapons) could be reversed by the loss of the satellites all this depends on.

    Network-Centric Warfare is likewise heavily dependent upon satellites for communications as well as the advantages afforded by GPS. Problem is, much of the EMP-hardening that was more or less emphasized for electronics during the good ol'/bad days of the Cold War has been foregone in our Netcentric Warfare Systems due to the added costs involved, which are considerable already. Much of the Netcentric Warfare capability that Western militaries have is vulnerable to EMP because we decided that EMP hardening was unlikely to be needed in most conceivable future wars. If someone has developed efficient EMP weapons, most everyone will be reduced to using hand signals and runners for communications and "steam" gunnery for heavy weapons (that is, if the circuits that these weapons used haven't already been fried as well).

    In NATO, we used to make fun of the Soviets because they still used vaccuum tube rather than solid state electronics for much of their equipment (even in the Canadian Army, where much of our equipment was so old we had to buy vaccuum tube components from a factory in Russia or East Germany because no-one in the West was still making them). But the Soviets were smarter than we gave them credit for (even if much of their considerations revolved around the fact that they couldn't afford the transition to all solid state electronics like we could). They were largely unaffected by EMP, while we were more vulnerable, and had to undertake extensive (and expensive) EMP hardening for our solid state electronics.

    Maybe we should have paid a little more attention to what the Russians were doing, rather than what they were saying, otherwise the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) which the Soviets named and invented the theories themselves for back in the 1980's (and the West subsequently followed) could turn out to be their revenge for how the Cold War ended. EMP-enhanced nukes (very,very,very bad) and even fuel air explosives (very bad too) could bring an end to Network Centric Warfare systems (as they exist in the West right now) in a cascade of EMP airbursts.

    bd popeye has it nailed down here. EMP is the "Dreadnaught Factor" of our time. And those who have it tend to be playing a little coy about having it (and what it is capable of, that is, if they really know themselves - EMP could be a bigger surprise than even they think it might be).
    Last edited by bd popeye; 09-11-2007 at 11:42 AM. Reason: Spelling.

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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    Quote Originally Posted by bd popeye View Post
    Excellent posting IDonT.

    Perhaps in the near future the first nation to actually demonstrate an EMP wepon will then have the Dreadnaught Factor. Imangine a weapon so powerful that it renders all most all other weapons useless in a single stroke.

    The technology is available for such a weapon. But do they exist in reality? If so in my opinion they are the "Dreadnaught Factor".
    EMP factor has already been demonstrated back in the early sixties, when a number of nuclear warheads were exploded high in the atmosphere over the Pacific. The operations of the observing ships involved were deeply affected.

    http://www.fas.org/nuke/intro/nuke/emp.htm

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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    the problem with EMP and why it lacks the dreadnought is that is a known threat. Most modern military gear is hardened so it is only viable as a weapon for use vs strategic civilian and dual use sites. Some recent contenders include all aspect stealth, RMA, ceramic armor, hand helf fire and forget anti-tank weapons etc. The first nation to deploy offensively useful DEW will have a huge advantage. Imagine a speed of light weapon. You cannot dodge it so if its tracking system can see you, your dead. A mobile ground based laser with a theater wide range could knock enemy aircraft especially C4SRI platforms from the sky, reach into space to hit low flying satellites and if linked via its own satellites to other integrated systems would not have to actively emit targetable emissions of its own. Zap Zap Zap the Mk1 Bug Zapper could bring man back down from the clouds.

    As the technology improved it could be used to target things on the ground to the limit of the visible horizon, a space based system could do pin point strikes on any site on the planet eventually burning through to the deepest bunker etc.

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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    You have to define what you mean by "hardened". Anything in fact that absorbs radio frequency, anything that has an antenna or array, cannot be inherently hardened for EMP no matter what they say. Because the pulse itself will be naturally be received by the antenna, sending a massive electric shock to the electronics.

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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor


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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    That's old. What primarily you need against EMP protection are Faraday cages. Basically, every tank, ship, ship and plane acts as a Faraday cage. But not everything can be enclosed in that cage. LED/LCD screens, antennas, arrays. A particular vulnerability are electronic scanning radars, especially AESA. And even if you manage to protect your electronics, there is still the atmospheric effect that would prevent the use of radar and radio communications.

    The problem is today's electronics. Although miniturization makes everything smaller and easier to put into a Faraday cage, miniturization works in favor of EMP. Every transistor, capacitor and condenser acts an absorbent of electrical energy. However, the smaller they get---and they have became exponentially smaller compared to the vacuum tubes and even solid state transistors of the seventies---the far less they can absorb energy. Each component has a threshold of absorbing energy before they are upset or fried. Today, with COTS, you're dealing with transistors that are sized in fractions of a micron, compared to something you can once hold between two fingers.

    Another reason that works for EMP is that today's systems being much more complicated, have a lot more pathways all around the circuit board and chip itself. These pathways acts like a receiving EMF array, and the more pathways around, the greater the receptivity.

    Much of the "hardening" we see is against cosmic ray interference, as well as against ECM measures. If you are hardening against massive EMP, nothing is going to get certified. Requirements have to be balanced against reasonable and plausible threats, so the systems can get certified. Given that EMP is not a likely threat, especially since we are no longer playing a Cold War scenario, such requirements may have been pushed aside. Everything is a compromise in this world.

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    Norfolk is offline Junior Member
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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    Here's a nice, short, and sweet article from 2005 about EMP threats expected around 2010. It's simple, but a good solid and quick read:

    http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTR...c=GetTRDoc.pdf

    Basically it says that by 2010 there may be three major types of EMP weapons available or imminent from nukes to microwaves to two different types of non-nuke bombs (in convenient suitcase or projectile sizes). It lists two major forms of EMP-hardening: Grounded Metallic Shields for Static Installations and (as Crobato mentioned) Faraday Cages for Mobile Systems. The paper goes on to say that most of the electronics on tactical (and some of the strategic) platforms are not EMP-hardened, rendering Network-Centric Warfare subject to relatively easy neutralization by comparativley cheap and easy-to-use EMP weapons expected to be available and proliferating around 2010 or so. A few hypothetical scenarios round out the rest of the paper giving examples of what effects might be expected with the use of EMP weapons.

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    IDonT is offline Junior Member
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    Re: The Dreadnaught Factor

    Certainly, any nation that successfully fielded an EMP weapons will negate the US electronic capability. This weapon could put everyone back to square one in terms of weapons production - much like the dreadnaught did.

    My main concern is this: what is the ease of retrofitting EMP defence systems on CURRENT U.S. weapons? Furthermore, this ease should be compared to the ability of the EMP weapon maker to fitting EMP defense on their own forces. IF the US cannot adequately fit EMP defence on its current forces and is FORCED to build from scratch, new weapon systems in order to address the EMP threat, then yes the EMP has a dreadnaught factor. However, If the US can easily retrofit the majority of its weapon system with EMP defenses, then its military lead is not threatened.

    The Dreadnought factor, as I define it, is a weapon system that renders other weapons before it obsolete. The current power that invested heavily on such weapon system will be force to start from square one hence surrendering its head start and thus making it vulnerable to an arms race.

    Example - US has 12 super carriers, no one has another one. For another nation to compete in an arms race with the US in carrier terms, it has a 0-12 disadvantage. For every one they put down, the US can put down another one. So the carrier numbers would be 1-13, 2-14, etc. IF somehow the carriers became obsolete, and a new weapon system takes its place, then they start out at the same footing, thus making the US vulnerable to an arms race.

    IMO stealth technology has a greater potential to be a dreadnaught factor than EMP. Its harder to conceptualized because it benefits the current superpower. Stealth technology renders conventional integrated airdefence systems obsolete. BUt that is another post.

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