Revolution in Naval Warfare

A few days ago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates fired a warning shot across the bow of the US Navy, questioning its “need” to maintain 11 carrier strike groups. He justified this on the basis of 1) “the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys”, 2) “the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries”, and 3) the huge costs involved, e.g. a Ford-class carrier with full air wing “would represent potentially $15 to $20 billion worth of hardware at risk”. Though his statements had to take political sensitivities into account, Gates is eminently correct. Not only is such a large force a questionable asset for a fiscally overstretched superpower, but the aircraft carrier is fast becoming to the 21st century what the battleship was to the 20th. This is part and parcel of the biggest paradigm shift in naval warfare since the coming of fossil-fueled ironclads, a paradigm shift that I intend to popularize as the Revolution in Naval Warfare (RNW).

Much has already been written about the dangers to the West’s big surface fleets emanating from the global proliferation of supercavitating torpedoe and hypersonic anti-ship cruise missile technology. I’m not going to recap the debate – see these “classic” articles by David Crane and the War Nerd. Instead, what I’m going to do here is to look “over the horizon” at the impact of three major, ongoing developments on the future of naval warfare: railguns, battle lasers, and naval platforms.

Two weeks ago, a Russian company announced a Club-K cruise missile packet that could be hidden within a 40ft shipping container and rolled out in the Western press as a “carrier killer”*. At least according to its marketing pitch, any railroad wagon, any truck, any container ship could now be constituted into “effective counter measures [against] state terrorism”. This is a good example of the mating of advanced military technology with asymmetric tactics that is a major point of concern for Pentagon planners, who not only have to content with technologically mediocre nations like Iran acquiring a credible deterrent against US aeronaval intervention within the next decade, but also face many other problems such as checking the defense “death spiral”, the prospect of stagnant or shrinking military budgets, and the rising Chinese naval challenge.


Enter the railgun! In a recent demonstration, General Atomics unveiled the “Blitzer” intended “for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms”. Although twice faster than conventional naval gun systems the current Phalanx close-in weapons system, I’m not sure that it will be all that game-changing for ship defense. After all, the new cruise missiles proliferating around the world don’t travel in straight lines, e.g. see the specs for the Sizzler cruise missile:

The 3M54E reaches its target in a most challenging manner. At 20 km from the target, the 3M54E’s supersonic solid rocket-powered third-stage terminal ‘dart’ separates from the missile, descends to 3 to 5 metres above sea level and accelerates to a supersonic speed of Mach 2.9 in a zigzagging terminal run to hit its target.

As a defensive system, the railgun might be able to take out one or two of these. But if you have half a dozen or more such missiles coming at a CSG, from different directions, it is almost certainly going to get hit. And of course the means for delivering them are also proliferating – quiet diesel subs, drones, fast attack boats, etc. However, their real potential is as a long-range gun platform. From Stratfor:

First, the projectile travels much faster than a conventional round. The muzzle velocity of an EMRG is around Mach 7, compared to just above Mach 2 for the current U.S. naval guns. (EMRGs are likely to appear first on U.S. Navy warships because of their size and power requirements.) This increase in speed also dramatically increases range and lethality. Current naval guns are limited to a range of about 20 nautical miles (though near-term improvements might double that), whereas current projections place the range of EMRGs at around 250 nautical miles. And a projectile that hits its target at speeds around Mach 5 can be extremely destructive just from kinetic energy alone — dramatically reducing the size of the explosive warhead (or perhaps even making it unnecessary in some cases).

Second, the ammunition required is much smaller and much safer to handle and store. In a conventional gun, the shell casing and the propellant account for the bulk of the round’s size and weight. Because an EMRG round does not need to contain a propellant, and because it does not necessarily need an explosive warhead to detonate when it reaches its target, ammunition could be on the order of one-tenth the size of comparable conventional ammunition.

In short, EMRGs offer order-of-magnitude improvements in range and lethality while reducing the size, weight and hazardous nature of ammunition to a similar degree.

Railgun-fired projectiles will be almost as destructive as a cruise missile (remember that kinetic energy is mass times velocity squared), and far, far more difficult to intercept (because of their smaller size and sheer speed). With some tweaking, it will be possible to make the projectiles guided or “smart”. Finally, you can pack an ammunition load aboard that is practically unlimited (for comparison, the Sovremenny class destroyer only packs eight Moskit anti-ship missiles). Future ships armed with two long-range railguns can fire off a barrage of very fast, lethal projectiles once every few seconds once they receive the coordinates of a hostile target. The USN’s next-generation destroyer, the Zumwalt-class, is being designed with a view to hosting railguns and free-electron lasers (FEL).


[Railgun awesomeness].

This technology is expected to mature by 2015-2020, and become widely fielded a decade later as is the typical pattern. However, as with all advances in military technology, this will also spur changes in other platforms and doctrine. Here are three immediate consequences that come to mind:

1) Imagine a railgun on a submarine. Prowling silently underwater, it gets information on the coordinates of a target up to 300km away, e.g. by satellite comms or sub-launched reconaissance drones. It then erects its railgun above the waterline, fires off a barrage of guided projectiles for several minutes, and then submerge again. If it operates in a “wolfpack” with other subs, these things will be able to rapidly decimate even the most formidable enemy surface warship formations, not to mention utterly shut down commercial shipping routes. Navies will be forced to go underwater, become stealthier, or just faster (e.g. ekranoplans).

2) Needless to say, this will also force navies to become more dispersed, so that many vessels can’t be detected and targeted at the same time. In other words, naval warfare will follow the same trends as those observed on land.

3) A big problem will be power supply and management. One possible solution is to use space-based solar power, which can be beamed down whenever said vessel is on the water surface. The major challenge will be in protecting this source of power. See my article on Future War for more.

Battle Lasers

The second game changing technology I want to talk about are developments in free-electron laser (FEL) weapons. Back in 2009, American experimentalists hit the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers”. And in March 2010, Boeing unveiled a preliminary design for a FEL, “which will operate by forcing a stream of high-energy electrons through a series of magnetic fields, creating a weapons-grade blast of laser light”. Their prospective development timetable is similar to that for railguns and they require the same, all-electric ship platform. So by the 2020’s, it is not inconceivable that there could be several US Navy warships armed with these potent beasts**.


[SourceBattle laser awesomeness].

The function of these “battle lasers” will be to zap incoming cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. This will provide a very potent “point defense” around the FEL-equipped warship, within the limits of horizon visibility. However, these ships will still be vulnerable to railgun projectiles, which are far smaller, faster, and more numerous than a missile attack on a similar scale.

As I noted above, the proliferation of hypersonic cruise missiles, and platforms like quiet diesel-electric subs, speedboats, and UAV’s, is going to provide medium-level nations like Iran with a potent deterrent against American aeronaval intervention. A dozen modern cruise missiles with their platforms cost about 10mn $, a single oil super-tanker costs 100-200mn $. One hundred advanced cruise missiles and their platforms cost about 100mn $, a carrier strike group costs around 20bn $. Today’s economics overwhemingly favor the asymmetrical side, provided it can gets its hands on the goodies.

Perhaps the most important impact of battle lasers is that they are going to turn this economic logic on its head. Because they operate at the speed of light, a battle laser can be trained on incoming missiles almost constantly. Therefore, an array of weaponized FEL’s with a good target optimization algorithm can theoretically defend from all but the most intense missile barrages. These capabilities will no doubt be employed to great effect by the gunboat racketeers of the future, the Great Powers engaged in a last scramble for energy and mineral resources in the coming age of scarcity industrialism. The defense advantages acquired by middle Powers like Iran or Venezuela in the 2000’s-2010’s will begin to rapidly erode in the 2030’s.

Deeper, Quieter, Faster

The Revolution in Naval Warfare will occur in tandem with the wider Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), with its emphasis on interconnections, informatization, and Intelligence, Surveillance, & Reconaissance (ISR). Not only will navies acquire potent new physical capabilities (railguns, battle lasers), but they will also be enmeshed far deeper into the military environment that also encompasses air, land, and space.

In particular, today’s navies will become far more “visible” (to enemy satellites, drones, and other sensors), even while the danger of being spotted will become much more immediately dangerous (due to the danger of a concentrated railgun barrage from up to 400km away). The natural response is that naval platforms will have to become deeper, quieter, faster, nimbler. Below I outline six possible future trends, ranging from the certain (1, 2), to the somewhat probable (3-5), to the entirely speculative (6).

1) The obvious solution is to implement stealth technology on ships to reduce RCS, visibility, and noise. This is already widely implemented in modern navies and will only develop further, as shown in the angular planes of the prospective Zumwalt-class below.


[SourceZumwalt-class destroyers have an advanced stealth design].

2) Another obvious feature is to make your naval assets quiet. This is especially important for subs. The US remains the leader in this field, though Russia and China are making up ground.

… China has mastered quiet air-independent propulsion (AIP) power plants for its new Type 041 Yuan-class boats. AIP extends underwater endurance from a few days to one month, and enables submarines to sprint underwater—greatly increasing their attack radius. Reportedly quieter than the US fast attack Los Angeles-class boats, the elusive AIP diesel electrics are equipped with wake-honing torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles. In one incident in October 2006, an ultra-quiet Song–class AIP submarine surfaced inside the protective screen of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

3) Let’s get more speculative. Usually, projectiles stop dead in the water mere moments after impact (unless they have some kind of supercavitation mechanism). So what’s the best way for future warships to protect themselves in an exposed and dangerous environment? Go under the sea.

[Source: “The Russians have been pondering a “dive boat” that would be essentially a surface warship but with a simple and inexpensive ability to sail under the water at a shallow depth”].

Now while full-fledged submarines is pretty expensive, constructing shallow-submersible boats is much easier. Even the narcos do it to smuggle drugs into the US. By the 2030’s, there will appear submersible warships armed with a railgun for long-range engagement, battle lasers for point defense and internal pods with room for a dozen drones to serve as its “eyes and eyes” around a wide radius. I propose we call these prospective ships “Dragons”, just because the name sounds so cool.

4) Deeper and faster, but a lot noisier? Supercavitation, in which a bubble of gas is created around a moving underwater object to reduce drag and enable high speeds. The most famous current example is Russia’s Shkval torpedo, whose speed of 200 knots per hour was until recently unequaled by anything in NATO’s arsenal (the Germans developed a similar torpedo in 2004). One issue of current concern is that the Iranians have reverse engineered the Russian technology to create their Hoot torpedo, which could potentially wreck havoc on Gulf shipping if there is a war. One proposed defense against supercavitating torpedos is to create sonic pulses to disrupt the air bubbles and destabilize the approaching torpedo.

[Behold the supercavitating submarine].

But supercavitation does not necessarily have to be limited to small things like underwater firearms and torpedos. DARPA, the Pentagon’s mad science division, has been toying with using the principle to build a 100-foot sub capable of traveling up to 100 knots per hour, around four times faster than normal subs. They are unlikely to be of much direct military use because they are too small and very noisy, but they might prove useful for providing logistical support.

5) How about just much, much faster? Enter the ekranoplan (less inspiringly known as a “ground effect vehicle”). This beast is a Soviet chimera with the sea-hovering effects of a hovercraft and the speed of a conventional plane, with compressed air under the winds providing the lift.

[Soviet ekranoplan flying above the Caspian Sea in the 1960’s].

It can (and was) armed with six Moskit cruise missiles. Though it has many promising military applications, interest in developing them waned with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, its time may come again. It is very fast, an excellent transportation vehicle, and can carry large amounts of missiles and other ordnance. Flying low, just above the water, it is largely invulnerable to radar detection. With its speed and armaments, it could interdict supply routes and launch cruise missiles off the coast of a hostile Power. It is possible to imagine the ekranoplan being profitably used in surprise amphibious operations such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

ichthyosaur6) Warning: while the suggestions above are somewhat speculative, this is going to be downright wacky. But maybe, just maybe, within the realm of possibility. Bear me out.

Innovative militaries are already inspired by biological life forms and translate them into military applications. This isn’t surprising. Nature has had billions of years to evolve designs very well adapted to specific purposes, such as avoiding detection, navigating, minimizing energy loss, etc. Already we are seeing robotic snakes, tiny robotic “insects”, even “smart dust“. Now project forwards by a few decades, a time during which we’ll see tremendous progress in biotechnology and bio/machine interfaces.

I am suggesting nothing less than that biomechanical constructs, combining robotic endurance and controllability with biological flexibility and resilience, will enter the realm of possibility. By the 2040’s or 2050’s, we could see revolutionary naval platforms, as today’s wildest techno-fantasies may come to be realized. Once navies begin to graft biological substrates onto the metallic/composite hulks, the “Dragons” will come alive.

A Vision of RNW

This post is an expansion on the timeline from On Future War. In constructing this, I draw on many elements and assumptions from that “core article”.

2010’s: America’s development of next-generation weaponry is stalled due to budget constraints (already evident – see the cost-cutting pragmatism of Robert Gates), and eventually by the catabolic collapse of Pax Americana. Military R&D is usually the first thing to be cut when the military’s belts are tightened, especially in democracies. Other powers, most prominently China and Russia, will use this “window of opportunity” to close the technological gap. In particular, the Chinese Navy will become the world’s most powerful by 2020. Many middle-rank Powers will acquire assymetric, “area denial” weaponry (anti-ship missiles, supercavitating torpedoes, silent diesel submarines, UAV’s), which will check the major naval Powers from going on gunboat sprees to acquire resources.

2020’s: The world outside the Eurasian “Heartland” comes to be split into two major emporiums: China in East Asia, South-East Asia, and East Africa, and the US/Britain/France down the Atlantic and western Pacific. Though there is a rough technological parity, by and large, China has both the biggest and newer navy. The Eurasian region, dominated by a revamped Russia, will only be able to compete if it succeeds in reforming its MIC and modernizing its industrial base. The main thrust of its naval power projection will shift towards the (now melted or near-melted) Arctic Ocean, with its rich hydrocarbon deposits. Electromagnetic railguns and battle lasers maturate and installation begins on the newer, smarter all-electric ships now coming online.

2030’s: Unless there is a big war between the Great Powers, it is actually unlikely that ships will be made submersible or ekranoplans introduced. Too much foresight required for state institutions to muster. Yet there is at least one major sea change. With all these advanced, network-centric navies prowling the world’s oceans, the strength of the middle Powers – countries like Iran, Venezuela, (South Africa, etc), will begin to rapidly dissipate, as they lose the advantages they derived from the global proliferation of cheap anti-ship weapons during the 2000’s-10’s. As mentioned above, cruise missiles are no longer game changers when faced with laser point defenses. Effective use of railguns requires an array of advanced technologies, including superb ISR, and there capabilities are going to be limited to the largest and most technologically advanced blocs. If there is no major energy breakthrough by this period, and that coal and gas output is close to a terminal peak, there will unfold a series of resource wars in which Great Powers like China, the US, France, Brazil, Turkey, etc, will seek to takeover the last remaining high-EROEI energy sources in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Australia.

2040’s: Use your imagination. 😉

* In my opinion, this particular weapons system is more of a publicity stunt than anything serious. In particular, this is supposed to be a weapon whose main advantage is its covertness – why then advertise it on YouTube. Furthermore, it’s very expensive. The typical modern cruise missile costs costs 500,000$. The Russian containerized system has four cruise missiles inside what are essentially tubes and a corrugated metal box, but costs 15mn $. In other words, should they actually succeed in selling this to anyone, the Russian company will make something like 80% profits. Nations like Iran would be much better off just getting the cruise missiles separately and modding / concealing them on their own.

** I am making the assumption that American military R&D continues to be funded at similar levels as today. Because of the manifold challenges facing Pax Americana that have been discussed at length on this site, this assumption is actually very questionable. In my opinion, it is more likely that the US will “lose” the equivalent of a decade readjusting to its new non-superpower status, allowing Russia and China – who lag technologically by a decade or so – to catch up. The major powers actualize the railgun / laser Revolution in Naval Warfare simultaneously by the late 2020’s or early 2030’s.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. “If there is no major energy breakthrough by this period, and that coal and gas output is close to a terminal peak, there will unfold a series of resource wars in which Great Powers like China, the US, France, Brazil, Turkey, etc, will seek to takeover the last remaining high-EROEI energy sources in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Australia.”

    But, technologically speaking, there already HAS been an energy breakthrough back in the 1950s, when first nuclear power stations appeared. If carbon fuels become depleted, wouldn’t the world simply switch to nuclear? And even if electric cars don’t get better with time, a lot of their function could be replaced by building more rail systems whose power would be provided by nuclear plants. Keeping that in mind, I don’t see many resource wars on the horizon. I also don’t see France, Turkey or Brazil as future great powers. My guess is that 2030s will see one superpower (China), with Russia, US, Japan and Korea making up the second teer.

    • There are valid questions about whether we’ll be able to scale up nuclear fast enough. It is actually pretty inefficient and the main reason it grew rapidly 1950’s-70’s was because of military-related subsidies and not taking into account unexpected costs such as decommissioning. Furthermore, the concentration of mined uranium ore is subject to diminishing marginal returns, as with most minerals. One German energy group suggests this will cause a uranium peak before 2040. Now I’m not dismissing nuclear power. In many ways it is the least bad of the options out there (and unlike wind or solar it can provide crucial baseload power). But I’d heavily caution against viewing it as some kind of silver bullet.

      I totally agree with you on China, the US, and Russia as the leading Powers (in that order); I’ve singled them out in an earlier post. The reason I didn’t include Japan or Korea is that, although they are technologically advanced nations with big economies, they will both be very much overshadowed by China. Neither has indigenous energy resources and are reliant on oceanic trade routes. As soon as China becomes the regional military hegemon, they will be at its mercy, and will be forced into bangwagoning with it. IMO, France has the brightest future in W. Europe due to its healthy demography (and by extension future finances), energy independence (thanks to nuclear power), and links to former N. African colonies. Turkey has good growth and is in an excellent position to push out its influence into the energy-rich Middle East and Central Asia. Brazil is almost a continent unto itself, being South America’s hegemon almost by default, and is very resource rich (though it has big problems with poor education and stratospheric inequality). Now yes, all of these Powers will be very much 2nd-tier relative to China/US/Russia, but nonetheless I think they will be able to remain largely sovereign and build their own regional spheres of influence.

      • I guess my view of what makes nations powerful is a bit controversial, especially point 1), but here it goes:

        1) High mean IQ. Of the countries we’ve talked about, this is lacking in Brazil and Turkey. It’s also lacking in India, which is mentioned by some as a potential future power: the highest castes there are very, very smart, but the nation-wide average is low.

        2) Social cohesion. Brazil and India have always lacked that. Western countries’ internal cohesion is now falling due to immigration and multiculturalism. Sure, I’m an immigrant myself, but I’d also like to see the world how it really is, preferably removed from personal biases. I don’t see how France, Britain or the US of today can be described as more cohesive than they were 100 or 50 years ago. This will probably only get worse.

        3) Nationalistic self-confidence. Western European nations lack that entirely. America still has a bit of it, Russia more, China, Japan and the Koreas even more.

        Japan and Korea will not be consentually overshadowed by China the way that Western European nations consentually came under America’s wing after WWII because Japanese and Korean nationalisms are still alive and well. They’re going to resist Chinese hegemony as much as possible.

        This is, again, controversial, but I think that the Japanese possess higher human capital than their continental neighbors. If China didn’t have a nuclear deterrent, then in a world without America’s eye watching over everybody, the Japanese would probably be able to repeat what they did to China and Korea in the early 20th century. There is a small difference in mean IQ and, I think, a larger difference in cohesiveness and conscientiousness that would allow them to do that. Now, since China does have a nuclear deterrent, that’s out of the question.

        I suspect that on the economic front the Japanese will always be more successful at producing upscale, high quality goods than the Chinese. The Chinese tendency to make cheap, low quality goods appears in every imaginable context: nominally communist PRC, capitalist Taiwan, HK and Singapore, Chinese restaurants in the Western world. Japanese restaurants in the West are to Chinese restaurants what Japanese cars are to Chinese ones. When I see a tendency like that repeating itself across a wide spectrum of goods, under a variety of political regimes and over long periods of time, I ask myself if there’s something deep going on there. If there is, then it will benefit the Japanese during the course of their rivalry with China.

        • Re-1. I agree with education / IQ is probably the most important determinant of affluence (and yes, I’m familiar with the IQ and the Wealth of Nations arguments). That is one major reason why I think China and Russia are the more promising members of the BRIC, and not India or Brazil as claimed by many commentators due to fluffy ideological reasons such as that they are “democracies”. But… India has 1.1bn people; Brazil is the centerpiece of an entire resource-rich continent. These factors can’t be simply dismissed either.

          Re-2. Again, I am in qualified agreement, but I think it’s important not to exaggerate the importance of social cohesion in the modern world. I just don’t think social cohesion is anywhere near as important in capitalist, post-Malthusian societies as it was in collectivist, agrarian societies.

          Re-3. Sorry, but according to pretty much everyone I spoke to who has been there in the past decade, Japan’s national self-confidence has all but vanished. And I should also note that it is the oldest society on Earth, and rapidly aging. I don’t ever see them going on military adventures again, be there the US or a Chinese nuclear deterrent or not. I disagree the Japanese have higher IQ’s than Koreans or Chinese. On tests Koreans perform as well or better. The Chinese do worse, but then they are five times poorer and their schools are consequently a lot worse, so that is understandable. The IQ of Chinese from cities such as Shanghai is similar to those of Koreans or Japanese.

        • below_freezing says

          1.) Japan and China both depend on the same sea energy routes. Fact. However, Japan has zero petroleum production while China produces 40%, and can import over land, while Japan’s petroleum lifeline can be shut down by China thousands of km away from the nearest Japanese island.

          2.) People talk about China’s future demographic collapse in 2030. Japan has already demographically collapsed and shows zero signs of recovery.

          3.) Japan is only 40% food self sufficient. China is 99% food self sufficient. Japan also has far higher population density than China, which makes any political instability have much higher death rates. Remember, Japan has only been politically stable since 1860, before that it was a collection of warring clans.

          4.) Militarily, Japan has already been crippled by 50 years of US pressure. Many military weapons are like cars; you can only design a better one if you have experience designing another. Japan hasn’t really designed an indigenous aircraft since WW2 (with the F-1 and F-2 being basically American imports with Japanese paint). The chances of them designing an aircraft better than the heavily sanctioned, pressured by survival Chinese aerospace industry is like the chance that horse cavalry will beat modern tanks.

          5.) High government debt, vulnerable coastal petroleum reserves, and most of the electricity being dependent on a few easily targeted nuclear power stations. We saw this a few months ago.

          6.) The combination of their resource lifeline being in China’s hands, being militarily crippled by US occupation, being highly dependent on imported food, demographic crisis, fiscal crisis, energy insecurity, low resource reserves and high population density means that in a world characterized by scarcity, the only possible future for Japan is to sink below the waves. Any military attempt to break out would just be met with nuclear retaliation, which would be far more devastating for Japan than any other country due to its high population density.

  2. Hello,

    Love your analysis and your website. However reference this post, just some points.

    1. Rail Guns with a range of 300-400km might be difficult as from what is written it sounds like a LOS (or flat trajectory weapon). The earths curvature would not allow a flat trajectory weapon past 20 miles range, unless the projectile heads do have some form of guidance system. The only way to hit targets over 20 miles would be to use a non-flat trajectory, thus reducing projectile speed on impact of target (much like conventional naval guns) or alternatively making the weapon more effective mounted on an airbourne platform. Coastal Defences might also be a good application particulary from elevated posistions.

    2. In an age of declinging net energy, will high energy weapon systems be the trend? Or will the trend be to lower energy weapon systems?

    Regards Gary

    • Re-1. I don’t see why it necessarily needs to be guided if you’re shooting it at a fixed target. I mean the Germans’ Paris Gun bombarded that city from 120km away in 1918. But in any case making it guided nowadays should be relatively easy.
      Firing beyond LOS will reduce the speed, but not by much. According to the diagram, a railgun projectile fired at Mach 7.5 on a ballistic trajectory across 200nm will impact six minutes later at Mach 5. The kinetic energy is halved, but remains huge.

      Re-2. You see, if the more pessimistic predictions of our energy futures come true and net energy peaks and falls in rapid decline, I suspect the guys with guns will simply requisition an ever increasing share of the surplus energy. Besides, if just one Power has these all-electric ships with battle lasers and railguns, older conventional ships will become sitting ducks. And naval power is crucial to securing resources and protecting the shipping routes. So the logic of arms races will propel universal adaptation to the RNW almost regardless of how critical the energy shortages or by how much the requisitioning lowers general social welfare.

  3. This is a very interesting article. Here in Britain the MOD has placed orders for two new aircraft carriers, which I suppose is a waste of money, especially for a middling power like us and will take off a chunk of the defence budget. And of course, we have ceased to have an independant foreign policy for many years now.

    Saying the Indians have low IQ is crazy. They have poverty, which prevents them using their IQ in a productive way. The best way to prove this is when they emigrate, people of all castes. Sure the first generation may be shopkeepers or manual workers, but their offspring usually go into proffessions like medicine, science and engineering

    In Britain, all the university science, maths departments are full of students from the Indian subcontinent and east Asia.

    • I agree, NK.
      With a budget deficit of 13% of GDP for 2010, going through with that is doubly foolish, IMO.

  4. NK, according to Lynn & Vanhanen’s book, India’s mean IQ is 81. There is no question that Indian immigrants in the West tend to come from the higher castes, which are indeed very smart. They’re also tiny in comparison to the whole of Indian population. Ask any Indian about this – the topic of castes is fascinating to them and, fortunately for India, PC hasn’t made much of an impact on them, so they’re usually glad to have a chance to discuss it. It’s like the old British class system, but much, much stricter.

    I disagree with you on the question of which way the arrow of causation between wealth and IQ normally points. I say “normally” because life is complicated and there are always some exceptions.

  5. I am curious how you expect military energy logistics to play out over the next few decades. As Sohbet Karbuz never tires of pointing out, the US military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world. While a lot of that is used up airlifting troops in and out of places like Afghanistan, no small bit of the demand comes from the Navy as well. So what is going to happen? Are we going to see a shift towards more nuclear powered ships? It seems to be the only option – unlike the rest of the American economy, it will be difficult to switch the Navy over to coal or CNG. I imagine the same holds true for other navies. Thoughts?

  6. This article is misleading.

    Thorium reactors breeds fuel

    Thorium reactors do not produce material from which a nuclear weapon can be made.

    There are limited supplies of uranium, but there is enough thorium to power the entire world for over 1,000 years.

    Thorium reactors cannot melt down. Period. Under any circumstances.

    And, thorium reactors can consume existing nuclear waste. Yucca Mountain is obsolete.

    The waste from a Thorium reactor is miniscule. One ton of Thorium will generate 1 gigawatt of electricity for a year, enough for a city of 1 million. The resulting waste is one ton. 83% will be non-radioactive in 1-3 years. The remaining 17% will be non-radioactive in 3-400 years.

    Thorium is a whole new ball game.

    For more information, see this article:

    Also Google: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

    • Thorium reactors are producing good fissile material suitable for an atomic weapon and it is called Uranium-233.

  7. They may build all of these advanced (and extremely expensive) weapons and yet few dozens of high yield EMP strikes carried out in quite arbitrary locations can disable all of these together with destruction of global ability to produce electricity in meaningful amounts.
    There is obviously an effort to harden military stuff against EMP interference, but EMP weapons are surely getting smarter as well (more energy packed in shorter pulses).

    So after EMP exchanges we are likely to end up with high tech hardware grossly disabled and an actual war will be fought by guys with purely mechanical weapons system, AK-47 alike.

    • Yes, the effectiveness of future (cheap) EMP’s, especially those that can be exploded high in the atmosphere to affect a large area, is a big but very significant unknown. I covered some of the contradictions and doctrines that could result from their widespread use in the original On Future War article.

  8. Well, battlespace will surely expand due to the mentioned vulnerability of big ships. The most likely development will be a combination of UAVs and long range multipurpose manned jets. And it’s only a question of time until amphibious stealth seaplanes or winged helicopters will occur that can use the ground effect on water to approach in the expanding battlespace. However, the carrier is a part of the navy all powers agree upon. It will remain the platform to ensure your high value missiles are useful and offers the best air defence and support.
    Especially carriers for triphibic operations will become more important because land is considered a good fighting platform. Having ships that can disappear underneath the water sounds also like a good idea as long as it doesn’t compromise weapons operation and defence. The LCS points to the concept of accelerating speed to diminish the chances of being hit. I doubt that this step alone alone is sufficient and would advocate external defense lines for a ship like drones that carry the usual ship defense complement which because of their position give three times the range or more of shooting down attacking missiles. My 2 cents.