Computers And The Military Essay, Research Paper
When the first computer was built some decades ago, it was capable of doing simple calculations and other basic tasks. The engineers had no idea what the future would bring within the world of computers. Their invention was the first step in a major professional and personal transformation in the industrialized world. Computers invaded in the following decades the lives of most people in various worksaving machines and in the middle of the Eighties also in the form of Personal Computers (PCs).
But the computer revolution also made its impact on other areas, which the bright scientists probably never anticipated. War has in all times been one of the main reasons that new inventions have been made, and the military was quick to see the destructive potential in computer technology and to try to exploit it to get ahead of the enemies.
Due to the development within technology, the military is now far more than just infantry whose task is to run around in the front line and fire their guns. Warfare is now totally dependent on sophisticated computer technology in numerous different areas. Examples are the navigation of a submarine and intelligent long-range missiles. What most people associates with computers and war may be various simulation and action games. This is big business for software developers and merchandisers all over the world. As in all businesses money is the most important criteria for the big companies so they have no morale problems with making warfare into entertainment as long as it’s selling. The same goes for the film industry, but at least some war films also describe the pain and hopelessness of war. So far I’ve never seen a computer game capable of expressing the negative and painful side of fighting and killing. It is pure entertainment, and people obviously enjoy it. It is possible that this gives a recreational effect for some people, but there exist scientific evidence that especially children but also grown ups can have a hard time determining the difference between fiction and real life. As the games get more and more realistic, this is an issue that will be more discussed and given more attention in the future. By now submarine- and flight simulators are the most realistic games available. Thankfully most action games are still quite far from the real world, as I would consider these to be the most influential on people’s behavior.
Though some games are getting quite realistic in simulating certain situations, none of them include any everyday (peacetime) military life in their simulations. Then computers are mostly office tools for normal big business tasks such as personnel management, filing and correspondence. But some of the world’s sharpest brains are constantly trying to make new, more sophisticated and more deadly weapons. New technology often uses computers as a brain in “intelligent” weapons, which reduces the human interaction in a battle. Remote control of weapons and more efficient detection and warning equipment means that fewer people will be put in danger during hostile situations. But as most people nowadays know how to use a word processor, these new, advanced machines demand high level special training and education for the crew to be able to operate them. This is one of the problems the military have experienced due to the technological development. Since the more advanced systems demand fewer people, but longer training, particularly countries with mandatory national service are now discussing how to deal with the future of warfare.
Computers have invaded all branches within the military. There are computers in missiles both offensive and defensive, and both short-, middle- and long range. The computers in the long- and middle range missiles are programmed with exact destination or being manually directed towards their goal. Short-range rockets are programmed not to explode on impact with tanks and other armored vehicles and helicopters because the armor nowadays is so good it can stand a rocket exploding on impact. Instead they are made to go through the first layer of armor and then explode.
Helicopters and planes have manual steering, all of the instruments are built on computers. A pilot can’t see what’s 30000 feet under him but his instruments and their computers can with the help of prior intelligence information and programming. That’s how the NATO bombers operated both in Operation Desert Storm and in Kosovo. New naval ships have radar systems that is capable of spotting possible treats 35 miles away both in airspace, on land and water and under water. The American Aegis system can within this range determine whether an object on the radar is friendly or hostile, and can spot the newest supersonic missiles in 1 to 5 seconds. That is very quick compared to the conventional weapon systems that are much less sophisticated and uses between 25 and 35 seconds. The German APAR system (Active Phased Array Radar) is also top end and will be used in German frigates in a few years.
Another area, where the army engineers are the experts, is in dealing with explosives. The invention of robots that could either disarm or blow up explosives found has saved a lot of lives recent years. They are equipped with a camera, an arm and remote steering. Through the transmission from the camera the explosives experts find the best way of eliminate the danger whether that is by disarming it or blowing it up. The most advanced mines can be programmed to recognize whether a vehicle is friendly or hostile and go off only when hit or when passed by the enemy. Or they can be programmed not to go off the first time it is hit but the second and so on. There still is no safe way to clear minefields, but though minesweepers are improving the best way is still the manual search and destroy. Most mines, and the modern ones in particular, are almost impossible to disarm so the only way of clearing them is by placing explosives under or next to them. There are also a lot of personnel mines about with different detonation mechanisms. Some of them are also controlled by computers, but all kinds of personnel mines are forbidden by The Human Rights Convention written in Geneva, Switzerland, by the United Nations. Therefor the western countries’ intelligence’s know very little about these mines, which are mostly made and kept in countries like Russia, Tajikistan, Serbia, Pakistan, Morocco, China and Cuba.
The military intelligence is indispensable for all operations, and the intelligence is depending more and more on the information they get from satellites. Satellites can take spy pictures of whatever they program it to take pictures of and transmit it back to their ground computers where computer experts make enemy maps of the encrypted code they receive from the satellites. Satellite pictures reveal where the enemy troops are and where they are heading. That information is then sent to the officers in charge, so they can make decisions about tactics, troop movement and maybe predict the enemy’s strategy. Both aircraft and ships use satellite information to navigate and find the mission’s targets.
At the same time, the specially trained military section of Electronic Warfare is constantly trying to hack into the enemy’s communication system both to capture and decrypt any messages of any interest and to jam their frequencies to prevent their internal communication. The section of Electronic Warfare can also hack into the enemy’s civil computer system to steal information or create disorder by for example shutting down all electricity and water supply for the major cities which would force the enemy to take attention away from the front line to restore domestic order. Since computers do all of this, the military nowadays try to recruit educated computer operators and they are also working hard to educate their own specialists that can operate all of the highly developed equipment. The changes we have seen over the last decades are that the military is getting less and less physical and more intellectual. Though these changes have taken place, the public’s vision of a soldier or officer haven’t changed. Changing people’s perception takes a lot of time and during this time the development will have gone further and weapons and defense systems will be even more sophisticated.
There are so many sides to computers. Computers have improved the lives of many disabled people significantly by enabling them to communicate or increasing their mobility. Computers have made an impact in all areas of people’s lives increasing their access to knowledge and reducing the manual labor needed both in industry and in everyday tasks like washing dishes and writing letters. Computers have created lots of new jobs, but also taken the place of the majority of the former working class in their industry jobs.
Though the engineers of the first computer never anticipated the rapid development of their invention, they might have gotten second thoughts about going through with their project if they knew about the destructive ability of the Nth generation computers. Winston Churchill’s famous words about blood, sweat and tears being the only way to survive the Second World War are no longer true. The only way to win a war is to push the right button.