What existing military units are most likely to obsolete?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,865
Florania
Historically, we have observed the obsolescence of cavalries, pike formations, close-quarter infantry units, and more.
Let's mention more; I have a superficial understanding of military.
We often assume that today's military units are almost "as good as it gets"; then, what existing military units may
obsolete the soonest?
 
Aug 2013
198
Finland
Maybe artillery will be obsoleted by missiles, fired from ground and airborne units, especially from drones?

It's really optimised for a kind of warfare between large armies fighting outside cities that seems to have be going out of style lately. It's hardly a precision weapon and when something more substantial is called for, it doesn't have the range of ground to ground missile attacks.

Lightweight mortars though I can see keeping it's usefulness because those are so easy to move around together with the infantry.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,626
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Not a few military experts would say tanks. Anyway, even if it's more than a couple of decades that everybody says that tanks are going to become obsolete, the ongoing asymmetrical wars still leave operative rooms to them.
If you ask to a guy serving in an Air Force about tanks you will hear definitions like "sitting ducks", just to give the idea.

So that probably tanks are not going to disappear, but they will develop further [may be big and heavy MBT will tend to become more and more rare, leaving the scene to light armored ground drones, but this won't happen before 2040, according to the planned life of the last version of US and Russian MBT ...].

I agree about artillery, but again, asymmetrical wars still give a "value" to shells and cannons [they are cheap and fighting against rebels without expensive weaponry, cheap countermeasures will be preferred: you don't waste a 1,000,000 US$ missile to destroy a tent!].
 
Aug 2013
198
Finland
I understand that in many cases the mere presence of a tank when moving through areas with rebels in them (e.g. Afghanistan) seems to prevent attacks. So I think also the role and design of tanks will change, but the concept of armed and armored fighting vehicles on the ground is definitely not over.

Much like artillery changed form during the second half of the 19th century from more direct fire field guns to the WW1 area indirect fire support weapons that they still are today.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,116
Survivability for artillery really has to be worked on these days. But considering it's still relatively cheap and cheerful compared to the expensive alternatives I can't quite see it disappearing. The munitions is getting more capable and "smarter, so more useful, but still require something to deliver them on target. Classic towed artillery is likely to have a very bad time in any conflict with a technologically advanced adversary.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,626
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Survivability for artillery really has to be worked on these days. But considering it's still relatively cheap and cheerful compared to the expensive alternatives I can't quite see it disappearing. The munitions is getting more capable and "smarter, so more useful, but still require something to deliver them on target. Classic towed artillery is likely to have a very bad time in any conflict with a technologically advanced adversary.
That's the reason why big platforms [like ships] have limited the usage of cannons to particular purposes, preferring missiles as long range heavy weaponry.
 
Aug 2013
198
Finland
I don't see how you can make it that much more survivable. Basically it could be made less visible, but that just goes out the window when it fires. Counter-battery is such a significant risk, that towed field artillery is not aiming to move away from their positions asap after firing, since getting hit when preparing to move is about the worst that can happen. Modern technology like drones make it easier to spot artillery and direct counter-battery fire so artillery is losing this race, not winning it.

Anything else like adding armour, making the guns self-propelled so that they can protect themselves by mobility, equipping them with countermeasures for incoming return fire or missiles etc. all makes them something else than what they are. They would no longer be a cheap and cheerful way to direct large amounts of firepower onto an area.

If a field army expects to fight a regular battle against another regular field army, field artillery seems to be a valid type of weapon still. But those kinds of conflicts are getting pretty rare these days?
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,116
Any artillery that is not dedicated shoot-and-scoot these days is in trouble. But rate of fire and precise coordinated impact of multiple rounds do make modern artillery rather more powerful than its predecessors.

But I have found the feature of dedicated-ability-to-run-away-and-hide to be a grossly misunderstood feature on parts of the internet, considering how crucial it has become. ;)

Just generally, I would say the the dangers to artillery are matched by similar dangers to most things on an updated modern battlefield. Things will tend to happen quite fast when it goes down.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,626
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I don't see how you can make it that much more survivable. Basically it could be made less visible, but that just goes out the window when it fires. Counter-battery is such a significant risk, that towed field artillery is not aiming to move away from their positions asap after firing, since getting hit when preparing to move is about the worst that can happen. Modern technology like drones make it easier to spot artillery and direct counter-battery fire so artillery is losing this race, not winning it.

Anything else like adding armour, making the guns self-propelled so that they can protect themselves by mobility, equipping them with countermeasures for incoming return fire or missiles etc. all makes them something else than what they are. They would no longer be a cheap and cheerful way to direct large amounts of firepower onto an area.

If a field army expects to fight a regular battle against another regular field army, field artillery seems to be a valid type of weapon still. But those kinds of conflicts are getting pretty rare these days?
Well, regarding the NATO Eastern front, already during the Cold War plans involved the deployment of missile brigades to support coverage to infantry and armored divisions. It's always a matter of a costs-benefits balance. A rain of missiles can be "spent" to stop the advance of an infantry mechanized division. To obtain the same result using traditional artillery you would have to get a bit too close to enemy missile brigades ... About this today they are studying very long range artillery pieces [ERCA weapons should have a range greater than 70km]. But even with such a range they could not enter in competition with missiles [an MGM 140A records a range of 128km and that's almost a short range for a ground to ground missile]. But such a cannon can compete with land-based rockets [like the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which has got a range of 70km as well New Artillery Doubles Attack Range, Outguns Russians].
 
Jul 2019
1,128
New Jersey
One problem is that we're approaching this entire question through the lens of the post-cold war world order. So, while it's technically correct that in asymmetrical warfare some types of armor (eg tanks) are less than optimal, the assumption that all warfare will be asymmetrical going forward is flawed. The reason we don't see much symmetrical warfare is because of America's leadership position within the west and its ability to quickly pulverize any opposing traditional army. If you look at India - Pakistan, though, you see that symmetrical warfare is still alive and well in those regions where (a) the war is being fought between two state actors, and (b) American firepower isn't the decisive factor in deciding the conflict. My prediction is we'll have more of those in the coming decade or two.