THE MAGAZINE

Target:?

The United States has spent $1 billion on a weapon that 
has no mission. And started an arms race with China in the process.

In 1961, as space fever swept America, a fictional astronaut named Mike Mars made his first appearance. Over the course of eight books, the milk-drinking Air Force pilot does pretty much what you might expect: He defeats his archrival -- another astronaut who's only in it for the money -- gets the better of those dastardly commies, and flies into space and back in pretty much every spacecraft of the period.

Most pieces of hardware in the books, including the Mercury capsule and the Atlas rocket, are well known to history (or at least to then-prepubescent space fans). But the subject of the fifth book, Mike Mars Flies the Dyna-Soar, is a striking exception. Any modern reader would probably assume that, with its swooping hypersonic maneuvers (and its goofy name), the Dyna-Soar must have been pure fiction.

They would be wrong. Originally conceived by the U.S. Defense Department in 1957 as a manned intercontinental bomber, the "dynamic soaring" aircraft -- with its black cylindrical body and delta-shaped wings -- was designed to travel at more than five times the speed of sound. The plan was to use a large rocket to blast the Dyna-Soar into space. Then, rather than arcing high above the Earth, like a ballistic missile, it would re-enter the atmosphere quickly and glide to its target, without power, for vast distances; its creators envisioned a range of up to 12,000 miles.

The concept was simple, but its realization proved fiendishly difficult. In 1963, after spending more than $400 million (about $3 billion today), the Pentagon finally decided that the engineering challenges facing the Dyna-Soar were simply too expensive to overcome, and it canceled the project before the vehicle's first test.

But the interest in boost-glide weapons, as they're called, never completely faded. Some 40 years after the Dyna-Soar's demise, the United States reinvigorated its efforts to develop the technology.

By 2003, U.S. military planners had become worried that the country's long-range conventional weapons, such as cruise missiles, might be too slow to reach hypothetical distant targets that needed to be struck urgently. Although the United States has land- and sea-based ballistic missiles, which can travel much faster and can strike any conceivable enemy in 30 minutes or less, they are all nuclear-armed. So the Pentagon launched the Prompt Global Strike initiative to develop conventional weapons that could reach targets anywhere in the world within "minutes or hours." Boost-glide weapons -- re-envisioned as unmanned missiles that could destroy many types of targets simply by smacking into them at eye-watering speeds -- were an obvious candidate.

The United States has since tested such weapons, but it hasn't actually purchased them. In fact, Washington has not even decided what exactly it would use them for. Although it has already spent an estimated $1 billion on prototypes, the boost-glide weapon remains, as one Pentagon contractor put it, a "missile in search of a mission."

Unfortunately, China and Russia view Washington's interest in the weapons as a done deal. Consequently, both countries have begun their own research and development efforts, potentially sparking a risky new arms race. In his December 2013 annual state-of-the-federation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin railed against U.S. boost-glide development efforts and then boasted of the "advanced weapons" that Russia is developing. The following month, China blasted its first boost-glide missile into the sky. Today, the only Chinese missiles that can reach the continental United States are nuclear-armed, but the use of nuclear weapons would be credible only in the direst of circumstances. Thus, long-range hypersonic conventional weapons could represent a more usable threat -- and render the United States vulnerable to a whole new kind of attack.

The irony? With long-range weapons flying around at high speed, a state could interpret an escalating conflict as needing a nuclear blow. Thus, the technology that some proponents claim would help prevent a nuclear war might conceivably be the very thing that sparks one.

* * *

The initial Prompt Global Strike efforts under President George W. Bush were technologically simpler. Recognizing just how much research and development boost-glide weapons would require, his administration first focused on an interim alternative that could be fielded quickly, and in 2006 it announced plans to take the nuclear warheads off some Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles and replace them with conventional munitions.

Unimpressed, Congress refused funding. Its concern? Russia might mistake the launch of a conventional Trident for its nuclear-armed sibling and retaliate in kind. This fear, however, may have been a convenient excuse for many legislators who by that point, as one former Bush appointee put it, "did not trust the Bush administration with sharp objects."

So boost-glide development was put on a fast track, and in 2008, U.S. military officials indicated that, within four years, the country would have a weapon that could fly 10,000 miles, able to reach almost anywhere on the planet with frightening speed. But this initial effort was a bust. In tests in 2010 and 2011, the so-called Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 crashed within three minutes of re-entering the atmosphere -- 20 minutes short of its goal.

The United States then dialed back its ambitions and prioritized what the Pentagon dubs the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. With an estimated 5,000-mile range, it won't have global reach, but this boost-glide vehicle will still be able to travel farther than any other non-nuclear weapon. In a November 2011 test, the cone-shaped glider slammed into a remote atoll in the middle of the Pacific after traveling about 2,400 miles from its launch site in Hawaii. This success demonstrated to both the United States and its potential adversaries that boost-glide weapons may finally be nearing realization. Another test is expected in August of this year.

Yet despite over a decade of effort, U.S. boost-glide weapons still have no clearly defined mission. The Pentagon seems to be developing them simply to master an abstract technology -- that is, hypersonic weapons just sound cool.

To some extent, this "astrategic" approach has been deliberate. The Bush administration saw the post-9/11 security environment as inherently unpredictable and stated as much in its 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, which set U.S. defense priorities. It wanted to move away from designing responses to specific threats and toward developing capabilities that would be useful regardless of "who the adversary might be and where a war might occur." Brian Green, then the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategic capabilities, couldn't have summed up this approach more aptly when, in 2007, he responded to a question about the rationale for Prompt Global Strike weapons: "We prefer actually in our shop not to talk about specific scenarios."

President Barack Obama's Pentagon has not been any more precise. In 2012, Madelyn Creedon, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, baldly acknowledged that the United States was "still early in the development of the policy to go with" the technology. The absence of a clear rationale for the weapons, however, has not interfered with the continued funding of research and development efforts. All three flight tests have taken place during the Obama administration.

Although the technology, rather than the strategy, has guided U.S. efforts over the years, this isn't to deny that boost-glide weapons may someday prove useful.

Over the past decade, analysts have suggested that the weapons could be used to eliminate terrorists and destroy nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in North Korea (and, perhaps in the future, in Iran). Two other possibilities popular with military planners include destroying anti-satellite weapons and suppressing advanced defenses. In the abstract, these two missions may seem relatively prosaic compared with assassinating jihadists or preempting a North Korean nuclear attack. However, because China is the potential adversary of the United States with the most advanced anti-satellite and defensive technologies, they are anything but.

Today, probably no threat sparks more concern in the Pentagon than Beijing's so-called anti-access and area-denial capabilities -- "counter-intervention" weapons, to borrow China's term, designed to prevent U.S. forces from entering the Western Pacific during a conflict. These include its fleet of conventional ballistic missiles designed to attack U.S. military bases and aircraft carriers. In the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon hinted at the possibility that, in a conflict, boost-glide weapons could be used to suppress Beijing's defenses, presumably by targeting its missiles directly or destroying their command-and-control system.

But this is a potentially dangerous suggestion. The U.S. use of boost-glide weapons to combat advanced Chinese conventional capabilities, including perhaps China's own hypersonic weapons, could dramatically escalate a conflict. It could even prompt the Chinese to use nuclear weapons. The reason is that China is thought to have a single command-and-control system for all its ballistic missiles -- both conventional and nuclear -- so Beijing could misread an incoming U.S. boost-glide attack on this system as one intended to disable its nuclear forces. In response, Beijing might alert, or even employ, its nuclear weapons -- better to use them than lose them. Some Chinese military strategists are so concerned about U.S. conventional weapons that they have called on Beijing to abandon its long-standing pledge never to use nuclear weapons first.

In the paradoxical logic of deterrence, however, escalation risks may actually be desirable. After all, the possibility that things might spiral out of control could make Beijing more reluctant to initiate a conflict. Thus, choosing weapons that increase this danger in ways that neither side can fully control may actually be a sensible strategy for Washington.

* * *

American weapon systems have frequently provided models for China. Beijing's interest in cruise missiles surged following their use by the United States in the 1991 Gulf War. Since the late 1970s, the American Pershing II -- the focus of over 50 Chinese studies, including many by government-sponsored institutes -- has inspired Chinese military research into conventional ballistic missiles. And judging by the hundreds of government-funded research papers uncovered by American analyst Lora Saalman, Washington's programs likely catalyzed China's interest in boost-glide weapons as well.

In truth, though, not much information on Chinese efforts has been confirmed. Based on the scant information that's publicly available about China's January test, it's unclear whether the WU-14, the Pentagon's designation for China's hypersonic glider, is simply an improved version of China's notorious "carrier killer" -- the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, which has a range of about 900 miles -- or a much more ambitious design rivaling Washington's Advanced Hypersonic Weapon.

Since the WU-14 test, American pundits have pushed the possibility that the high speed of Chinese boost-glide weapons could defeat U.S. missile defenses in East Asia, which protect both land-based military installations and aircraft carriers at sea. This fear has probably been overstated, however. Although hypersonic gliders re-enter the atmosphere at breakneck speeds, they are slowed by air resistance and are generally not as fast as ballistic missiles by the time they reach their targets. They would, therefore, probably be less effective at breaking through U.S. missile defenses around the Western Pacific than the conventional ballistic missiles that Beijing already has in droves.

It is also highly doubtful that the WU-14 could reach the U.S. mainland. For one, it almost certainly glides at a much slower speed than would be needed to cross the entire Pacific Ocean. That said, the missile is certainly a significant step in this direction. And, to Beijing, these weapons might seem like the perfect tool for correcting a historical asymmetry in vulnerability: From Beijing's vantage point, U.S. conventional weapons, which ring the country from bases in South Korea, Japan, and the United States, have been able to reach its soil for decades, while China's own ballistic missiles, which target deployed U.S. forces, have never been able to reach the United States.

While Chinese boost-glide missiles might struggle to defeat the missile defenses around compact targets, such as U.S. military bases in Asia, they could easily bypass the wide-area defenses based in Alaska and California that are designed to protect the U.S. homeland. Thus, if over the next decade or so China were to develop accurate boost-glide missiles capable of reaching the United States, key military assets -- such as satellite uplinks, communication hubs, and ships in port -- could become vulnerable to conventional attack for the first time. Protecting them through point defenses, burial, or redundancy might be possible, but it would also be extremely expensive.

An even bigger impact might be psychological. The United States has been exposed to Beijing's nuclear weapons for decades, but most Americans never give these forces a passing thought. By contrast, Chinese conventional weapons could represent a much more tangible threat. If U.S. involvement in an East Asian conflict could actually cause China to begin blowing things up in, say, California, Americans might think twice about whether their country's defense commitments in the region -- to Japan and Taiwan, in particular -- were worth the risks.

* * *

The United States has spent 10 years and a billion dollars on a weapon that has no defined mission. And in the meantime, American research and development efforts have prompted Russia and China to pursue similar weapons of their own that could be deployed in as little as a decade, starting an arms race that could place the continental United States at risk. In theory, these three powers could agree to avoid such competition. In practice, the prospects for mutual restraint seem extremely dim.

The United States should not risk escalating a conflict with a nuclear-armed power unless it has no other option. But if it doesn't hurry up and find a policy to guide its rapidly advancing technology, it may simply glide into catastrophe.

Photoillustration by FP

Image courtesy of DARPA

THE MAGAZINE

The Looming Robotics Gap

Why America's global dominance in military technology is starting to crumble.

In the summer of 2013, the X-47B -- an experimental, bat-winged, unmanned aerial vehicle -- flew over the Virginia coast, dove toward a 1,000-foot-long steel landing pad, then rolled to a stop on the USS George H.W. Bush without the aid of a single human. Given that touching down on the tiny, rolling deck of an aircraft carrier is a task given to only the world's most elite pilots, the UAV's landing marked a milestone in unmanned aviation for the United States. And it raised the bar in the military robotics revolution now under way around the world.

But perhaps not high enough.

Just four months later, China announced that its own bat-winged, next-generation UAV, dubbed Sharp Sword, had flown successfully. This test followed China's jaw-dropping debut of the Wing Loong at the 2013 Paris Air Show. The Pterodactyl, as it is known in English, shocked the audience because it looked just like the Reaper, the most advanced armed drone currently deployed by the U.S. military. And, according to the Chinese, it has the strike capabilities to match -- so precise that it can put a missile or laser-guided bomb into the side of a house from 10 kilometers above ground. The Pterodactyl, which is reportedly operational, would give China the ability to do what only the United States, Britain, and Israel can do at the moment: keep 24-hour watch over adversaries and, when needed, use the very same platform to kill them.

The United States is currently the world's leader in military robotics, deploying some 11,000 UAVs and over 12,000 ground robots. But the Defense Department's investment in such technology is projected to drop more than 33 percent this year. In early 2014, Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, admitted that he is "very concerned about eroding technological superiority." China and more than 15 other countries, including adversaries of the United States like Iran, are fast at work developing new air-, sea-, and ground-based robots, many of which could be armed. In 2012, the U.S. Defense Science Board warned of a global "race" to build unmanned military aircraft, singling out China's advances as particularly "alarming."

Meanwhile, companies such as Google have set their sights on developing consumer robotics to serve and fuel an international market that some estimate will generate $6.5 billion in sales a year by 2017. Combined with an industrial robotics market projected to reach $37 billion in annual sales by 2018, these are commercial developments that could have military ramifications. As automated technology becomes increasingly easy to procure, small militaries and even nonstate actors will be able to exploit robotics for military ends. And access to cutting-edge technology from Silicon Valley could very well give large countries with large ambitions, like China, the boost they need to surpass the United States.

Washington has led the field of military robotics because of the strength of investments made over the past two decades. But if it doesn’t keep up, the United States could find itself facing that most dreaded of strategic boogeymen: a "gap" -- a robotics gap.

* * *

According to a recent study by research firm Global Industry Analysts, annual spending worldwide on military robotics will rise from $5.6 billion in 2012 to $7.5 billion by 2018. This growth will include everything from bomb-clearing robots to pack robots that can carry gear overland, unmanned underwater vehicles that can surveil the seas, and UAVs, more commonly known as drones. The Teal Group, a U.S. consulting company, speculated in 2013 that global spending on drones -- military and civilian -- could cumulatively reach $89 billion over the next 10 years.

China's debut of the Pterodactyl and its test of the Sharp Sword, after all, were simply the tip of a spear in what seems like a confident stab into military robotics. The country has also developed unmanned ground vehicles, such as the Snow Leopard 10, which can detect and detonate bombs. These are similar to the ground robots that the United States has deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade. According to the Defense Science Board, "every major manufacturer for the Chinese military has a research center devoted to unmanned systems."

China is looking not only to sidestep American superiority in manned fighter planes and aircraft carriers but to lock in a regional advantage. A series of simmering territorial disputes between China and its neighbors is incentivizing military investment in Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore as well. Global Industry Analysts reports that spending on military robotics in Asia will increase 67 percent, to almost $2.4 billion a year, by 2018, making it the fastest-growing segment of that market.

For example, Singapore's military research and development arm, the Defense Science and Technology Agency, has sponsored a series of competitions designed to encourage local companies to build so-called "urban warrior" robots that could enter a building, climb stairs, and perform other nonlethal tasks to assist counterterrorism operations. These capabilities are similar to what U.S. companies have demonstrated in Pentagon-sponsored robotics competitions.

Israel is another notable investor in military robotics. It has already deployed an unmanned armed ground vehicle, the Guardium, which patrols its borders to detect and stop infiltrators -- potentially with lethal force. At sea, it uses the Protector, an unmanned integrated combat system that is armed with lethal and nonlethal weapons to intercept ships along the Gaza blockade. And, overhead, Israel has the Super Heron, a drone much like the Reaper, and the Harpy, an autonomous weapons system that can track and independently target adversary radars.

Articles published in Jane's Defence Weekly and Jane's International Defence Review in 2014 suggest that Moscow will soon deploy armed ground robotic systems at its ballistic missile bases to increase security and may deploy unmanned airships to monitor Russian interests in the Arctic. For many European states, robotics could help compensate for the past five years of reductions in defense spending. Poland, for one, recently considered phasing out its expensive Su-22 fighter-bombers and replacing them with unmanned platforms over the next decade.

* * *

At the moment, however, the future of military technology seems much more likely to be influenced by developments in the commercial world than by technologies designed exclusively for the battlefield. This year, when I worked with the Center for a New American Security to poll 400 defense experts, we found that nearly three-quarters of them think the technological influence of commercial companies on the defense sector will grow significantly by 2030.

In 2013, Google bought Boston Dynamics, a company best known for its creation of advanced ground robots such as the WildCat, which can run alongside soldiers and carry their gear, helping them move faster and cover greater distances. Google followed up the acquisition by picking up the artificial intelligence company DeepMind in January 2014. Its purchases triggered an average 25 percent jump in the average stock price of commercial robotics companies such as iRobot, maker of the popular Roomba floor cleaner, as market traders wondered which would be the next to be gobbled up by a deep-pocketed firm. Google's latest grab came in April, when it bought the drone company Titan Aerospace for an undisclosed amount.

Google did not purchase the maker of the WildCat to penetrate the military world, but rather to expand into what it thinks will be the even more lucrative commercial robotics market. Even in areas such as agriculture, the demand for robotics is growing, with a report by WinterGreen Research suggesting that the market will reach $16.3 billion by 2020.

The issue is that there is no clear line between commercial and military developments in robotics. Just as with electronics and communications, many technological advances in robotics will be usable in both worlds. For example, the commercial sector is leading the way in developing automated driving technology, and the software that governs a self-driving car might well facilitate the design of a remotely driven tank. As off-the-shelf robotics become increasingly advanced, it will become easier for foreign militaries to close the gap in capabilities with the United States.

Even more sinister is the possibility that commercially available robotics will make cutting-edge technologies available to terrorists. Even now, do-it-yourself drone technology is widely available, used by ordinary citizens and companies for everything from monitoring wildlife to filming snowboarders. In April, the FBI stopped a Moroccan citizen in the United States who allegedly was plotting to strap bombs onto simple consumer drones and fly them into a federal building.

The DIY trend in robotics will only continue to pick up speed. In 2012, a Japanese artist and engineer actually debuted a "killer" ground robot -- the Kuratas -- a 13-foot-tall, 4-ton exoskeleton that can be controlled by smartphone and armed with a Gatling gun that fires BBs. It is a toy more than a weapon, but it shows just how far the field of DIY robotics has progressed already.

* * *

The greatest threat to U.S. dominance in military robotics, however, may come not from foreign militaries or the commercial sector, but from sensitivities within the parts of the Pentagon itself that sense the specter of change. Their reluctance is not unusual. From the Union Army's initial lack of interest in the Gatling gun during the U.S. Civil War to the British Navy's vision of the aircraft carrier as a mere "spotter" for battleships in the interwar period, disruptive military technologies whose integration has required significant bureaucratic reorganization have often faced resistance.

As military robots shift from filling niche capabilities like bomb disposal to performing essential tasks throughout the military, they will challenge existing status hierarchies in the services. Likewise, as these devices become more capable of working with manned systems to multiply the effectiveness of U.S. forces or replace manned forces in some instances, they will require changes not only in the way the services fight, but also in the way they have thought about recruiting, training, and promoting since the creation of the modern American defense establishment in 1947. Those are threats to the military's very identity -- and they will provoke bureaucratic pushback.

Some of the resistance to date has been predictable. Drones have always had an unstable position in the U.S. Air Force. Pilots, of course, have traditionally dominated the branch, and fighter and bomber pilots have held its most senior leadership positions (all but one chief of staff has flown fighters or bombers). Drones capable enough that they could reduce the military's reliance on manned planes challenges the Air Force's core competency.

The Air Force is considering building new drones for surveillance. Reportedly, the RQ-180, a stealthy UAV, will enable the service to spy on potential adversaries at an altitude of around 50,000 feet, making it difficult to shoot down. But the service is shying away from strike technology. In 2012, the Air Force announced that it had terminated development of an armed replacement for the MQ-9 Reaper, the MQ-X, meaning it does not currently plan to build any new armed unmanned systems. At the time, Defense News reported that the branch was taking a "wait and see approach to how unmanned aircraft technology evolves."

The Air Force's reluctance places even more pressure on the U.S. Navy, which is the other service with the resources and potential interest in next-generation armed drones. The power projection that comes from aircraft carriers has made it difficult for some in the Pentagon to envision a Navy in which manned flight is not the centerpiece of naval aviation.

The X-47B -- the drone that can land on an aircraft carrier -- is impressive, but it is just a test airplane. A true sign of the Navy's commitment to robotics lies in the future of a drone known as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) vehicle. UCLASS is the only armed drone that the U.S. military is currently developing, but it is still not a "program of record" (Pentagon-speak for an officially budgeted acquisition). And the Navy is waffling over just how capable to make the new drone. The force could simply produce a Reaper-like UAV that is able to land on an aircraft carrier, or it could invest resources to make UCLASS a far more sophisticated system that is able to conduct advanced surveillance, carry a sizable weapons payload, and even evade air defenses. That is, UCLASS could have capabilities that start to approach those of manned fighters.

The problem is that many in the U.S. military see drones primarily as an adjunct to counterterrorism operations. Giving any drone the ability to take off and land on a carrier would be a step forward, but continuing to restrict the technology's mission set to surveiling and striking terrorists shows that the Pentagon considers robotics a sideshow, rather than the coming main event. According to a 2013 comment by Robert Work, then CEO of the Center for a New American Security, the desire to continue emphasizing counterterrorism operations, along with concerns about costs, has led some in the Pentagon to support the stripped-down, cheaper, Reaper-like version of the UCLASS program. (On April 30, the Senate confirmed Work to be deputy defense secretary.) Even if the Navy builds a more advanced model, the debate over UCLASS's intended capabilities, which has gone on for almost two years, demonstrates the U.S. military's ambivalence toward next-generation robotics.

On a much smaller scale, the Navy is investing in unmanned underwater vehicles, including the Knifefish, a 19-foot-long torpedo-shaped minesweeper that can operate autonomously for days at a time. The system would represent a significant improvement on existing mine-clearing technologies, which generally require more people and cost more money. Yet even in this case, funding is at risk. In 2012, the U.S. Navy said it planned to invest in underwater drones even more advanced than the Knifefish -- larger vessels that can conduct underwater surveillance for long durations. But no money has been guaranteed yet.

As for the Army, there is strong cultural resistance to using robots instead of soldiers on the battlefield, especially in trigger-pulling roles. Gen. Robert Cone, who recently retired as the Army's head of training and doctrine, said the service might reduce the size of its basic fighting unit, the brigade combat team, from 4,000 soldiers to 3,000 by 2030, preserving front-line war-fighters while using ground robots for transportation and logistical functions. But spending on unmanned ground technologies currently comprises less than 1 percent of the overall U.S. budget for unmanned systems.

* * *

In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the growing U.S. defense budget made more resources available for everyone. Today is different. As the fight for defense dollars gets more intense due to sequestration, next-generation military robotics could easily end up on the chopping block simply because their capabilities are less proven than those of existing systems. The United States is currently the best at fighting on land, in the air, and at sea, so many in the military's bureaucracy view innovations that could change the character of warfare, like robotics, as particularly risky. In terms of battlefield dominance, it can seem like there is nowhere to go but down.

The problem, of course, is that other countries are not going to stand still, allowing the United States to maintain superiority. Unconstrained by a legacy of world-beating fighters, tanks, and aircraft carriers, they may well have an easier time exploiting advances in robotics. And if a robotics gap emerges, adversaries will become more likely to challenge the United States, its allies, and its partners, undermining peace and stability and placing American lives at risk on the battlefield and at home.

* * *

Even advances by friends and allies could be harmful. Global order has been kept for the past several decades in part by the tendency of so many countries to essentially free-ride on the U.S. military because it is too expensive and difficult for them to build advanced war-fighting capabilities of their own. A world in which advanced military robots are easily available is a world filled with an increasing number of modern militaries -- a world that may face a higher risk of arms races and conflict.

Foreign military efforts and commercial innovation may dull America's edge in robotics no matter what it does. But the United States shouldn't dither while its relative capabilities erode. It should increase funding for research, development, and testing of military robotics. Arguably even more important is that the Pentagon needs to better harvest the best commercial innovations, bring them to the military services, and encourage experimentation with new technologies. The confirmation of Work, a leading advocate for military robotics, as deputy defense secretary is encouraging, but his effect on Pentagon priorities remains up in the air. Ultimately, investing in and then incorporating advanced robotics into the lifeblood of the military services is what will prevent a lead from turning into a gap.

Illustration by Radio