War just ain’t what it used to be. Today’s threat comes not from rival nation-states, but from stateless entities. This has fundamentally changed the nature of warfare, as the concept of “total war” has become irrelevant. If “collateral damage” is lawful, “so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the attack,” then urban combat necessitates a change in tactics—especially if the enemy blends in among the populace. The advancements in military technology and lack of state-based belligerents have lowered the tolerance level for collateral damage.
The “Land Warrior” computer system, by General Dynamics is an attempt to address this persistent issue. The system includes a viewfinder (similar to night vision scopes—see pic to right), that drops over a Soldier's eye and displays an aerial map marked with roads and towns, along with icons designating hostile forces and civilians. A key component is the "Dragon Egg," purportedly a “softball-sized robotic camera that can be thrown over a hill or into a building…it rights itself like a Weeble Wobble toy and delivers a 360-degree view through its four tiny cameras.” Ideally, the Dragon Egg would make “room clearing” a tad safer, as infantrymen would have a detailed picture of the room’s inhabitants. It would also limit collateral damage.
This is all in theory, of course. Like all devices pitched to the military, Land Warrior may find itself curtailed by the realities of combat. In The Ranger’s Handbook, the principles of Urban Operations include Surprise, Speed, and Violence of Action (“Eliminate the enemy with sudden, explosive force.”). Take note of the description for “Violence of Action” (italics mine):
(1) Combined with speed gives surprise.
(2) Prevents enemy reaction.
(3) Both physical and mental.
The Dragon Egg would completely wipe out the first two principles. If a softball-like object crashes through a window, that eliminates surprise, and gives the enemy a chance to react. If there’re civilian inhabitants, the principles are meaningless, anyway. The Dragon Egg might (theoretically) reduce civilian casualties, but it would put our soldiers in greater danger. In theory, giving infantry more intel on their intended target is a good thing. But in reality, surprise, speed, and violence of action give the assaulter a greater advantage. Portions of the Land Warrior system may be application to urban combat, but the Dragon Egg is a gimmick with no practical usage.
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