It's 20 years into the future and we've developed 2 significant tools of war:

  • Perfect Surveillance within 10 miles. A new surveillance tech that it's impossible to hide from. You have it, your enemies have it, and you both know exactly where everyone is, anywhere you decide to search within a 10 miles radius of your nearest military convoy. You can create a 3D map of all physical material at any location you choose. You can even detect the movement of air currents, heat, humidity, every aspect of the environment you're searching, and it's all done from a remote device 10 miles away.

  • Machine Assisted Aim: With this new surveillance data, your computers can calculate exactly how to aim any pistol, AR, or sniper rifle to hit any target within miles (depending on how far the weapon can send the bullet before it loses lethal velocity). Extremely accurate environmental predictions based on this data can be used to calculate the bullet's travel path, including changes based on how the wind and temperature will change as the bullet moves along its path. Smart bullet technology allows the bullet to alter its course to correct for the target's movement. Ground drones of all shapes and sizes can use this technology to wage remote warfare, or human wearable exoskeleton tech can allow humans to execute this perfect aim as well (machine augmented motor functions).

So for example, a pistol could be aimed into the sky by any soldier at the perfect angle to drop onto an exposed target a quarter mile away, or an AR can take out a target from a mile away, arching the bullet over buildings and trees to land at the desired enemy.

How would this tech re-shape war as we know it, for example in the Middle East, with counter-terrorism operations? Maybe terrorist operations are doomed from the moment we develop the surveillance tech. So what about warfare in general? How would it change?

Edit: For anyone interested, limitations:

  • The device would cost between 20-50 million dollars per unit to produce.

  • It can fit in a specialized, armored military vehicle and must be stationary to work.

  • There's no way to increase the range with a bigger version, 10 miles is the maximum capability.

  • A lot of computational power is needed to handle to simulations for bullet travel paths in real time, and to process the surveillance data into a 3D map.

  • In a truck carrying one, only enough processing hardware can be carried to keep track of about 20 25x25 meter zones and 10 shot trajectories during any given second.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think the answer is: They would use that technology if it isn't too expensive. Also since we can do that, everything else on earth changes and we would be thinking about colonizing the universe since this would be the biggest break through of all times. It is unlikely that only bullets can profit from such advancements $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 25 '17 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 Since when has expense stopped top world powers from using a tool of war? From Wikipedia: "The Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the F-22's cost to be 361 million USD per aircraft, with 28 billion USD invested in development and testing" $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ The number one mistake I see people make in this forum is to assume unlimited ressources for their world. This is fine if you are doing LotR type stuff, but you better know exactly what you are doing in this case. I'm not saying this is a particular bad case, but scarce resources is non negotiable. Even something crazy like the US government will not spend any amount on military equipment, otherwise their atomic weapons would still be operational. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jun 25 '17 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't want to add the --- divider lines at the end but there's some kind of formatting bug causing the bullet points to be indented further and further with each point. If someone knows how to correct this, feel free to edit. $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 11:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Nicolai I've read about smart bullets already being tested that make mid-flight changes. So it doesn't seem so far fetched to have the tech polished a few decades down the road. How much they can adjust? Well surely it can only be by a small amount, but perhaps enough to hit a dodging target at long range. Does that mean quickly moving drones won't be safe? Well that depends. If they can change direction rapidly and significantly, the bullets would miss, but the faster the drone travels, the harder it becomes for the drone to turn, right? Hard to figure out whether drones would be safe. $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 18:11

I will disregard the impossibility of the technology you describe and assume it exists ...

  • Weapons with perfect aim cannot possibly be handheld by human soldiers. With real-world pistols, the human inability to hold it steadily and to stand still is the limit. Same with rifles. To make the perfect aim, the weapons must be mounted on a stable platform and aimed with sufficiently exact motors.
  • The sensor suite will be limited by analysis. Even today the intelligence agencies have more data than analysts. After many terrorist attacks we find out that the perpetrators were known to the authorities, and that those authorities did not assign the priority which had been appropriate in hindsight. Because there are hundreds, even thousands of radicals who appear even more dangerous, but who don't decide to pull the trigger in the end.

So there may be robots fighting under orders of computers which may or may not be correct in their threat assessment, here comes Skynet ...

After the success in using robot warfare abroad, the industrialized nations take it home, to defend against "lone wolf" terrorists, drug dealers, and so on. License plate recognition and algorithms for sentencing are just the start ...

Follow-up after the edits:

  • The prictag and range limitations would encourage the building of artillery with 11 miles range. Mechanized forces get a boost, light forces and insurgents get a damper.
  • Standoff mines and very large IEDs get more common with insurgents. One unit cannot possibly cover all the buildings along the route of one supply convoy.
  • Just how many units a force gets and how they are leapfrogged from location to location will be a main issue. Call it half a dozen for an Armored Brigade, in a new company assigned to the cavalry or MI. Not nearly enough to cover lots of convoys and checkpoints defensively, but it would be really effective during deliberate raids on suspected enemy hideouts.
  • $\begingroup$ or human wearable exoskeleton tech can allow humans to execute this perfect aim as well (machine augmented motor functions) $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Viziionary, if the human controls the exoskeleton, his trembling will spoil the aim. If not, he is an useless passenger. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jun 25 '17 at 11:20
  • $\begingroup$ The exoskeleton can take full control of movement while executing a calculated shot, then return control to the human. $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, I wouldn't disregard this kind of tech being completely impossible. Perhaps the scale is unrealistic, and with a few limitations, but I can think of an existing tech that might make this sort of thing possible. $\endgroup$ – J.Todd Jun 25 '17 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Viziionary, they accuracy you are describing runs into fundamental physical limits like Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. You won't get a pistol or rifle bullet accurate all the way to the maximum flight range (which would be reached with indirect fire, not direct fire). $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jun 25 '17 at 11:35

Honestly, it wouldn't have much use to a military operation, as many, many weapons have ranges well outside of 10 miles. Things like artillery, such as the US M198 Howitzer, have ranges exceeding 14-18 miles. Aircraft can fire missiles with ranges greater than 10 miles, or drop bombs from almost as high. The official service ceiling of the B-52 is 50,000 feet, just under 10 miles, and while it's effective ceiling is a bit less at around 43,000 feet, that still doesn't leave a lot of room. Unless they're directly over you, they're not in your bubble. Defense against such weapons would entirely depend on the refresh speed of such a device, along with any linked systems. But even then, you can't block an entire howitzer salvo even if you can take out individual shells - It becomes very expensive, very quickly, and would be best taken on by traditional methods. As others have said, war functions a lot differently than individual combat units.

Now, what this would REALLY be great for is police and firefighter use. Police would love something like this, especially for hostage situations or an active shooter.

Firefighters? Oh man, would this be WONDERFUL for firefighters. The way you described this implies it can't be blocked by pretty much anything. That's a bit of a stretch, but I'll roll with it, because of the implications.

Firefighters wouldn't have to worry about guessing if there are people inside a building or not. They'd know. They'd also be able to track, and guide, every single one of their firefighters, to get to rescues quicker and faster. Additionally, they'd be able to monitor conditions of the fire - And pull people and men out when things become increasingly dangerous. Rescue operations, such as that after disasters like mudslides, tsunamis, or even mass terrorist attacks, would be aided incredibly. You'd know where every survivor within 10 miles is, and you'd know exactly what sort of conditions they were in, and respond accordingly.

Someone trapped in a room with no exit, but can move around freely? OK, good. They'll be OK there for a few more hours while we get the heavy equipment over there. Someone trapped under a pile of rubble? Grab a beam, we're moving this stuff by hand until better equipment arrives.

This would also provide a minor benefit to Air Traffic Control around major airports, giving a much more accurate view of what's around them.

In short: It wouldn't have much military application (Although there would be some), but it would have HUGE impacts in things such as police, firefighting, and search-and-rescue operations. The potential to take life is significant, but it would also be capable of saving many, many more.


The issues which currently complicate war are not resolved by this tech. The tech advantage of the US is already immense. There are already drones. There are already gunships. There are already cruise missiles. The US has the power to destroy any given place within a few minutes. The issues complicating war now are who not to kill and what not to destroy.

  1. Civilians. Opposing forces hide among them. They masquerade as them. They may be them, depending on circumstances. I can imaging perfect surveillance but I bet the surveillance will not be able to say "Ya, that's Vizii, messing around in his garage. You can tell by those tandem repeats in his 7th chromosome". A person, inside, mixed with many other people is hard to distinguish from those other people.

  2. Cities. Wars are not Waterloo type battles out in a field where your smart bullet can drop out of the sky onto some guy. The tricky ones now are fought in cities. Smart bullet does not matter if there is a bunch of stuff in the way, like walls and roofs. You could nuke it all from orbit, of course, but that is be a high price to pay for a few dozen armed opponents in a city of many thousands.

  3. Resistance. How do you know when you have defeated your enemy? If the Emperor proclaims on the radio that you have, fine. The Mideast wars with simmering, smoldering resistance are a chronic, resource draining, festering sort of thing. "Mission accomplished" dance on the aircraft carrier deck may not be achievable.

I think demonstrations of this cool tech might be good for morale, and would bring some defense dollars to your district while you build some of these devices. If you have to fight the battle of Waterloo it will be good.


War is continuation of foreign policy by other means. It's not an goal by itself.

How would this tech re-shape war as we know it, for example in the Middle East, with counter-terrorism operations?

Terrorism from Middle East is political problem, and not a military one. For effective fight against those people you need a sword (yes, actual sharp metal stick) and not a cruise missile. First, US-style war operation is horrendously ineffective in terms of cost. Yes, as long as military budget is virtually unlimited, it works. You can bomb nomads with smart bombs until cash runs, but no longer.

And second - killing by hand have tremendous moral effect. That's why beheading videos exists. Pushing button is easy, but how many drone operators are willing to kill by hand?

The issues which currently complicate war are not resolved by this tech

Absolutely. Because it's not a battle that is complicated. It's what comes after it.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.