- Even when using 40+ year-old military equipment, the use of satellite-based communications and GPS has completely changed the roll of artillery. Troops can basically instant message scattered artillery positions kilometers apart to converge on a single target with pinpoint accurate shelling in minutes. This speed and responsiveness makes artillery batteries obsolete, and they can be used like air strikes without presenting a big expensive target like a plane for the enemy to shoot down.
- Alternatively, drones can be used to paint targets for artillery at huge distances for very little risk or cost.
- We've had 5 lbs loitering munitions in the field for 10 years. These are capable of delivering a small explosive charge via remote-control, launchable by throwing from anywhere. This is equivalent to allowing an infantryman to throw a grenade 10 kilometers, making a single soldier capable of covering a huge area.
- We now know that man-portable anti-tank weapons are so good and cost-effective that tanks are at a disadvantage, and might go obsolete in the near future if something doesn't change fast.
- It's been firmly established since WWII, but it bears repeating that strategic bombing Does. Not. Work. While air superiority is still valuable, allowing one side to deliver precision strikes basically anywhere in a warzone, we've seen over and over how this does not break morale, and it does not provide a decisive edge in an asymmetric war. We have now seen the most powerful air force on the planet lose two wars despite this advantage.
Ahem. Individual Firing Units, from conventional artillery pieces to rocket launchers to missile platforms, have been addressable digitally from anywhere and could converge their fires on any target within range since the 1980s. We were teaching it at the US Army's Artillery School at the time. In fact, this is simply an 'upgrade' from the basic Fire Direction Center system developed in the US Army in the late 1930s, which potentially allowed anybody with a radio or telephone who was in contact with the FDC and knew how to read a map to call in artillery fire on any target he could see (Note the fact that basic map reading was taught to every US Army soldier in Basic Training from 1940 on - the only army in the world to do so). Or as one German Tactical Bulletin put it: "If you are attacking an American unit . . . your attack must be complete in less than hour, for at the end of that time every American gun within range will be firing on you, and your attack will be smothered in fire."
As an artilleryman, I used to say my job was "to kill people and blow things up." - a far too accurate description, then and now.
The modern Main Battle Tank, and the fantasy GDR and any other Large Land Target is obsolete: there are simply too many weapons, from too many different range envelopes, that can target them and destroy them. When an individual soldier can call down everything from a drone-launched Hellfire missile to a ground launched 200 kilometer range cruise or Ballistic weapon, every tank has to have a suite of anti-air weapons to survive discovery. That makes them, basically, a burden on the troops, not a source of support and combat power.
On the other hand, there has been a great deal of research on 'augmenting' the individual infantryman, from Exo-Skeletons to body armor to individual Stealth measures (including camouflage and 'invisibility' lightbending garments) to satellite communications and surveillance gear to enhanced vision and personal weapons and etc., etc.
Heinlein, as usual, may turn out to be a better Prophet than the professionals, with his Mobile Infantry super-enhanced individual soldier as the real result of Near-Future Tech.