May 31, 2016
Since the firearm’s creation, firepower has aggregated at increasingly lower echelons in armies with each century, allowing smaller number of soldiers to dominate larger amounts of terrain and inflict greater amounts of damage on enemies. Today, a pair of soldiers handling a 20th-century machine gun can exceed rates of fire achievable only by an entire regiment of 19th-century riflemen. Advances in robotics, miniaturization of technology, and most importantly, exploration of human-machine combat teaming concepts will continue this trend and render the infantry squad of the 21st century the deadliest yet.
Insurgents in Syria have already begun incorporating inexpensive quadcopters and other commercially available drones at the squad level, even using them as airborne improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Man-portable and inexpensive, a remote-controlled gyrocopter modified to hold anti-personnel or anti-armor warheads gives infantrymen a new way to clear a room, attack enemy infantry in cover, or destroy hostile tanks. While currently susceptible to electronic jamming, advances in robot object recognition should allow future drones to autonomously acquire targets, leaving electronic attacks designed to sever connectivity less effective. Rules of engagement, the intensity of conflict, and the nature of enemy forces will determine the extent that this autonomy can be used.