As part of its celebration of the People's Liberation Army, the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution in Beijing is showing off a range of exciting exhibitions, offering a peek into the PLA's new self-propelled artillery, cruise missiles, ballistic missile launchers, and—perhaps most notably—tactical unmanned aerial systems.
From the earliest cannons to the last battleships, the fundamentals of a naval gun have remained roughly the same: hurtle a heavy projectile through the air using gunpowder. But railguns are a clean break from that method, as they use a powerful electrical pulse to drag a projectile at high speed down a long track before shooting it at a target far away.
Every missile is a carefully packaged bad day traveling at high speeds. Hypersonic missiles are a modern development in the long-running military arms race to figure out just how certain that bad end is for the humans on the receiving end. Russia's Zircon missile could enter arsenals as early as 2018. Despite headlines to the contrary, not enough about the missile is known yet to definitely claim that it poses an uncounterable threats ships in the sea.
In Tom Clancy's book (and, later, the 1990 film) The Hunt For Red October, a Soviet submarine debuts a revolutionary, ultra-quiet engine that uses pumpjets and electrical propulsion technology to elude its foes. Chinese state media has reported that the nation is fitting its newest nuclear sub with an engine that sounds a lot like Clancy's imaginings in the real world.
On the water's surface, a robot talks to an underwater robot and tells it to launch a flying robot. Together, the three autonomous machines scouted for the U.S. Navy in a demonstration, showcasing autonomy, communication, and sensors all in mobile, robotic packages. It is a remarkable technological achievement, and one that foreshadows a future of robots working and fighting alongside sailors.
The first half of the 20th century saw war unlike any that had transpired before. Elements were the same: people still fought over ideas and land, and it was still infantry on foot and civilians that did most of the dying. But the weapons! Fantastical, horrific weapons, like the machine guns that turned trench warfare from protracted stalemate to meat grinder, and fighters and bombers that burned through the skies. Or the armored tanks, which lumbered into history in the Western Front and then defined history from 1939 to 1945, changing centuries of prior thinking on how best to seize victory. From the vantage point of the middle of the 20th century, the coming decades of war seemed almost certain to be a new bloody spectacle, powered by technological marvels.