The Military Technology Everyone Will Be Talking About

Imagine strapping a small metal box to your shoe.

It’s a little larger than a deck of cards.

You lace up; you start walking; the small box emits a short-range radio signal.

An engine roars behind you — the sound isn’t like anything you’ve heard. It’s a mix between a Harley-Davidson engine and your Weed Whacker.

You walk a couple more steps.

Then, all of a sudden, a giant robot, the size of a Clydesdale horse, starts following you.

No, there’s no need to run. This mechanical beast is on your side, wearing friendly colors. In fact, it’s carrying all of your gear!

This robotic Clydesdale is what the U.S. Navy calls a “PackBot.” And it’s one of the most intriguing pieces of technology that the Navy put on showcase last month at RIMPAC, the world’s largest naval exercise.

To get a better idea what I’m talking about, check out this video of PackBot in action…

But that wasn’t the only thing on display…

Imagine you’re a pirate who just took over an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca. Now you’re sailing full speed away from the law.

On the horizon, a grey hull appears. You push your speedboat up to 40 knots (just shy of 50 mph), but this thing keeps closing. It’s getting bigger… bigger… too big… Whoa! What the heck is that thing?

As it pulls into hailing range, your mind boggles. It’s faster than a speedboat, but it’s over 400 feet long, displacing thousands of tons…

It’s the USS Independence, and it’s a new kind of warship, that’s what!

Or how about another idea… like a tank that walks on water?

I’m not joking. Using tracks fitted out with air-filled foam blocks, instead of steel links, this absurd-looking prototype can “walk” across inshore waters and scale sea walls up to 10 feet high… while carrying up to three M1 Abrams main battle tanks on its back!

It’s just a taste of what the Navy unveiled at this year’s RIMPAC.

Oh, so now you’re wondering what’s RIMPAC?

RIMPAC is a 23-nation joint naval exercise that reiterates President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote to “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”

That is, the U.S. has immense military and economic power. Indeed, the U.S. runs the world’s reserve currency, the dollar. All in all, we’re looking at that “big stick.”

The technologies that were on display at RIMPAC are a testament to that “big stick” power. Putting these bells and whistles on display for the world to see, along with a united show of force, helps make would-be aggressors in the region think twice.

However, there’s one technology that I’ll share with you today that wasn’t on display at RIMPAC. As I see it, it’s already a game-changer in military technology. But first, let’s take a quick look at why this is important…

When Teddy Roosevelt first wrote about America’s “Big Stick,” he was talking about the United States Navy.

See, Roosevelt believed that America’s ideals have given the nation the collective vision to do great things in the world and be a force for good.

At the same time, for most of U.S. history, the Navy has provided national leaders with the ability to accomplish any of the good that has occurred.

Suffice it to say, U.S. power and prestige have paralleled the fortunes of our Navy.

But these days — once again, sad to say — politicians have allowed the U.S. Navy to become old, rusty (after a fashion) and too small to cover all its missions.

Each time this happened in the past, enemies tried to take advantage of American weakness. Only timely investment and new technological breakthroughs allowed the Navy to fight its way to victories.

That’s where we find ourselves today.

And it’s why I’ve been following an astonishing piece of breakthrough technology that can put the U.S. ahead of our rivals again in a big way. This tech comes from an unlikely source, but it’s the real deal.

I call it America’s “New Big Stick.”

Let’s watch YouTube.

Huh? Wow! Ka-boom!!

What you see there is a super-powered electromagnetic rail gun, capable of accelerating a projectile down the barrel of a gun up to Mach 7 — more than 5,300 mph — without any explosive propellant.

To put that in context, that’s nearly 1 1/2 miles per second, or twice the speed of even the fastest bullet fired from a high-powered rifle. It’ll hurl a projectile down range, over the horizon, in six seconds.

Moving at over 5,300 mph, the rail gun’s projectile penetrates six layers of the Navy’s best armor plate, actually igniting the steel as it hits — due to release of kinetic energy, if you recall your high school physics.

But don’t be fooled. Just as there’s no propellant behind the round, there’s no explosive in the front end of this projectile.

It’s just a solid piece of classified alloy — although I can say that it includes tungsten — enclosed in a ferrous sabot (since tungsten isn’t magnetic), which is a fancy French word for “shoe that breaks away as the round leaves the barrel.”

Looking ahead, there’s a possibility of GPS-guided rounds being fired above the atmosphere on indirect trajectories, which would extend the rail gun’s range far beyond the horizon.

Just take a look at the conceptual image, below (note: the latest report from NAVSEA has moved the projected maximum range to 110 nautical miles):

Ballistic Trajectory of an Electromagnetic RailgunConceptual rail gun employment, courtesy of Office of Naval Research.

Rail guns have many advantages over guided missile systems, let alone traditional naval guns. For one, they offer greatly improved safety and ship survivability.

There’s no risk of tons of propellant and explosive going off from an accident or battle damage, which is no small matter. I was in the Navy, back during the USS Iowa (BB-61) turret explosion; it was just awful.

Furthermore, rail gun projectiles are just a fraction of the weight and mass of guided missiles, and are no bigger than the shells for a 5-inch gun.

Thus each rail gun can have a magazine of hundreds, or even thousands, of rounds of ammunition. Compare that with just a couple dozen missiles for most ship weapons platforms; it means more endurance at sea, and less worry about logistics.

Finally, we get down to where rubber meets road, to mix my materiel metaphors.

In future battles, all those extra rail gun rounds mean more opportunity to sink enemy ships, knock out enemy coastal defenses and even take out bad guy aircraft and missiles.

Better still, rail gun Mach 7 projectiles (from the video above) will be almost impossible to counter, unlike much slower missiles that can increasingly be intercepted by fire-rapid guns, defensive missile systems or even lasers.

And of course, the rail gun can outrange many current weapons systems our opponents use, giving U.S. warships a critical first-strike capability.

When completed, the 32-mega joule rail gun is expected to outrange the biggest conventional naval guns by a factor of three or more.

Plus, the rail gun and its ammunition should be light enough to mount on any U.S. Navy warship, even ones currently too small to carry significant conventional weaponry.

The Navy has been testing the rail gun system at the Dahlgren Naval Surface Warfare Center. According to public reports, everything performed well, although the detailed results are classified.

This is all a part of a larger investment theme.

Nations across the world are arming up. We have seen, and will continue to see, booming demand for all manner of ships, aircraft, ground vehicles, communication systems, surveillance, software, cyberwar, remote-sensing equipment and smart systems to help manage it all.

Keep your eye on this space!

Byron King
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: With massive defense spending moving away from more obvious, traditional warfare… and into more secretive “black budget” operations, we keep Byron, a seasoned mil-tech veteran, as a regular fixture in our FREE daily tech e-letter, Tomorrow in Review. In every single issue readers are given unique opportunities to discover actionable investment ideas, on everything from life-saving biotech to disruptive energy platforms, to next-gen mil-tech like high-powered rail guns. Don’t miss your chance to profit from our next investment idea. Sign up for FREE right here.