A tentative analysis of future warfare

In view of the fact that the world security is in the midst of revolutionary shift with the invention of new technology and globalisation, war is concurrently changing its characteristics and meaning both in theory and practice. Based on the military theory provided by Michael Evans, I will briefly analyse the significance of the twenty-first-century warfare and provide four characteristics of the future warfare in the coming decade.


From the last decades of the Twentieth Century, the characteristic of war is changed, and conventional warfare is rapidly losing its eminence. Instead, unconventional warfare is becoming so prominent and guerrilla groups such as Taliban and Daesh are employing it to use nonlinear tactics against their opponents. Since war became so dynamic, the high-tech Western arm forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other parts of the world are deeply perplexed and seriously challenged by rogue regimes and irregular groups who were equipped with heavy weapons and radical attitude of mass-killing. Therefore, the US, NATO, Iraq and Afghan military forces are all trying to change their tactics to adjust to the newly emerging types of unconventional warfare in twenty-first-century warfare.

Conventional war is to win control of a state by defeating the enemy’s military forces in the field.

Unconventional war is conducted within enemy lines through guerrilla tactics or subversion, usually supported at least in part by external forces. The current war in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are some examples.

Characteristics of future warfare

One: War is more likely to remain chameleon but the possibility of in-state, trans-state, non-state, or mix of all are predictable. Caution is necessary and one should not dismiss the possibility of a large-scale conventional war.  Though the probability of war in Western Europe is highly unlikely, war of all various types in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Northern Africa is highly predictable. While Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in the Middle East and Africa are already engulfed in guerilla warfare, the possibility of conventional war, the symmetric and the asymmetric warfare in Southeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula are also predictable in near future.

Two: With the advance of technology and productions of new and sophisticated arms such as long-range missile, air jets and other refined weapons, command and control of the stealth operations, ground attacks and air supports will become too compressed in time and space. Such a military operation has never been experienced in the past and it will “create an unprecedented nonlinear battle space characterized by breadth, depth, and height” in the future. The Afghan-Soviet war of the 1980s, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and many other wars fought during the 1990s, have replaced the traditional linear battlefield of World War II era warfare towards a “full-dimensional” and non-linear battle space. No doubt, non-linear battlefield with support from air, sea, ground, and missile firepower will significantly change the outcome of war.

Three: The next decade’s warfare will be the battle of technology using computer and satellite to target one’s adversaries. In the future decade, a nation’s military strengths will be weighed in its advanced surveillance system, up to date weaponry and tools, skilled shooter and trained intelligence on the ground to simultaneously command and control its air, ground and sea forces. As the probability of lessening human power is high, every nation would try to produce longer-ranged missile and firepower, produce more lethal weaponry and increase the ability of its intelligence and troops to act highly effectively without much human loss. The US use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) strikes by targeting its enemies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other parts of the world is a current example, and the probability that even more advanced technology will be used, is highly predictable indicator of the type of warfare into the next decade.

Four: While the use of advanced technology, sophisticated weaponry and supremacy of surveillance system are highly recommended for large-scale ambushes and faraway battles that the position of enemy required to be remotely found and attacked, in close battle ground forces with support of artillery, tanks and other suppressive weaponries are highly needed. Evans states the case of Afghanistan war and how the US forces, by sending in its air force to support soldiers on the ground, found such operations ineffective because of difficulties in allocating the points on the ground from high altitudes. This, however, is dependent on the task, as target acquisition with precision weapons could be done relatively effectively. Despite all, in battlespace such as those of Afghanistan and Syria and Iraq, tanks, guns, artilleries with air support will play significant role in twenty-first-century warfare.

Overall, the global system is so divided between traditional state-centric world and newly emerging trans-state and non-state actors. The non-state actors are rapidly changing their tactics and strategies to operate beyond the traditional borders with the power of internet and computer technology, ease of transportation and access to lethal weapons. Such an alliance between the non-state actors and advance technology indicates that a new strategic thinking is urgently needed to maintain the global order in future.

1 thought on “A tentative analysis of future warfare”

  1. We must never forget, war in Afghanistan is not a war of necessity. This is a war of choice, And America playing the main role.

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