monster machines
After 100 Years, What’s Next for the Tank?

One-hundred years ago, the Battle of the Somme was killing soldiers on both sides by the tens of thousands. Midway through the four-month conflict that would kill or wound more than a million people combined on all sides – on September 15th, 1916 – British Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, rolled out what he hoped would be a decisive secret weapon: the world’s first ever battle tank. It was called (somewhat unimaginatively) the Mark 1. Read More >>

In the Future, Your Medicines Will be Put Together by Robots

3D printers are great. Never in the history of man has it been easier to make sculptures out of bubble bath foam, novelty armageddon coffee tables or sexy celebrity skeletons. What a time to be alive. Read More >>

Should We Renew Trident? A Closer Look at the Arguments

The Trident nuclear deterrent argument rages on.  In June of last year, when we wrote this piece on the future, past and present purpose of Trident, the only serious political opposition to the renewal of Britain’s nuclear deterrent was coming from the SNP. The other major parties were in agreement that the future of Britain’s security was dependent on maintaining a fleet of submarines carrying enough firepower to scrub half a continent off the face of the Earth. Organisations like the Stop the War Coalition that disagreed were shouting at a political brick wall stretching from Land’s End to the Scottish border. Read More >>

From A to B: Why It’s Such a Bumpy Road to Driverless Cars

In an ironic sort of way, it sometimes feels like we’re cruising toward driverless cars on auto-pilot. Read More >>

What is the Future of Armed Drones?

In September of last year, we ran a piece on the UK’s use of armed drones. That same month, David Cameron announced that he had personally authorised the targeted killing of a British Citizen, Reyaad Khan, by a British Reaper drone in Syria, with defence secretary Michael Fallon telling the BBC that Britain “wouldn’t hesitate to take similar action again”. Read More >>

How Lasers Will Revolutionise the Way We Fight Wars

When war changes, it usually changes slowly. We’re used to military technology advancing in predictable, plodding steps – incremental advances on what went before, with one side spending years developing its new plane, or tank, or missile, the other side simultaneously developing ways to undermine it. The first nation builds a thing, the second builds a thing to make it irrelevant, and so the gears of the military-industrial complex keep on a-grinding. Read More >>

Why We’ll Never Fight a Real-Life Star Wars Space Conflict

There was always a strange disconnect between space and the battlefield in Star Wars. Things whizzed around amongst the stars, zapping each other with handy, colour-coded laser beams, and people, droids and sentient teddy bears milled about on the ground, shooting at the enemy (or in the third case, chasing them with sticks) unaided. Not much that happened above the planets in the galaxy far, far away seemed to have a big effect on the ground war (with the obvious exception of the Death Star), and barring a lone shield generator in Return of the Jedi, the same was true vice versa. Read More >>

How Scared Should We be of Cyberwar?

In an age of ubiquitous networking, popular culture and the media have become increasingly fascinated with the idea of cyberwar. As the west pours billions into the latest fancy war gadgetry – from the armed drones that increasingly fight our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to the next generation F-35 fighters that are meant to dominate enemy airspace through multimillion pound suites of on board computer wizardry – the spectre of militarised hacker groups with fingers on the off switch looms ever larger in the public consciousness. Having the biggest, best-networked stick is at the core of western military doctrine – but that doesn’t matter if your arm fizzles and stops working when you go to swing it. Read More >>

Why Does the UK Need Armed Drones?

On the road to Serbia’s Nikola Tesla airport, there is a turn-off to a building that looks like a squashed, glass golf ball. Opened in 1989, the Belgrade Aeronautical Museum is home mostly to planes belonging at one stage or another to the Yugoslav (and later Serbian) Air Forces. But in the middle of the museum, ringed by ageing propeller planes and Cold War-era jets, hangs one of Serbia’s few prizes from the NATO bombing campaign of what was then Yugoslavia: one of the very first Predator drones, shot down by Yugoslav forces on May 13th, 1999. Read More >>

What is the F-35B and Why is the UK Buying It?

Over the past few years, the F-35 Lightning II – the fifth-generation, Lockheed Martin wunder-plane set to eventually take over from almost every fighter jet in the US and UK militaries – has received a public relations kicking. It’s expensive – the total cost for the programme so far is an incredible, not-even-hyperbolic trillion dollars. It’s had some embarrassing technical stumbles – engine fires, a non-functioning cannon and a half-million dollar helmet that fits comfortably in the cockpit or on a pilot’s head (but reportedly not both). And while it’s designed as a multirole, do-everything plane that will see the West through the next three decades of air combat, critics have been queuing up at the online pulpit to explain why it’s not as capable in each mission role as the plane it’s supposed to be retiring. Though they’re usually not that polite about it. Read More >>

What is Trident and Why Do We Need It?

In the weeks and months leading up to the election, Trident was fleetingly promoted from simmering, 25-year-old contention to the centre of British politics. The issue was not Britain’s current system of at-sea nuclear deterrence, but rather, its replacement. All major parties barring the SNP were in agreement: Britain needs a new generation of missile submarine to replace our four ageing Vanguard class missile boats, at a cost that will, over the course of the renewal, be measured in tens of billions of pounds. Read More >>