Last week I was in London attending the Platts Crude Oil Conference. In particular, much of the trip is geared toward energy and mineral issues, about which I write in my paid-up newsletters.
Then again, I’ve spent time discussing the future of military technology with several people I know who follow these things from across the pond. Really, there are few things in the world quite like an informed British perspective.
So what’s the intersection of my travels and write-ups? Recently, it was a focus on energy weapons at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. Let’s take a look at where we’re headed – and at a brand new energy weapon the U.S. has in its arsenal…
To get started I’d like to discuss a couple of different “energy weapons” that the U.S. military is developing. These include the Navy’s electromagnetic rail gun that shoots projectiles at Mach 6 and powerful laser beams that can burn holes in the skin of incoming missiles.
These Navy energy weapons are not yet fielded systems. The few specimens are hand-built devices, out in the fleet for a first look. That is, at this stage, it’s all about testing and learning with prototype devices. Looking ahead, there’s plenty of work left to do with rail guns and lasers — from fundamental research to lab applications to systems engineering, to “soldierizing” and “sailorizing” the devices.
In other words, right now, the new rail gun and laser weapons are slightly more than bench-scale models with a coat of Navy gray paint. Yes, they work but you don’t necessarily want to be standing nearby when somebody pulls the trigger (or pushes a button). But there’s plenty of evolution and development down the line. Of course, along the way, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) needs to — to use another bureaucratic term — “operationalize” the systems.
Early on, we’ll see the new systems sort of “bolted on” to existing platforms, kind of like how early missile systems replaced gun turrets. Eventually, I foresee entirely new kinds of energy-weapon platforms, meaning ships and airplanes that are purpose-built from the inside out to handle the new equipment. There’s a future for budding naval architects and aerospace engineers out there.
It’s fair to say that new rail guns and lasers are poised to complement, if not overtake, previous weapons like traditional guns and missiles. The key point, at this stage, is that with new energy weapon technologies, we’re on the cusp of a dramatic transformation in the fundamental nature of weaponry, platforms and war-fighting doctrine. This will happen, and it’s investable.
The Other Energy Weapon
Over and above rail guns and lasers, though, what if I told you that there’s something else out there, and that it’s even bigger? Do you know that there’s already an astonishingly powerful energy weapon in the U.S. arsenal? It’s not just a single device, to be sure, but rather a system — or, more accurately, a system of systems. It’s already fielded, and it works! I’ve seen it.
Indeed, this new energy weapon is a strategic game-changer. Plus, there’s no waiting for more development on a traditional — meaning slow and expensive — government timetable, because the technology is perfected.
The basic, essential systems are developed. This energy system is quite operational, with effects already making profound changes in how the world works, as well as global perceptions of U.S. power and capabilities.
What’s this new energy development, and why isn’t it getting any press? Why aren’t generals and admirals pounding their chests in triumph and awarding each other medals? Why aren’t politicians dislocating their shoulders patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves for their immense foresight and long-range vision?
Because the politicians, generals and admirals had next to nothing to do with this weapon. It was perfected out in the private economy, for the most part.
The Energy Revolution
I’ll suspend the suspense. I’m talking about the U.S. fracking revolution that has begun to liberate all manner of natural gas and associated oil from shale rock and tight sandstones across the U.S. I assure you that this kind of “new energy” is as much a strategic weapon to the U.S. as a rail gun or laser beam.
Fracking has all manner of issues, of course — environmental, logistic, investment and more. But it offers a pathway to energy security to the U.S. It’s already cutting down on oil imports.
That is, due to increased hydrocarbon output from fracking and shale production, the U.S. is no longer an oil market for entire regions of the world. U.S. oil imports from places like Algeria and Angola have collapsed. Imports from Nigeria are way down, and still falling. Same with oil imports from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations.
On the economic side, fewer oil imports help the U.S. dollar. That’s a key reason for the strong dollar lately. It likely has something to do with the recent fall in gold and silver prices, too, as well as other global commodities. Stronger dollar means weaker everything else.
Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of this write-up. There’s plenty more to say about America’s new energy weapon. Until then.