The major technology trends to look for in 2016

There's plenty to look forward to in 2016. For starters, we're crafting a Military & Aerospace Electronics industry awards program to reward the most important innovations in the military and aerospace electronics industry. We plan to kick off the program this spring, and present our awards sometime this fall. Stay tuned.

John Keller

There's plenty to look forward to in 2016. For starters, we're crafting a Military & Aerospace Electronics industry awards program to reward the most important innovations in the military and aerospace electronics industry. We plan to kick off the program this spring, and present our awards sometime this fall. Stay tuned.

The year 2016 promises to be an interesting time, with the global war on terror continuing unabated, shifts to national leadership with the presidential election next fall, and international tensions heightening in the Western Pacific involving the military expansion of China.

China is establishing an air and naval base in the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea between the Philippines and Vietnam, in which U.S. military and government forces believe to be international waters. The U.S. Navy continues military patrols in the area, while China warns dire consequences for continuing to do so. On the other side of China, India is looking to the U.S. to buy sophisticated reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to counter what Indian officials claim are border incursions by China.

Look for increased emphasis in 2016 on military technologies like anti-submarine warfare and cooperative sonar, cyber warfare, military UAVs for battlefield and shipboard cargo delivery, adaptive radar and electronic warfare (EW), passive radar and sonar, augmented reality, laser weapons, unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) motherships able to deploy covert reconnaissance and attack UUVs, developments in persistent surveillance, and advanced data mining to uncover potential terrorist threats in social media.

Anti-submarine warfare will be important to keep Chinese submarine developments in check. China not only is starting to deploy advanced nuclear attack and ballistic missile submarines throughout the world, but also is developing nuclear ballistic missiles designed to destroy U.S. carrier battle groups.

Cyber warfare remains of critical importance as suspect Russian, Chinese, and Iranian computer hackers have gained access to U.S. government agencies, as well as to power grids throughout the U.S. in efforts to probe perceived weaknesses.

UAVs for cargo and shipboard cargo deliver will see increased attention as machine autonomy and optionally piloted helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft technology keep forward- deployed troops and sailors supplied without putting human lives at risk.

Adaptive radar and adaptive EW technologies are progressing such that digital technologies can be exploited to reprogram radar and EW systems on the fly to adapt to changing conditions. Passive radar and sonar technologies in the future, likewise, will be important for their stealth value.

Augmented reality involves super- imposing icons to indicate targets, obstacles, and other features on imagery in weapon sights, head-up displays, soldier-worn goggles, and other optical devices. The idea is to blend real-time images with computer graphics to give warfighters an enhanced view of the battlefield.

Laser weapons are poised to take lead roles as fighter aircraft weapons, as well as laser deck guns aboard surface warships. The big advantage to laser weapons - at least in theory - is they never run out of ammunition, so long as a power source is available.

Persistent surveillance is important in the war on terror and conventional warfare. The idea is to look at specific areas for long periods of time, filter out what's routine, and focus on things that are out of the ordinary, which could lead to predicting terrorist attacks or other military events.

Data mining technology will be brought to bear on social media channels next year, helping to identify potential terrorist suspects.

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