Weapons and Strategy for Future Wars Two Books Scope out Possible Crises and How the US Will Fight Them

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Digital Soldiers: The Evolution of High-Tech Weaponry and Tomorrow's Brave New Battlefield

By James F. Dunnigan

St. Martin's Press 309 pp., $25.95 The Next War By Caspar Weinberger and Peter Schweizer Regnery Publishing Inc. 470 pp., $27.50 What kind of future wars will the United States be called on to fight? What kind of technology will be most effective in these wars? What weapons will be available and how well will they work? What has history taught us? These are just some of the questions James F. Dunnigan says military strategists must constantly weigh. He makes a frontal assault on them himself, and emerges with a decisive victory, in Digital Soldiers: The Evolution of High-Tech Weaponry and Tomorrow's Brave New Battlefield. If there can be such a thing as a readable book on modern warfare, this is it. Dunnigan leads readers through an acronym-mined terrain of TOWs, SAMs, AWACS, HEATs, and their innumerable brethren. Readers desperate for enlightenment, but short on time, can charge through a 10-minute chapter giving the book's chief conclusions. A glossary helps readers separate SLBMs from ICBMs PDQ (pretty darn quick). Dunnigan doesn't have "star wars" dazzling in his eyes. But he's not exactly a techno-skeptic, either. In the 1960s and '70s, he points out, the press had a field day exposing faults in high-technology weapons. But by the time they were used in the Gulf war, most performed well. "New high-technology weapons may not work at all that well when first released," he writes. "But if you keep improving them, they will eventually become quite capable in combat. A decade or two of use will usually turn any new weapon into something useful on the battlefield." The pitfall is to spend too freely on high-tech glitz and ignore other essentials. "Technology is easy, training is hard," he says. "This is why there are so many well-equipped troops in the world who don't know how to use their weapons very well." The "digital" warfare of the near future means more laser-guided bombs and other "smart" weapons. But it won't mean Terminator-style androids roaming the battlefield. Most crucially, it means a leap forward in communications: Get information to and from your forces faster than the enemy, and you win. "The 'laptop general' and his electronic tendrils will change warfare in ways not seen before in military history," Dunnigan argues. Taking advantage of new technologies also means giving up old assumptions. Robotic or remote-controlled aircraft and missiles will eventually retire one military icon - that glamorous guy in the sky - the fighter pilot. The most efficient ships may be not much more than floating platforms - packed with 500 missiles but 100 or fewer crew members - a far cry from the thousands of sailors aircraft carriers need today. For Dunnigan, the cost of developing new aircraft like the F-22 fighter and B-2 bomber doesn't make fiscal sense. …