BRITISH soldiers could be replaced on battlefields of the future by autonomous drones that drop torpedoes and carry troops to safety.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace made the shock claim on Monday as he set out plans for the military to become "relentlessly innovative".
Mr Wallace warned that Britain’s enemies have "adapted far more quickly than us".
He was speaking at an event aboard the newest navy ship, HMS Tamar, in London, ahead of the publication of a major defence review.
Britain's armed forces will be reshaped to be "fit for tomorrow's battles, not fighting yesterday's" under the review, Mr Wallace said.
"Our values and interests are being challenged in the grey zone all over the world," he told a small crowd aboard Tamar, an offshore patrol vessel.
"So the Integrated Review – the deepest and most far-reaching for decades – will represent a step change.
"Not just in how we adapt to the threat, but in how Whitehall faces up to the difficult decisions that must be made."
Mr Wallace was flanked by two drones that are under development for use by the Royal Navy.
The first, dubbed the T-400, can carry heavy loads up to 12 miles and has been described as the "pick-up truck of the air".
Developed by Maidenhead firm Malloy Aeronautics, the unpiloted vehicle could carry and drop torpedoes to attack enemy warships.
The quadcopter – capable of hauling up to 180kg (400lb) of gear through the air – could also carry ammunition to troops on the battlefield or lift wounded soldiers away from danger.
A technical adviser to the navy’s chief technology officer told the Daily Mail: "Think Amazon, deliver it to anywhere. It could be whatever you want it to be. It could be for bringing out someone that is injured.
"You could put them in a tube, they have looked at it for casevac (casualty evacuation), because it can get someone who is injured back far quicker than going by roads or putting medical people where it is dangerous."
A second piece of killer kit displayed on Monday was a new counter-drone vehicle called the Anduril Anvil.
Built by California firm Anduril Industries, it's a flying battering ram that destroys enemy drones by smashing into them mid-air.
The Anvil is loaded with cameras and other sensing technology that helps it autonomously track its target through the skies.
Both drones could be launched from British warships to help them with battles of the future. It's not clear when the Navy plans to deploy them.
Mr Wallace said the "world beating" systems were part of plans to make the UK military "nimbler" in future.
The Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development is due to conclude in the autumn.
It is regarded as the biggest assessment of foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
Mr Wallace said he expected the armed forces after the review to be "prepared for persistent global engagement, and constant campaigning"; to be "relentlessly innovative"; and to continue to project the UK's global military power and influence.
Terrifying space weapons of the future
Here are three of the scariest…
Rods from God
- A strange but utterly terrifying weapon has been dubbed "rods from the God" and is based on the concept of creating man-made meteorites that can be guided towards the enemy.
- Instead of using rocks rods the size of telephone poles are deployed.
- These would be made out of tungsten — a rare metal that can stand the intense heat generated by entering Earth's atmosphere.
- One satellite fires the rods towards the Earth's atmosphere while the other steers them to a target on the ground.
- Reaching speeds of 7000mph they hit the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon — but crucially creating no radiation fall out.
- As bizarre as it sounds, a US Congressional report recently revealed the military has been pushing ahead with the kinetic space weapons.
Molten metal cannons
- This intriguing idea is being developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
- It is called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or MAHEM.
- This game changing rail-gun can fire a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred miles per second by the most powerful electromagnets ever built.
- The molten metal can then morph into an aerodynamic slug during flight and pierce through another spacecraft or satellite and a munition explodes inside.
Space force ships
- Already the United States is powering head with its spacecraft, although China is busy developing one of their own.
- The top secret American XS-1 under development by DARPA.
- It can travel ten times the speed of sound and launch missiles.
- Meanwhile an unmanned craft is currently being developed in the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province, which is also known as Base 29.
"Our Integrated Review will deliver an honest proposition for a modern workforce," he said.
Britain's most senior military officer, speaking alongside the Defence Secretary, suggested that despite the new approach, modern warfare would still require troops and heavy armour.
General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said: "Whilst the character of conflict evolves continuously – and this integrated operating concept is a response to that – the nature of war never changes.
"It will always be visceral, violent and about politics, and ultimately it will always require people to go head to head on the ground to seek a result and a decision.
"It never changes and we should bear that in mind and history would underpin it."
In other military tech news, Russia recently showed off its "ground force" of killer robots in an unsettling video.
Super-strong robots that "make the Terminator look puny" are already on the way.
And here's how the Ancient Greeks predicted killer robots, driverless cars and even Amazon Alexa speakers.
What do you think the Royal Navy will use its drones for? Let us know in the comments!
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