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The Next Great Military Techno Thriller Has Finally Arrived
The military techno thriller novel has had a tough time in the post-9/11 world; the Global War on Terror doesn’t present the same opportunities for fictional explorations of bleeding edge technology or speculation about tactics and strategy that the Cold War did for authors like Tom Clancy or Larry Bond. But as the U.S. military hurtles towards an uncertain post-Afghanistan pivot to the Pacific and tensions rise in Eastern Europe, the scene is set for a techno-thriller comeback. “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” a upcoming novel from Peter W. Singer and August Cole and published by Eamon Dolan Books, shows why that comeback is a good thing.
The back cover of “Ghost Fleet” compares the book to Clancy’s debut novel, “The Hunt For Red October,” but Clancy’s 1986 follow-up “Red Storm Rising” is the more apt comparison. “Red Storm Rising” was an exploration of a theoretical shooting war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and how each side’s weapon systems, doctrine, and personnel would perform. The book was as much an analysis and critique of the weapons and tactics of the day as it was a character-driven narrative. “Ghost Fleet” does the same, but looks past contemporary war to more futuristic battlefields. That battlefield is the Pacific and the future adversary is an aggressive China, ruled not by the communist party, but a hybrid between a capitalist technocracy and a military junta called the Directorate.
“Ghost Fleet” reveals its “Red Storm Rising” influences in its narrative as well; the novel features a sprawling cast of characters that create multiple viewpoints on both sides of the conflict. The inclusion of many non-military characters illuminates what impact a major 21st century conventional war would have on American society. It’s here where “Ghost Fleet” diverges from its Clancy roots and becomes more of a pointed critique of the current vision for America’s future on the battlefield. Through their fictional war, Singer and Cole aim to evaluate every aspect of America’s Pacific battleplan, its preparations against cyber attacks, and other future threats.
Almost every technology present in the book is currently receiving some sort of funding from the United States, and “Ghost Fleet” doesn’t hold back any damnations about America’s weapons programs; America is not prepared for Chinese cyber capabilities, lags behind in the development of autonomous systems, and the Littoral Combat Ship program is ultimately not seen as effective. But at least the LCSs got some shots off in this faux-World War III; anyone who’s a F-35 fan will be unhappy to see America’s most expensive aircraft program reduced to a non-factor.
Beyond peering into the future of military technology and strategy, Singer and Cole look to the everyday technology of the near future. Virtual and augmented reality, smart wearables, and the proliferation of chemical performance stimulants all help build the world of “Ghost Fleet” without getting bogged down in unnecessary background detail. The authors also deftly avoid any exact references to dates; letting the reader judge how near or far the book’s events really are.
The broad cast of characters lets “Ghost Fleet” be more varied in its perspective than “Red Storm Rising,” allowing it to tackle some the interactions of the between American civil and military society. What does a military derived from the post-Millennium generation look like? What is the military generation gap like when America’s older veterans are those who fought in Desert Storm? What is the role of American corporate power when America is in a full conventional war? Are there capabilities that private military forces have that America lacks? More than just speculation, these topics drive the narrative and keep “Ghost Fleet” interesting beyond the military minutiae.
It’s difficult to imagine two better writers than Singer and Cole to tackle the ins and outs of the military technology on display in “Ghost Fleet” — both are defense analysts who have written extensively on a plethora of topics such as unmanned systems, private military contracts, war in space, and the cyber battlefield. Their pedigree in defense think tanks lends an important credence to the military details. But the fact that they elevated “Ghost Fleet” beyond just a techno-thriller equipment catalog into a quick-paced, compelling novel makes it all the easier to recommend.
“Ghost Fleet” will be available on June 30.
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Trump: $6.1 billion in DoD money going to border wall wasn’t for anything that seemed ‘too important to me’
President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."
Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."
D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.
"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."