The U.S. government has requested a budget of $773 billion from Congress for 2023.

There are a lot of areas that this budget will cover, and one of the most crucial is R&D (research and development). R&D in the military leads to the latest technological advancements, and a larger budget means more impressive technologies on the horizon.

The U.S. military works to stay ahead of the rest of the world, but this requires hard work and reliable resources. Having this funding is essential to ensure our military can produce what they need to stay at the forefront of global military forces.

For a rundown of the key U.S. military R&D trends for 2023, keep reading.

The Importance of U.S. Military R&D

When comparing two military forces, one of the most important differences will be the technology that they have available. R&D leads directly to new technologies, and as such, it’s one of the most crucial elements of any military.

The U.S. military needs to ensure that its R&D can provide the technology and weaponry needed (or potentially needed) to securely maintain national security. When talking about the increased R&D budget for the military in 2023, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated “We understand the need to sharpen our readiness in advanced technology, cyber, space, and artificial intelligence”.

7 Key U.S. Military R&D Trends for 2023

Even in times of peace, the military needs to ensure they’re prepared for any situation. That means working on modern technologies and determining how to best implement them. In 2023 there will be advancements in various fields that will ensure the U.S. military is a step ahead of the rest of the world.

1. Increased Spending on Robotics

In 2020, the military robots market reached a size of $14.5 billion, and this is expected to grow to $24.2 billion by 2025. As robotics have become more advanced, the U.S. government has increased the military budget for the technology dramatically in recent years.

As it stands, 20 different robotics programs are currently running within the military. There are several benefits to advanced robotics in such a sector.

The primary advantage is that robots can take on far more risk than soldiers. A damaged or destroyed robot will be a financial loss, but this is always better than a loss of life.

Robots also have certain capabilities that make them superior to humans. Firstly, they can operate continuously without getting tired – as long as a robot has a suitable power source it can function 24/7 without the risk of physical or mental fatigue. They can also often observe situations more comprehensively and can process complicated information instantly.

There are already robots in use for a range of military applications. One such example is Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida where they have semi-autonomous robotic dogs patrolling the grounds.

While these have also been deployed in other locations, we’re still in the early stages of robotic implementation in the military. Throughout 2023 and beyond, we can expect to see various advancements leading to further applications.

It’s worth noting that some governments are opposed to the use of autonomous weapons systems for ethical reasons. As the U.S. doesn’t share this opposition, research and development will continue, and likely increase.

2. Advances in Hypersonic Systems

The speed of sound is 761 mph, and an object is hypersonic if it’s moving 5x faster than this. Even though basic hypersonic technology has existed for decades, it’s only recently that the military has begun with testing and launching.

One of the applications of this technology is in missiles. They’re able to maneuver in the air and can fly at low altitudes. Because of this, many current missile defense systems can’t track them.

While the U.S. is one of the leading countries in this area, China and Russia are also both working on their own. This includes hypersonic weapons, as well as defense systems to protect from them.

The U.S. military launched its first hypersonic test missile in March 2022, and there are now multiple different hypersonic weapons currently in development.

The military has invested in several companies that are working on hypersonic technology. Hermeus, for example, was given a military contract to determine the viability of using hypersonic technology within a Presidential fleet of planes.

A lot of development will go into this technology over the coming year. This is in part due to its potential applications, but also to ensure the U.S. stays ahead of other nations.

3. New Opportunities With 3D Printing

3D printing has advanced quickly in recent years. It’s now at a point where hobbyists are even making use of the technology. With that being said, there are still multiple military applications, and plenty more will arise in the future.

One application that’s currently in the R&D scope is advanced munitions. These are expected to provide a longer range, higher velocity, and increased penetration. Another plan that the military is working on is the printing of truck exteriors in a single piece rather than multiple pieces assembled together.

A problem that the Navy currently faces is a shortage of supply for specific parts for submarines. This includes forgings, fittings, and castings. There is a plan in place to work with additive manufacturers to 3D print such parts so that they have enough to reduce the strained supply.

Every year, the Military Additive Manufacturing Summit (MIL AM) & Technology Showcase takes place, and this year it will be February 1st – February 3rd. It focuses on military, defense, and aerospace 3D printing.

Military, government, and industry professionals have the chance to come together and share ideas and developments. From here, they can develop new strategies to use 3D printing technology for advancements in various areas. There will likely be discussions relating to U.S. Space Force Operations, JAMWG education, and workforce development that will lead to future applications within the military and beyond.

4. Directed Energy Weapons

This is another technology that has been around for a while but is only now becoming viable. Directed energy weapons fire a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy or atomic or subatomic particles. The main difference between these and traditional weapons is that there’s no projectile.

Some examples of these include:

  • Particle beam weapons
  • High-energy lasers
  • High-power microwave devices

Development of such weapons began around 20 years ago but they were limited by the technology of the time. They were large and heavy, making them somewhat impractical. Recent advancements have made them smaller and lighter, to the point where they’re now far more practical.

Some of the benefits of these weapons are:

  • Generally silent
  • Can be invisible
  • Fast
  • Flexible
  • Can engage multiple targets at once
  • Unaffected by environmental factors (wind, gravity, etc.)

Another key characteristic of these weapons is that as they don’t use projectiles, they don’t rely on ammunition. They instead use a power supply and should be able to keep firing until the power source is depleted. This will likely make them cheaper both “per shot” as well as over the weapon’s lifetime.

The directed energy weapon market is expected to grow to $10.1 billion by 2026 (from $4.3 billion in 2021). With this growth will come new developments, and we’re likely to see various types of lethal and non-lethal solutions.

It’s worth noting, however, that there are currently very few legal constraints in place regarding directed energy weapons. As development continues, this will most likely change and there may be certain limitations that restrict what’s possible.

Due to the nature of directed energy weapons, they may be far more suitable for potential future space combat than traditional weapons. While this is a long way off, the U.S. Space Force is already working on such weapons for this purpose.

5. Renewed Focus on Electronic Warfare

Electronic warfare is nothing new. One aspect of it is communication jamming. While this has existed for some time, specific programs have generally been kept secret.

One such program that is known about is the CCS (Counter Communications System) deployed in 2004. It’s a portable system that can block enemy satellite communications. The CCS is regularly updated, and the U.S. Space Force has partnered with L3Harris Technologies to continue to do so through 2025.

These updates are projected to double the capability of the CCS as it is now. It will also reduce size power requirements, increase automation, and enhance missions. Specific details haven’t been made clear, but analysts believe it can currently block C, Ku, and X-band frequency communications (and possibly Ka-band).

The Space Force isn’t the only branch of the military working on communication jamming. The Navy currently has a contract with Raytheon Technologies which is developing 5 advanced electronic jammers. These can cause various disruptions in communications, computer systems, and radar.

The Army is also developing electronic warfare solutions, and the number of personnel in this area will potentially triple over the next 2 years. One of the projects they have in the works is a 300-pound drone-mounted jamming pod – however, they are currently having funding issues.

6. The Growing Threat of Cyber Warfare

Over the years the internet has become far more prominent in all aspects of life. While it provides a wide range of benefits, it also creates risks. In terms of the military, cyber-warfare has become a major threat.

As such, there has been a lot of research and development into methods of defense against cyber vulnerabilities, and this will only increase moving forward. In the past, this has been very different from traditional warfare but has grown closer with time.

Hackers can launch cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, causing major disruptions. This could be things like communications systems or electrical grids for example. This can significantly weaken defenses, so the military continues to work to combat such threats.

The Marine Corps, for example, have formed 4 positions based on this:

  • Interactive On-Net Operator
  • Exploitation Analyst
  • Host Analyst
  • Network Analyst

Other branches of the military have created similar positions to help in this area. U.S. Cyber Command was once part of the NSA (National Security Agency) but now operates as an independent military command. It currently has more than 6,000 military personnel, and this will likely continue to grow.

U.S. Cyber Command requested $236 million in April 2022. This is intended to bolster things like training, intelligence capabilities, and operational support.

7. Nuclear Advancements

The U.S. Nuclear Triad is a military structure made up of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines, and nuclear-capable bomber aircraft. There are plans to modernize all three of these in 2023.

One example of this is the Trident II Ballistic Missile (submarine-launched). There’s a planned investment of $1.68 billion for 2023 to make modifications in the coming year. Funds are also in the pipeline to make several other improvements, including:

  • Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine
  • B-21 Bomber
  • Long-Range Standoff Cruise Missile
  • New Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent
  • Nuclear command, control, and communications

There are still concerns about using nuclear power for warfare. Despite that, the U.S. military is still working hard to improve nuclear technology.

In general, the government and military forces consider nuclear power to be too important to ignore. Moving into 2023 and beyond, there will be further research and development, leading to more advancements and potential uses.

The Future of the U.S. Military

With all of these U.S. military R&D trends for 2023, there will continue to be major advancements moving forward. This is in terms of new technology, as well as older technology becoming far more viable.

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