During the Aspen Security Forum, which took place from July 18 to 21, Esper confirmed that the US Army is shifting its focus, which since 2001 has been primarily concerned with waging lower-tech counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, back to investing in high-tech weapons that will give the US an "advantage on a modern battlefield," military.com reported Sunday.
Now, with the US planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and with Daesh and al-Qaeda on the brink of elimination, the Army is now focusing on replacing the weapons it has used since the 1980s with semi-autonomous robots that can take down enemies without striking American lives.
"We need to make sure we are ready for the fight 10 or 15 years from now," Esper said at the forum Saturday.
In April, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood told US policymakers at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces that he is concerned about the capability of Russia and China's hypersonic weapons research and development.
"We are very seriously concerned about the rate of development we see [in hypersonics] in China and also in Russia," he said.
In response to the competition, US President Donald Trump ordered the US Department of Defense to create the Space Force as the sixth branch of the US Armed Forces in June.
"I'm hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," Trump stated at the opening of a White House meeting of the National Space Council in June, Sputnik reported. "We have the Air Force and we're going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal."
In July, the Pentagon also requested that Congress allocate precisely $20 million for an air-launched hypersonic attack weapon that can travel five times the speed of sound, Sputnik reported at the time.
According to Esper, the Army is also working on replacing ground vehicles like the M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle used by the infantry, with drone-like ground robots instead.
The robots would "find and fix the enemy and engage them while the manned forces maneuver," Esper noted. In addition, hypersonic rockets and anti-aircraft lasers will also become part of the Army's inventory in the near future. The Army is also developing combat rifles that will allow soldiers to fire from long ranges. Night-vision goggles will also be generated virtual reality training.
"It's the biggest organizational change since 1973," Esper said.
"Whoever gets there first will have unmatched lethality on the battlefield for years to come," he added.