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What will the RAAF look like in 2121?

The 20th century saw some of the greatest and fastest technological advancements. With ever quickening advances, what wonders will the 22nd bring? In this #AirForce2121 piece, John Ruddy turns his eyes to the future, looking at how our complex world will rise to the challenges of contested space, geopolitical alliances, and the conflict between technological advancement and our environment. Ruddy takes the RAAF and throws it into a world that has changed in interesting ways - including new branches to keep pushing humanity forward.

It is 2121, several decades after the devastating events of World War III and the biggest population decline in history. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) differs greatly from the previous two centuries, which saw advances in aviation fuelled by liberal access to crude oil giving rise to airspace dominance through fast, agile and powerful air vehicles. With Earth’s crude oil stores depleted and a global ban on synthetic oil production, the days of afterburning jet aircraft have gone forever.

Instead, the RAAF collaborates with long-term and new allies worldwide to maintain global peace from Earth’s orbit by a Jovian ring defence system. Like the rings of Jupiter, it is made up of trillions of dust sized devices where each device is a fully functional surveillance, defender or actor satellite. Orbiting the Earth, the surveillance devices collaborate to provide a real-time picture of any anomalies, aggressors or non-compliance on Earth below. There is no longer the need to communicate this picture back to Earth, as the on-board Artificial Intelligence (AI) is able to perform the required synthesis and ethical decision-making, passing it onto the defender and/or actor satellites as necessary.

Similarly, the defender satellites are able to stop any aggressors on the Earth’s surface. With all Earth’s systems now electrical based, the defenders simply pulse a highly energised precise gamma ray spike to the offending device, rendering it dead. The accuracy of the gamma ray is such that it can disable a handheld device without harming the user. This is quite different from the philosophy used 100 years ago where the local threat environment was simply neutralised; reflecting the advances of ethical AI which above all else, must preserve human life, irrespective of whether or not they are the aggressor.

Actor satellites operate in a similar mode to that of the defenders, except they only engage to the benefit of the situation on Earth, for example providing energy to remote areas, aiding search and rescue efforts etc. With the precise gamma ray technology, the actors can energise remote power stations, robots and transport. The actors can also be used to message and de-escalate any potential aggressor to help prevent an attack, long before it starts.

The major advantage of a Jovian ring defence system is due to the incredibly small size of each satellite and the volume of the satellites spanning a ring around the entire Earth; any attack on the satellites has no effect on the overall system – missiles and other space debris pass straight through the band. The ring is not visible from Earth, due to the small satellite size and the fact it is always moving, which makes targeting the ring very difficult for any aggressors.

As a result of WWIII, many non-alliance countries remain uninhabitable from nuclear war. Consequently, the significant population decline and the fall of many governments has led to nations no longer having the ability or will to challenge each other. Instead, aggressors are typically small groups, dispersed and intermixed with civilised society. In these times, the primary role of the RAAF and new allies worldwide is to collaboratively monitor the outcomes from the automated Jovian ring defence system as a global defence force and develop upgrades to stay ahead of any aggressors.

As was in 2021 and 1921, organic human beings still roam the Earth and the RAAF still has operational aircraft. As the Jovian ring system is able to maintain peace, aircraft are no longer designed or used for tools of war, but instead, designed to support humanitarian efforts as the Earth still battles to repair climate damage from the industrial revolution. The aircraft are no longer reliant on crude oil, but are dual powered by anti-gravity and harmonic pulsing drives and look very different to those from 100 years ago.

In the early 2100s, scientists were making great discoveries with dark matter, the stuff that makes up 85% of our multiverse. In doing so, they mastered the so-called weak force of gravity by discovering anti-gravity, the polar opposite to gravity that must exist for equilibrium. Identifying a completely new branch of physics, dark physics was born, and anti-gravity engines soon materialised as a result of intense collaborative work with RAAF research and development. These engines trip the balance between gravity and anti-gravity to generate lift such that the energy input is only the energy required to trip that switch. Thrust is provided through harmonic pulsing drives which electromagnetically energise sub-atomic particles to resonate, aligned in the same direction to the thrust vector. Each subatomic particle contributes a very small amount of kinetic energy which accumulated over the entire air vehicle results in thrust. There is no induction, combustion or exhaust and no environmental impact from either the anti-gravity trip or sub-atomic resonance drive. Although the aircraft are much slower than their 2021 counterpart, they are still functional for the job. The RAAF demonstrate this at air shows, which remain a great annual event for the RAAF, demonstrating their technological advances whilst caring intently for the environment.

The latest branch of the RAAF is the Multiverse Defence branch, which following the discovery of intelligent life outside of our solar system, strives to find a way to reach that other world. It is hoped further studies in dark physics will provide a breakthrough; however, what awaits the Multiverse Defence branch when they reach that destination remains unknown and a new challenge for power and peace may ensue.

The RAAF continues to honour its legacy with the same hierarchy, opportunities, respect and service it has always had. With the addition of the Space Defence branch over 90 years prior followed by the Multiverse Defence branch in 2090, the RAAF continues to be the best air force in the world.

Blue Skies and Colourful Verses

John Ruddy is Head of Design at Northrop Grumman Australia and holds a holds a MEng in Aeronautical Engineering, CPEng, CEng, & RPEQ. He began his engineering career at a young age, learning how to rebuild engines and repair electrical components before becoming a graduate engineer with BAE Systems at Prestwick Airport, working as an operational performance and aerodynamics engineer on BAE jet and prop aircraft. Since then, he has worked for Aeronautical Engineers Australia, Cobham Aviation and Boeing Defence Australia in a variety of technical roles.