Weapons Design and Development

Weapons Design and Development

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3984-1.ch002
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The author looks at weapons design in more depth in this chapter and gives a definition. He discusses whether and in what sense weapons design and weapons research are applied science: the author advocates a wide view which allows weapons design to be based on systematic methods that are not necessarily applied science. He discusses the idea of design and the designer intention.
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Defining Weapons Design

Weapons design and development aims at (successfully) designing new or improved types of weapons, including everything that is involved in making weapons work and using them, and so designing command and control systems, delivery platforms, soldier’s body armour, wheels for chariots, and so on, counts as weapons research. And weapons design must be distinguished from weapons production: weapons production can begin only when the design is fully developed. The output of weapons design is therefore not hardware (or software) but knowledge. It is also correct to say that weapons design is a particular kind of R&D (research and development), namely one that is aimed at producing new and improved weapons; but this could be misleading if it is taken to imply that weapons design is a recent phenomenon. If the implication is that weapons research must entail the application of scientific theory and scientific methods, as it did in the Manhattan Project or in the manufacture of artillery shells in the First World War or in many other more recent instances, then the position taken would be that weapons design must indeed be a fairly recent phenomenon, recent with respect to the long history of technology and of artefact production, because R&D that consciously applies science is fairly recent. But as we have seen, technology and artefact production has been in existence for millennia, and it has given rise to a wide range of sophisticated weapons: weapons design and production has been one of the main preoccupations of technology. The engineers, craftsmen, smiths and inventors who produced such new weapons down the centuries must have employed a variety of systematic methods, insofar as what they did followed some kind of rational process. This inference is warranted simply by the fact that they did actually produce sophisticated weapons, from the elaborate catapults of the ancient Greeks to the gunpowder weapons in existence from the fourteenth century. This could not have always happened by chance or good luck; it must have involved the kind of systematic and detailed investigation which is a defining characteristic of research.

There is a difference, and hence a choice, between defining weapons design in a wider or narrower sense, in terms of whether the work does or does not involve the explicit use and application of scientific theory and method. Which style of definition is to be adopted? Is it preferable to discount all work devoted to weapons design before (roughly) the middle of the nineteenth century and define weapons design narrowly as based on science? I have already signalled my preference for the wider definition, and I will now explain why in more detail. First of all, I note that there are those who prefer the narrower viewpoint, including Jean Arrigo, one of the few who have explicitly raised the issue:

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