In 2027, war breaks out in Romania. The United States loses to Russia, whose military forces use drones and computer viruses to disable 70-ton American tanks.
This fictional conflict happens in , a comic book published by The Army Cyber Institute at West Point. It paints a grim vision of a future in which Russian forces use technology to exploit the U.S. Army’s vulnerabilities.
According to , the comic takes place nine years in the future. The union of Moldova and NATO member Romania triggers a Russian invasion, and U.S. M-1 Abrams tanks are ordered to defend the frontier. Russian forces launch a pair of cyber attacks against NATO, disabling scout drones and blinding Army tankers to the Russian onslaught.
Moments before the attack, Russian hackers exploit an unpatched software vulnerability in the Abrams, preventing the American tanks from firing their guns and jamming their steering. Advancing Russian tanks and unmanned ground vehicles shoot the helpless American tanks to pieces. The comic closes with Russian forces advancing menacingly on a U.S. consulate.
Although light on details—it’s a comic book after all—the story is meant to illustrate what could happen to U.S. caught unprepared in the era of cyberwarfare. NATO forces have reconnaissance drones as well as their own unmanned ground vehicles that confer big advantages, but they also create capability gaps if suddenly neutralized. In the comic, American tankers are sent forward after the recon drones go down, drawing them out of their protected positions and rendering them vulnerable.
Similarly, the advanced embedded in U.S. tanks allows army forces to easily keep track of friendly and enemy forces. In the comic, an unpatched software bug in the Blue Force software allows the Russians to insert a virus that disables the tanks for the upcoming battle.
Despite the best efforts of generals and military thinkers, new wars often hold surprises for all sides. Silent Ruin is one attempt to imagine how future wars might play out in order to minimize surprise and prepare for unexpected developments.
Could it happen? Maybe not exactly the way Silent Ruin portrays it. But as computer hardware, software, and particularly wireless networking become increasingly essential parts of military technology the opportunities for adversaries to exploit weaknesses will grow, creating a digital Maginot Line.
Read Silent Ruin .