War is an incredibly complex thing. It’s so complex that, in the many years since we waged our battles with sharpened steel, many have lost sight of the simplicity of the fight itself. War is complicated because of the countless influences, internal variables within warring parties, and long-lasting ramifications of violence — but waging war itself is still a fairly simple enterprise: you destroy the enemy, their assets, and the infrastructure that supports them, and you keep at it until they give up, or there’s no one left to fight.

The United States, perhaps better than any other nation on earth, demonstrates the incredible value associated with finding varied methods to deliver this destruction. From rifles to airplanes, from submarines to satellites, everything about the American defensive infrastructure is designed to destroy the enemy before the enemy has a chance to destroy you (or, in point of fact, to deter them from trying at all). Technologies that one seemed so advanced they were relegated to science fiction are now common place on battlefields occupied by American troops, but ultimately, all of those tools are brought to bear in the very same way bronze age battle axes were: you destroy the enemy, their assets, and their infrastructure until the war is won. One could argue that some weapons are more humane, others too gruesome, but death remains the result regardless.

In the simplest terms, wars are won by the side that can levy the most destruction while absorbing the least in return. This mindset led to the advent of spears, bows and arrows, firearms, and nuclear missiles. Weapons are developed with this goal in mind, then defensive systems are established to counter those weapons. New weapons arise, and the process is repeated. This cycle has been ongoing for millennia, but throughout there have been certain technologies that have shifted the course of warfare doctrine so completely that the way wars were waged had to change: technologies like the use of iron, airplanes, or the atomic bomb.

Now, a new technology is in its infancy that promises to change the way wars are fought all over again, but of course, the violence remains the same. Hypersonic ballistic missiles, traveling at speeds that are too fast to intercept and arriving with enough destructive kinetic force to forgo explosive munitions altogether in some cases, could feasibly shift the entire approach developed nations take to warfare — and possible even render many of the tried and true platforms we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the battlefield utterly obsolete.