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Disruptive Technology will Have Profound Impact on Future Warfare

Enhancement in digital technologies like AI, Machine Learning, Big Data, IoMT and GIS is bound to change the way information is acquired, collated, analyzed and disseminated, says Lieutenant General Chandi Prasad Mohanty, Vice Chief of the Army Staff.

How do you assess the impact of China’s economic and military expansion, and its belligerence on the global security scenario; and how can we ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region?

China has taken umpteen steps in recent years to modernize its military and has improved its capabilities to exert influence far beyond its maritime or continental borders. Unprecedented economic growth over the last few decades has enabled China to secure overseas investment, resources and power. Debt diplomacy coupled with overt military belligerence in South and East China Seas, as well as Eastern Ladakh, have led to an environment of uncertainty and volatility in the region.

The Indo-Pacific signifies the confluence of the Indian and Pacific oceans, and is home to over 64% of world population, 62% of global GDP and 50% of global trade. India is a pivotal force in this region and is steadfastly working to achieve peace and stability through cooperation in maritime security, open trade, connectivity and risk mitigation amongst the littoral states. Capacity building of all stakeholders in the region has been a priority for India in countering non-traditional security challenges, such as crime, piracy, drugs, arms and human trafficking, and Climate Change. ‘Quad’ as a grouping of like-minded countries which share the global commons is an attempt towards a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific region.

Modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data, Internet of Things and GIS are playing an important role in warfare. How can our defense forces adapt faster to the changing technologies?

Disruptive technologies would bring about a quantum change in the way future wars are fought. Enhancement in digital technologies like AI, ML, Big Data, IoMT (Internet of Military Things) and GIS is bound to change the way information is acquired, collated, analyzed and disseminated. These are dual use technologies that would have a profound impact on future warfare.

The Indian Army is abreast with these advancements and is adopting measures to identify the domains where these technologies can be assimilated. Some of these domains include lethal autonomous weapon systems, unmanned patrolling and ISR, threat modeling, war game simulation and training, supply chain and logistics, and predictive maintenance. After having identified the military fields of application, modes of induction through IDEX, Make II, TDF (Technology Development Fund) and R&D have also been identified. There are measures/steps under progress for Tri-Services application of these technologies in an integrated and joint manner. There is an endeavor to improve our teeth to tail ratio by incorporating these technologies to reduce our logistics footprint.

Lieutenant General Chandi Prasad Mohanty took charge as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff in February this year

Recent border clashes have highlighted the value of satellite data and analytics more than ever. How is the Indian Army enhancing this capability, and does it plan to utilize the commercial satellite industry to support it in this endeavor?

Space offers immense force-multiplication capability for the Armed Forces, hence dependence on Space for military application is rapidly increasing. ISRO, under the Department of Space (DoS), drives India’s civil and commercial Space requirements. The Tri-Services Defence Space Agency (DSA) under HQ IDS has been created to enhance peaceful exploitation of the Space domain for military purposes. DSA is mandated to fulfil its charter in conjunction with ISRO, DoS and DRDO. The Government of India’s recent decision to open the Space domain to commercial enterprises and directions to ISRO to handhold them is a positive step and should provide the much-needed additional avenues for strategic users to build capability.

Conventional wars are increasingly being replaced by hybrid approaches to conflict, often stopping short of war. In this hybrid construct, both Space and cyber are opening up new frontiers in warfare. How is the Indian Army adapting to these changes?

While methods of prosecuting military operations have forayed into non-kinetic domains like cyber, Space and human psychology, conventional wars still remain a possibility, even though it may not be a ‘total war’. The Indian Army is adapting well to this transformation and there does exist seamless coordination between various stakeholders. A robust cyber framework is in place to cater to cybersecurity requirements of various organizations.

As far as utilization of Space capabilities is concerned, necessary measures are in place to harness it in the fields of surveillance, ISR, communication, etc. The capability exists to exploit it as a primary source of information as well as to act as redundancy in communication. The technology demonstrations in Space have exhibited our capabilities and would also act as a deterrent to our potential adversaries.

The Indian Army is abreast with modern technology advancements and is adopting measures to identify the domains where these technologies can be assimilated

Drones are causing disruption in warfare. Can you elaborate on the Army’s plans on utilizing drones and countering their use by adversaries?

The use of drones for military purposes has been a significant game changer in recent conflicts. Swarm drones with AI have led to disruptive effects in warfare, as seen during recent Nagorno-Karabakh and Syrian conflicts. Their versatility emanates from the variety of payloads and flexibility afforded due to endurance and range of operations. Drones have not only resulted in enhanced battlefield situational awareness but also facilitated the operational tempo. We have been employing UAVs of foreign origin for quite some time for communication, ISR, electronic warfare, etc. The indigenous drone ecosystem is still evolving in terms of production of micro/mini/tac drones and in areas of manned/unmanned teaming.

Counter drone solutions are also keeping pace with continuously evolving drone technologies. The varieties of drones available in different shapes, size, speeds and capabilities makes it a challenge to counter them with a single method. The aspects of detection, identification and location technologies are also difficult due to low radar cross-section, slow speed and size. The various stakeholders in the Army have been assigned with clearly defined goals in short and medium terms to defeat the adversary drone/unmanned systems. Towards this end we have had demonstrations of some promising prototypes which are under development.

While self-reliance in defense production is a must, the requirement of state-of-the-art weapon systems in a timely manner cannot be over emphasized. How can there be a balance between these seemingly conflicting requirements?

India has been amongst the top three military spenders in the world, importing most of its requirements from foreign countries. However, with ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India), a concerted effort has been made to promote self-reliance in the field of defense technology and indigenous production. Some of the aspects include issuing a positive list of indigenization, raising FDI (foreign direct investment) limit in the defense sector and spending a proportion of capital budget for domestic capital procurement. Notwithstanding the self-reliance mantra, a proportion of state-of-the-art systems can also be inducted in order to retain technological edge, without waiting for the domestic industry to mature.

A long-term integrated perspective plan of the defense requirements would give the industry a clear picture of future requirements and provide a level playing field. Steps like establishment of a nodal agency like Indigenous Defence Equipment Export Association, switching from low value items to high value indigenous combat platforms like tanks, armored fighting vehicles, guns, aircraft, helicopters, destroyers and frigates would also encourage potential foreign buyers. Ultimately, defense industry matures over a period of time and an entire ecosystem has to be set up to support the process.

Space offers immense force-multiplication capability for the Armed Forces, hence dependence on Space for military application is rapidly increasing. As far as utilization of Space capabilities is concerned, necessary measures are in place to harness it in the fields of surveillance, ISR, communication, etc

The Government of India recently promulgated new guidelines for acquiring and producing geospatial data services including maps. How do you see the Army benefitting from the recent relaxation in the rules, and are there any security concerns?

The new guidelines promulgated by the Department of Science and Technology have subsumed all the existing Ministry of Defence/other ministerial guidelines and have liberalized mapping and acquiring geospatial data to a much greater extent. This would definitely result in enhanced participation by private players and make acquisition of geospatial data by the industry a lot easier. However, there are concerns due to relaxation in guidelines for acquisition of geospatial data which is a prime resource for national security requirements. These concerns have been highlighted to the ministry from time to time for incorporation of regulatory mechanisms to ensure availability of data to legitimate entities. Although the aspects of liberalization of data acquisition and ease of doing business are well acknowledged, the same should be done with the requisite regulatory mechanism in place to prevent pilferage of sensitive geospatial data.

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