Taking into account the global spectrum of conflict, in the Eurasian regional dynamics, Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities and China’s expertise in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in augmenting its high-tech warfare mechanisms have intimidated the high-tech threshold of Ukraine and consequently, NATO’s combat potential to wage war with certain success.
The military applications optimising autonomous systems and using the concept of non-contact warfare in the emerging digitised battlefield, crack the crucible of conventionality on warfare technologies, thus enabling the orchestration of innovative strategic and operational weapon platform-centric systems in concert with hybrid warfighting strategies.
In a hybrid environment, an operating concept must establish the conditions and essential parameters, and provide a derived diachronic framework prudent enough to conform to the ideology, technology, and even de novo ideas about warfare. It’s imperative that the conceived document should embody the wherewithal of force composition, high-end technology and adaptation of new platform-centric weapons and military systems commensurate to effectively engage adversarial combat potentialities.
It must also offer compatible solutions, and contingencies to operational problems across the global spectrum to joint and integrated military operations, in consonance with strategized plans, thereby safeguarding Indian national interests in the twenty-first century, predicated in its doctrine of multi-domain operations.
2022 was the year of path-breaking reforms for the Ministry of Defence as giant strides were made with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the helm to transform the military into a youthful, modern and ‘Aatmanirbhar’ force, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
While the Armed Forces were equipped with state-of-the-art weapons/equipment/ technologies manufactured by a self-reliant indigenous industry, a major reform was rolled out with the aim to build a youthful and tech-savvy military ready to meet future challenges.
Continuous efforts to increase defence exports to achieve the collective goal of global peace and prosperity. (1)
A strong and well-equipped military provides a country with the immunity to resist attack and thwart unprovoked aggression from external sources and deal with any kind of internal disturbance. It works as a defence mechanism and reflects the country’s military capability and capacity to defend itself against hostile countries.
Equipping the military with the latest technology and modernising the existing inventory of weapons and surveillance systems is therefore crucial for any country. India too needs to build a strong military force armed with all types of technologically-advanced defence equipment to strengthen its security and intelligence and to secure its territorial integrity. (2)
Salient Aspects: Defence Transformative Reform
The INS Vikrant showcased the country’s growing prowess of indigenous manufacturing on the path towards ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ with 76 per cent indigenous content, equipped with state-of-the-art equipment/systems, designed with a very high degree of automation for machinery operations, ship navigation and survivability; consisting of 30 aircraft comprising MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31, and MH-60R multi-role helicopters.
The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’ developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), inducted into the Indian Air Force in Jodhpur in October 2022. The LCH is the first indigenous Multi-Role Combat Helicopter which has potent ground attack and aerial combat capability and formidable night attack capability. It’s capable of operating from high-altitude terrain and carrying out precision strikes at high-altitude targets.
The Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 325, operating the indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Mk-III, having advanced radar as well as electro-optical sensors, Shakti engines, advanced communication and automatic identification system, does all weather maritime reconnaissance.
The two frontline warships of the Indian Navy, viz ‘Surat’ and ‘Udayagiri’ are the fourth Stealth-Guided Missile Destroyer of P15B class, while ‘Udayagiri’ is the second Stealth Frigate of P17A class. The Diving Support/Survey vessels, viz Nistar and Nipun, are equipped with an array of complex Diving Support Systems and Deep Submergence.
Rescue Vessels are being deployed for deep-sea diving and submarine rescue operations. The foundation stone was laid for the C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing facility in Vadodara; Indian Air Force through collaboration between Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Airbus Defence and Space S.A., Spain; at a cost of Rs21,935 crore. The aircraft can be used for civilian purposes as well.
The Union Budget 2022-23 had a total allocation under capital outlay of Defence Services enhanced to Rs 1.52 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23. Nearly 68 per cent of the capital procurement budget was earmarked for domestic industry to promote self-reliance and reduce import dependency. Defence exports grew by 334 per cent in the last five years, touching a record Rs 13,000 crore in Financial Year 2021-22. India is now exporting defence equipment to over 75 countries. (3)
DefExpo 2022: Showcasing Aatmanirbharta
The 12th and largest-ever defence exhibition, ‘DefExpo 2022’, marked the emergence of India’s defence industry as a sunrise sector for investment on a global scale, in line with the theme ‘Path to Pride’. Organised exclusively for Indian companies, the five-day event witnessed unparalleled participation of more than 1,340 exhibitors, businesses, investors, start-ups, MSMEs, Armed Forces and delegates from several countries, with engagements spread over four venues. The overwhelming response of investors and businesses showed that the objective of a defence sector worth $22 billion, with exports of Rs35,000 crore by 2025, will be achieved.
The conclusion of 451 MoUs, Transfer of Technology agreements, product launches and orders to domestic businesses, worth Rs1.5 lakh crore, reflected India’s progress towards achieving ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in Defence and integration between the Armed Forces requirements, R&D, and defence production by public and private players.
India successfully fired the Extended Range Version of BRAHMOS air-launched missile from Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft: Prithvi-II is a Short-Range Ballistic Missile and Agni is an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile. Agni-3 and Agni-4 launches were carried out to validate all operational parameters as also the reliability of the system. The successful test reaffirms India’s policy of having a ‘Credible Minimum Deterrence’ Capability.
The submarine-launched Ballistic Missile: INS Arihant was tested to a predetermined range and all the operational and technological parameters of the weapon system are validated. Helina is an indigenously developed helicopter-launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile, which was successfully flight-tested by the Indian Army and Indian Air Force.
Laser-Guided Anti-Tank Guided Missile was test-fired from Main Battle Tank Arjun; employs a tandem High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead to defeat Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) protected armoured vehicles. Naval Anti-Ship Missile is an indigenously developed Naval Anti-Ship Missile launched from a naval helicopter.
The Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) system and the Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile Army weapon systems have once again proved their effectiveness against targets covering the sea-skimming and high-altitude functionality within the envelope. Vertical Launch Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (VL-SRSAM) will further strengthen the Indian Navy for neutralising various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets.
The Phase-II Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor was flight-tested with the participation of all BMD weapon system elements located at different geographical locations. The AD-1 is a long-range interceptor missile designed for both low exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric interception of long-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft. Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile is a low-weight, fire & forget missile and is launched from a man-portable launcher, integrated with thermal sight. Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator in a fully autonomous mode, the aircraft exhibited a perfect flight, including take-off, waypoint navigation and a smooth touchdown.
In a historic step for the Indian Air Force, the Government approved the creation of a new branch – the ‘Weapon Systems (WS) branch’. It would entail the unification of all weapon system operators under one entity dedicated to the operational employment of all ground-based and specialist airborne weapon systems. The branch would encompass operators in four specialised streams of Surface-to-Surface missiles, Surface-to-Air missiles, Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Weapon System Operators in twin/multi-crew aircraft. The branch will contribute immensely by enhancing the warfighting capability of the Indian Air Force, highly adaptive to the joint warfighting strategy. (4)
The Role of AI
In future, AI will act as an enabler to out-adapt competitors and adversaries. The current AI strategy of NATO needs to address the vulnerabilities in AI systems and related measures for effectively using autonomous weapon systems and military governance of AI. The NATO accelerator has been devised to address, prioritise, and promote interoperability in transatlantic cooperation to drive the strategic innovation process.
The key driver for Innovation in AI and other EDTs will be the establishment of the NATO-Civil-Military Technology capability that would include various actors from the military, civil, state and private sectors as a part of the EDT innovation ecosystem.
Another critical factor is the broadening of the NATO–EU cooperation through a joint task force on defence innovation and EDTs with a view to regularising and providing strategic capabilities on ethical and adoption challenges of EDTs like AI and ML. (5)
Technology Optimisation: Indian Army
The modernisation plans of the Indian Army are essentially based on developing ‘Force Capabilities’ conforming to the national security requirements, encompassing capability development with critical combat capabilities, eradicating obsolescence in the military hardware systems, incorporating Lethality, Accuracy and Reliability of existing equipment.
The quest for ‘Aatmanirbharta’ has established a balanced acquisition of platforms like Akash Missile System, Satellites, Modular Bridges, Utility Helicopters, Electronic Warfare Systems, Surface-to-Air Missiles, Towed Gun Systems etc.
The Indian Army is developing a self-reliant defence ecosystem initiative jointly with the private industry (partnership), MSMEs, Academia and R&D labs in India. With its extensive range of equipment spanning a vast technological spread, it is a key entity in making the ‘Make in India’ pursuit a success, with 202 projects in progress involving 338 industries cumulating to Rs1.12 lakh crore.
The Indian Army is steadily transforming into a leaner and more dynamic war machine with high-end technology. The Integrated Battle Groups were conceptualised to be structured towards the attainment of the mission in battle, in conformity with the principles of war.
Indian Navy: Mission-Based Operational Deployments
The Indian Navy undertook Mission-Based Deployments in Areas of Interest in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to safeguard national maritime interests and maintain continuous/near continuous presence in areas of significant maritime importance in the IOR. These deployments were in consonance with the Prime Minister’s vision of “Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)”.
Indian Navy ships and aircraft were regularly deployed in the Gulf of Oman/Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden/Red Sea, South and Central IOR, off Sunda Strait, Andaman Sea/approaches to Malacca Strait and Northern Bay of Bengal. These operational deployments enabled the Indian Navy to be the ‘first responder’ and ‘preferred security partner’ across the IOR, and also facilitated enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness, swift Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) assistance to IOR littorals, security to Indian and international maritime community, and engagements with friendly navies through capability development and capacity building programmes.
The Indian Navy is operationalising 16 ALH Mk III helicopters, and four P8I aircraft for strategic reconnaissance; it is also getting the first batch of three out of 24 multi-role helicopters (MH 60Rs). The remaining helicopters would be inducted by mid-2025, from the USA. It is also acquiring the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF).
Indian Navy along with ADA/DRDO are proactively pursuing the Design and Development of an indigenous Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF). It has commissioned three new Air Squadrons in the last year. The second P8I Squadron, INAS 316, was commissioned at INS Hansa, Goa on 29 March 2022. Two ALH Mk III Squadrons, INAS 324 and INAS 325 have been commissioned at Visakhapatnam and Port Blair on 04 Jul 22 and 31 May 2022 respectively. (6)
Innovation and Indigenisation
The Indian Navy has been consistently achieving its enunciated policy and goal of ‘Self-Reliance through Indigenisation’ with well-cogitated endeavours synergised with the different flagship schemes of the Government of India, viz., ‘Make in India’, ‘Technology Development Fund’ and ‘Innovation for Defence Excellence’, in addition to procurement under the ‘Revenue’ route.
The Indian Navy has achieved a transcendent status in the tri-Services to leverage the distinct advantages of Government schemes and has engaged actively with a varied spectrum of defence industries from Major to MSMEs including Startups with a view to encouraging the envisaged Indigenisation Programmes. The induction of niche technologies is being undertaken to enhance long-range precision attack capabilities, with loitering munitions, sub-surface mines, and sea-based versions towards rapidly improving the maritime targeting capabilities against the adversary.
Containerised missile systems are being veritably optimised to enhance operational capability and augment flexibility in operations. The Indian Navy is conscious of the autonomous warfare systems employed in the maritime conflict zones and is preparing countermeasures to prevent their use during visualised contingencies. In consonance with the evolving technological transformation globally, an Integrated Unmanned Roadmap for the Indian Navy was released by the Defence Minister during the Commander’s Conference.
Indian Air Force
In 2022, the Indian Air Force (IAF) gained further momentum to modernise its airfield infrastructure under the project Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) with a major Indian company M/s Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL). The upgrade of navigational aids and infrastructure under this project is enhancing operational capability by facilitating air operations of military and civil aircraft even in adverse weather conditions.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, popularly known as Drones, have globally caught the imagination for their military application and challenges. The IAF has creditably launched Mehar Baba-2. The competition is aimed at developing indigenous technology for a ‘Swarm’ drone-based system to detect foreign objects on aircraft operating surfaces. The IAF gained hugely by multiplying its combat potential, as France completed the delivery of all 36 Rafale aircraft, making both Rafale Squadrons fully operational.
Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO)
The New Generation Surface-to-Air Akash-NG Missile has a Multifunction Radar, Command, Control & Communication System with high manoeuvrability for neutralising fast aerial threats and the new version of the ‘Akash Prime’ Missile equipped with an indigenous active Radio Frequency is a success. Short Span Bridging System (SSBS-10m) has been inducted into Indian Army.
ABHYAS is an indigenous target aircraft, which can be used as an aerial target for the evaluation of various missile systems. The Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW), a high precision-guided bomb is capable of engaging ground enemy airfield assets such as radars, bunkers, taxi tracks, runways etc.
The supersonic missile-assisted torpedo (SMART) system with a missile-based standoff torpedo delivery system is a force multiplier. The DRDO and IAF flight-tested the indigenously designed and developed Helicopter launched Stand-off Anti-tank (SANT) Missile, a state-of-the-art MMW seeker which provides high precision strike capability. Pinaka Mk-I (Enhanced) Rocket System (EPRS) and Pinaka Area Denial Munition (ADM) rocket systems would soon be inducted into the Indian Army. Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) booster enables the missile to intercept aerial threats at enhanced long ranges with supersonic speeds.
BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) signed a contract with the Department of National Defence of the Philippines for the supply of Shore Based Anti-Ship Missile System. The state-of-the-art seven-storeyed Flight Control System Integration facility at ADE, Bengaluru, comprises in-house hybrid technology of conventional, pre-engineered, and precast methodology. The present industry base supporting DRDO consists of 1,800 MSMSEs along with DPSUs and large-scale industries. A policy for free access to DRDO patents by the Indian industry has been promulgated.
Technology Development Fund (TDF) Scheme also funds industries, especially start-ups and MSMEs up to an amount of Rs 50 crore for innovation, research and development of defence technologies in the field of defence and Aerospace. Until now, 64 projects have been awarded under the TDF scheme to various MSMEs, start-ups and large industries amounting to total projects cost of Rs 280 crore.
The DRDO has two dedicated laboratories: The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), Bengaluru, and DRDO Young Scientist Laboratory (DYSL)-AI, Bengaluru, for application-oriented research in AI. (7)
Regional Environmental Dynamics
Paramilitary Forces and Armed Forces need to be treated separately as they are governed by different service regulations, rules and conducts. Also, the working of the Armed Forces and internal security recurrence in recent times is a cause of concern. Herein lies the importance of formulating a National Security Strategy (NSS).
NSS is not the sole responsibility of Defence, rather it should be from all departments – the Ministry of Statistics, Department of Atomic Energy, shipping and many more, in their own way but a unified one is much required. Most of these departments and ministries work in silos and sharing of information between them is non-existent. Now, national security requires a pyramidal structure headed by the erudite National Security Advisor, who is prescient and forward looking with a strategic mind and contemporary thought process, as also the equally brilliant and progressive Defence Minister to take informed decisions.
The security of the Indian Ocean is the primary concern of India. As China is advancing, Maritime Theatre Command is crucial for India. Geographically, China has a disadvantaged maritime location, and Beijing knows that establishing dominance over a sea space is necessary to reassert its dominance to be a superpower. Therefore, the PLA Navy (PLAN) is expanding at a rapid speed with almost 20 to 25 Blue Order Platforms being commissioned every year, and aircraft carriers commissioned and launched in three years.
Currently, China can’t completely contest the Indian Navy but within 10 years the picture might change entirely. China is replicating the US model of theatre command and it’s a matter of time for the Chinese military to go expeditionary.
India, analysing the pace of its neighbour, should lay the stress on taking early decisions on its collaborations for nuclear-powered attack submarines, to meet its goal of being a pre-eminent blue waterpower in the Indian Ocean. This would align with India being recognised as a preferred security partner in the Indo-Pacific region by major powers like the US. (8)
The Operating Concept for 2050 and Beyond
Future military concepts must expand the vision of combined arms integrated battle at the tactical and operational levels of warfare, built up on the utility of the current organisations. Traditional land power echelons — field and theatre armies, corps, divisions, and brigades — should be reimagined and empowered by the operating concept. At the same time, it should envision the breadth of its focus and reach on the battlefields of the late twenty-first century. The operating concept must propose a path towards addressing the question of how Army units conduct manoeuvres under conditions of continuous observation connected to lethal fires during defensive and offensive operations.
Combined arms have grown beyond the tank-infantry-artillery-engineer team. Combined arms warfare is a proven approach to multi-domain and hybrid operations. In the twenty-first century, it encompasses extended reach of reconnaissance through drones, extended reach of fires through loitering munitions, and extended protection from lethal enemy fires and cyber disruption.
Combined arms will mean direct and indirect fire, coupled with manoeuvre, cyber, space, electromagnetic warfare, AI-enabled machine learning, and information operations to project the shock of operations to the enemy’s population and political leaders. The shared common operating picture of 2050 will establish a strike zone. This zone will permit enemy targets to be detected, assessed, assigned the correct munition and delivery system, and then hit accurately. The vehicles, and even soldiers, will be the nodes on the information network, giving a high degree of resilience to the expanded command-and-control architecture.
Moreover, by 2050 every campaign will be a global campaign conducted under continuous surveillance. Accepting this as a fact of warfare in 2050 means Army units must have the ability to mask their movements, in all spectrums. As retired Colonel John Antal describes it, “Masking is the full-spectrum, multi-domain effort to deceive enemy sensors and disrupt enemy targeting.”
Masking is essential to survive and win in the modern battlespace and should be either a tenet of multi-domain operations fusion or, possibly, a principle of war for the twenty-first century. Masking protects Army units from the enemy’s striking power. (9)
In my perception, it’s vitally significant that as a great powerful nation, in our collective quest to become a ‘Developed Power by 2047’, as defined by the Prime Minister of India, we have to be prepared to finalise in the next five years within stipulated timelines, the National Security Strategy 2023; implement the Integrated Theatre Command, the Special Forces, Cyber & Space Command; restructuring of Armed Forces and human resource optimisation; enhance operational readiness threshold with leveraged capability development and capacity building of the defence forces; adapt to the ‘purple ideology’ of joint warfighting techniques synergised by tri-service capabilities, policy formulation of Professional Military Education (PME) and execute it through rationalisation and creation of critical tri-service assets.
Additionally, the focus should also be on establishing the National Defence University (NDU) with a deep selection of merit-based military scholars, bureaucrats and erudite professors from national security and strategic studies. Moreover, induction of ‘Aatmanirbhar’ weaponisation process and making up of equipment deficiencies; improve defence exports of hardware; border area infrastructure development; national combat responsive logistics; impetus for establishing both defence corridors with indigenous defence industry and foreign investments; practice military-civil fusion in multidimensional perspective should be given prioritised focus. Introduction of strategic studies in civil services examinations; establishing the National Committee on Strategic Communications, funding and amalgamation of strategic tri-service think tanks would further add momentum.
Utilise optimally the vast segment of ex-servicemen towards good governance and growth-oriented development schemes of government of India, with integrated efforts through Ministry of Defence, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Niti Aayog, Kendriya, Rajya and Zila Sainik Boards, Directorate General Resettlement etc. all overseen by the visionary Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Secretary DMA. As custodians of peace and security, the Armed Forces require to be fully strengthened holistically and be provided with the desired stimulus in perspective to undertake its assigned role of safeguarding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country always and every time.
The “Indian Centre of Strategic Culture” should be established at New Delhi and on a similar basis as the NDC a 12-week strategic course should be developed for the senior officers of the Armed Forces cleared for Command and Staff as Theatre Commander in the tri-services. It should also include civilian counterparts at the level of Additional Secretaries selected by the PMO from the Ministries of Defence, Finance, Home Affairs, External Affairs, Information & Broadcasting, Roads & Transport, Niti Aayog, BRO, Intelligence, senior officials from NSCS, NSAB, DRDO, ISRO, NTRO, nominated veterans and superannuated diplomats etc. (as recommended by the NSA) to enable better assimilation as per their intellectual capacities of the macro level strategic thought process, in conformity with the National Interests of the country.
The heterogeneous composite cadre from the tri-services and other domains would gain from brainstorming policy formulations, animated discussions for effecting transformation in eclectic areas of Defence Strategy, Security, Foreign Relations, International Studies, aspects pertaining to Maritime and Aerospace dimension studies; multidisciplinary issues covering a wide range of subfield from Strategic Thought to Area studies; Maritime Security; Science & Technology to Defence Diplomacy; Foreign and Defence Policies; International studies with its numerous foundational aspects such as Political Economy and Political Geography; Disruptive/ Transformative Technologies; and applied aspects of the same.
The eligibility criteria could be further evolved, commensurate to the envisioned conceptualisation of the proposal. The outcome would be productive and extremely beneficial to produce more enlightened souls contributing to the fibre of national security and the concept of ‘Developed India by 2047’.
- Ministry of Defence – Year-end Review 2022. (Posted On: 17 DEC 2022 10:51 AM by PIB Delhi)
- ‘Modernisation of Indian Armed Forces through Indigenisation’. (Ms Richa Tokas is an Intern at Defence Economics and Industry Centre at Manohar Parrikar IDSA, New Delhi). 05 Nov 2021; ‘Defence Production Policy-2011’, Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, Government of India.
- Ministry of Defence-Year-end Review 2022 (Posted On: 17 DEC 2022 10:51 AM by PIB Delhi)
- Ministry of Defence Year-end Review 2022. (Posted On: 17 DEC 2022 10:51 AM by PIB Delhi)
- NATO’s AI Push and Military Implications (Dr Sanur Sharma is Associate Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. 24 May 2022)
- The Ministry of Defence – Year-end Review 2022. (Posted On: 17 DEC 2022 10:51 AM by PIB Delhi)
- The Ministry of Defence – Year-end Review 2022. (Posted On: 17 DEC 2022 10:51 AM by PIB Delhi)
- Purushendra Singh is a Research Associate at CUTS International Washington DC, Center. Issue Net Edition| Date: 09 August 2022. http://www.indiandefencereview.com/spotlights/restructuring-the-indian-military-in-the-21st-century/
- ‘War in 2050: The Army’s Operating Concept After Next’, By Kevin Benson and James K. Greer, 05 January 2023
-The writer is Director General of the Amity Institute of Defence & Strategic Studies (AIDSS) and Director General Amity Centre for Defence & Strategic Analysis (ACDSA), Vice President Amity Science Technology & Innovation Foundation (ASTIF), Vice Chairman Amity Institute of Defence Technology (AIDT), Commandant Amity Institute of Education &Training (AIET) and former Commandant Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington at Amity University, Noida. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda