Indian Army and the need for technological support to the tactical edge
December 21, 2020 12:00 PM
The triad that exists to ensure the success of troops being launched into any conflict is based on technology, tactics and training.
There is no doubt that warfare in future needs the latest technology and technical oriented personnel to manage the complex systems be it missiles, tanks, guns, aircraft and ships. (Photo source: AP)
By Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh
The triad that exists to ensure the success of troops being launched into any conflict is based on technology, tactics and training. Many years ago Richard Simpkin in his famous book ‘ Race to the Swift’ talked about the fifty-year cycle when a decisive weapon or technology changed the nature of the battlefield and led to transformative changes in tactics and ushered in a revolution in military affairs. It has happened since the beginning of the conflict and recent weapons can be the machine guns, tanks, aircraft and helicopters all that led to victories for the armies that were able to adapt to the then-emerging technologies.
Today this change is in the form of nuclear weapons which are used mainly as a deterrent and the need to grasp the changes taking place in Space-based assets, 5G technologies and AI in combating the enemy. The book ‘ Unrestricted Warfare’ by the two Chinese Colonels talks of conflicts taking place in arenas and manners not visualized earlier and their words while introducing the book that “the only rule in unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules” are telling to say the least. Warfare is going to transcend all boundaries and aspects of society.
The truth is that today there are a large number of analysts who feel that the Indian Army is not grasping the emerging technologies and is more focused on infantry in spite of the reassurances by both the CDS and Army Chief regarding the future of warfare and technology. And that technology will become the key driver for future conflicts. There is no doubt that warfare in future needs the latest technology and technical oriented personnel to manage the complex systems be it missiles, tanks, guns, aircraft and ships. There is also no doubt that the cycle of fifty years is fast reducing and obsolesce in technologies are taking place faster. At the other end, you have to have access to this technology and finally the money to buy it. So, to simply say that we as an Army are not focused on technology is untrue. Moreover, having been part of a Project handling the induction of new technology while in Service, the issues of availability of commercial technology and the same being ruggedised and adapted to function effectively across all terrains with adequate secrecy was always a challenge.
There are areas where we are very advanced as far as induction of weapons with the latest technologies are concerned, a case in point is the development of missiles by the DRDO, however, there is no hiding the fact that their success has not been as spectacular in other fields to namely the Arjun tank and nether was HAL able to deliver the LCA in the given time frame. With the ushering in of Atnamnirbhar, there is a need to have greater accountability and reducing the gap between expectations and delivery of technologies and at the same time we need to involve both our Universities and the Private Sector to a greater degree. This is an opportunity that needs to be seized and they need to exploit emerging technologies to enable long term and holistic solutions to our security requirements.
As far as imports are concerned there is no doubt that induction of new equipment is often caught up in procedural delays, no Artillery guns were upgraded for over thirty years due to the fallout of Bofors and the infantry is yet to get delivery of the new carbines. The induction of the Rafale has also been witness to many delays. Unless you have the weapons and systems in place you cannot train on them and unless you train on them you will be found wanting especially when faced with a peer enemy.
At the same time, everything cannot be adaptive, innovative, modernized and transformative. While there is an increasing age and obsolesce in some of our core equipment, it is imperative to examine specific areas such as all-weather surveillance and targeting, drone and counter-drone technologies, night fighting capabilities and communication technologies to include battlefield management systems.
There is also a hubris that needs to be overcome, which exists in most armies; the presumption that tactical competency will overcome technical proficiency. This is a dangerous assumption.
(The author is an Indian Army Veteran. Views are personal)