Readying for future wars! Transforming India’s C5I capabilities through AI

Published: October 7, 2019 1:21:52 PM

This would comprise of a mishmash of manned and unmanned assets that would offer a related surveillance potential or an augmented surveillance capability without dependence upon a single complex platform.

There are times when the speed of decision-making is such that the AI system is going to have to make specific types of decisions. (Representational image)There are times when the speed of decision-making is such that the AI system is going to have to make specific types of decisions. (Representational image)

By DEBAJIT SARKAR

In military parlance, C5I is an acronym for command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, and interoperability. Basically, C5I encompasses everything C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) does, plus it also includes weapon systems. In China, North America, and several EU states the fusion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into defense strategies has already begun to transform C5I competencies with regard to the integration and processing of data in order to successfully identify hostile targets and eventually eliminate them. These countries are looking to define the next generation of C5I as a distributed network of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems. This is essentially a system of systems as opposed to a solitary platform that would accomplish that function. This would comprise of a mishmash of manned and unmanned assets that would offer a related surveillance potential or an augmented surveillance capability without dependence upon a single complex platform.

The shift in ISR capability can also be observed in the undersea domain with future anti-submarine warfare capabilities, where instead of huge manned submarines, novel mixes of manned and unmanned systems will carry out the required surveillance and reconnaissance and subsequently prosecute targets.

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A typical C5I complex will consist of :

1. Sensor Systems

2. Communication & Networking Technologies

3. Displays & Peripherals

4. Application Software for:
(a) Command & Control
(b) Cybersecurity

5. Electronic Warfare Hardware

6. Weapon Systems

The most significant impact that AI has had so far on C5I is on the observe, orient, decide, act loop (OODA). Significant impacts from AI in the observe function in terms of being adept at collecting and assimilating huge amounts of data and then processing that data proficiently and effectually to spot potential targets will make a big difference in warfighting. This then helps orient towards definite areas of significance, or targets of interest, that the military is looking for through their ISR capabilities. AI also helps with respect to establishing what decision needs to be made and reinforcing analysis and interpretation to the military administrators. Out of all that data collected from various systems, military administrators can integrate the data in a way that assists the decision-maker to make an efficient and swift decision concerning what action to take against a specific target. AI will certainly affect the entire OODA loop.

C5I in India is at a nascent stage, but is making steady progress. For more than 20 years now, DRDO has been developing appropriate ISR capabilities to tackle the new and emerging security challenges that the country faces. Such consistent efforts on the part of the DRDO has led to the development of highly proficient products such as the Samyukta electronic warfare (EW) system and the UGV based Mission Unmanned Tracked (MUNTRA). The Indian Army’s Design Lab and the DRDO have expressed interest to work together with the Indian private sector to further develop AI systems for the military. This also provides a great opportunity for Indian AI startups to develop their product from their idea stage to funding stage primarily because the expertise and mentorship of specialists from DRDO and the Indian Army will help them to identify and nurture innovative ideas to build emerging businesses.

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) should, therefore, take steps to introduce AI into C5I. In any such introduction (of AI into C5I) the human will not be eliminated from the decision process. Rather these tools will allow the human to have suitable access to the most vital or critical information about which they can make an effective, pertinent and timely decision.

There are times when the speed of decision-making is such that the AI system is going to have to make specific types of decisions. In those instances, the decision that humans will have to make is whether to have the system functioning or not. For example, in the Indian context, when protecting against an incoming terrorist strike like the dastardly 26/11 attack or the 2016 Uri attack, the timelines are such that you may not have the time to have the human take critical decisions. It’s more about making the decision to utilize the system and authorize it to operate in an automatic mode. This helps to produce improved situational awareness because humans have a slightly limited communications channel by contrast.

The AI-based C5I systems will help to put data in a structure that permits humans to make a more informed choice based upon superior situation understanding.

(The author is an independent strategic analyst. Views expressed are personal.)

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