The Indian Army transformation program was initiated in 2009 with a clear cut mandate of optimising resources, rightsizing for effectiveness and technology insertion. The need to undertake the transformation process has been necessitated by the twin requirement to provide the Indian Army a decisive military capability as well as remain operationally relevant. The triggering of this inescapable need may be attributed to the dynamics of security environment in the regional and global context apart from the need to replace ageing technologies and modernise in tune with global developments. Indian Army would therefore need to leverage the emerging and newer technologies to provide impetus to modernisation plans and also support our envisaged doctrinal and conceptual shifts in warfighting
The existing state of military technology and future advances in the same will thus enable military operations to be conducted with greater speed, precision and selective destruction. In order to fully exploit the potential offered by these technologies, it is imperative that any force restructuring/ transformation takes into account the technology aspects, especially technologies in critical areas like ISR, command & control systems and precision weapons. Technology acquisition and development thus has a potential to emerge as a driver to support the transformation of the Indian Army and mitigate the risks associated with obsolescence and a perpetually low national technology threshold.
Technology – Premise
An analysis of the capabilities of armies of developed nations and the operational exploitation of advanced defence technologies and innovations in the field by US and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan throw up a wish list, that has been identified to support the transformation process, which is based on the following premise:-
- Weapon systems and platforms should be able to facilitate mobile warfare i.e., emphasis will be on faster mobilisation and persistent ISR capability.
- Dominant battle space knowledge with combined capabilities of Battlefield Management System (BMS), C4ISR and interoperability between theatres as well as the three Services.
- Decisive neutralisation of regional threats and credible deterrence capability against extra-regional threats.
- Range of capabilities across the spectrum of conflict.
- Control the use of space and counter conventional and ballistic missile threats.
The Technology Perspective Capability Roadmap (TPCR) approved by the MoD in Aug 2012 and available in the open domain lists out defence technological advances that the Armed Forces are looking forward to during the next 15 years timeframe. Out of this list, the following are considered critical for capability development and supporting transformation:-
- Developing technological advances in battle space management, together with advances in accuracy and enhanced ranges of guided munitions and sensors, both on ground and airborne (UAVs and satellites).
- Enable MBTs and other armoured vehicles to engage targets at longer ranges beyond LOS.
- Provide an information sphere to provide persistent situational awareness duly networked with sensors and shooters.
- Robust mobile communication network.
- Digital communication network using Battlefield Management System (BMS), communication satellites and Software Defined Radios (SDRs).
- Network enabled capabilities to facilitate greater availability of shooter, shorter sensor-to-shooter response times and faster decision making.
- Night fighting capabilities based on thermal imagery (TI) seekers with uncooled detector arrays for better sensitivity and enhanced ranges.
- UGS (Unattended Ground Sensors).
- Acoustic, seismic, optical, electro-optical (EO) and magnetic sensors with greater accuracy and improved ranges, for enhancing situational awareness.
- UAVs with IR, SAR or ISAR via satellite data links for precision target acquisition, ISR and PSDA.
- Indigenous GPS (IRNSS) for PNT and improved precision targeting.
- Improve sensors, in accuracy and range, on board satellites, UAVs and ISR systems to provide positive identification of tanks, armoured vehicles, SAMs and other ground support equipment.
- Fiberoptic communications to provide greater redundancy and higher security against cyber attacks.
- Development of indigenous FMBT and FICV.
- Development of anti-tank weapons to keep pace with developments in armour protection technologies.
- Development of information superiority to degrade adversary’s combat potential while safeguarding our own.
- Developing a potent Area Missile Defence as a safeguard against possible missile strike.
The Way Forward
No dream of transformation leading to credible capability development can materialise without the induction of the identified technologies. The following recommendations will facilitate defence technology acquisition and help in realisation of the transformation dream:-
- Conceptualise a road map for development/ acquisition of these key/ critical defence technologies.
- Formulation of an acquisition strategy and evolving of related acquisition philosophies for each critical technology.
- Derive and legislate sacrosanct timelines for technology development and conversion into capability by productionisation of resultant defence equipment.
- Identification of global leaders of each of the critical defence technologies and forging of MoUs for co-development / joint production.
- Exploit diplomatic and strategic alliances by inking Govt to Govt defence pacts for acquisition of critical technologies.
- Undertaking critical defence technology development as designated critical capability projects with dedicated empowered Project Management Teams (PMTs).
- All stakeholders to be taken on board so that projects are not scuttled midway for reasons of turf protection and other vested interests.
- Undertaking of periodic appraisal of technology acquisition/ development schemes and projects.
- Active involvement of academia, MSMEs and private sector defence industry in sharing of technology and generation of parallel capacities with adequate security safeguards.
- Identification of various areas of dual use technologies to hasten its development and absorption into commercial applications.
- Earmarking of adequate national resources including infrastructure and allocation of dedicated budgets to facilitate defence technology acquisition and development.
- HR transformation viz, new raisings, accretions and conversions to be in sync with equipping plans related to induction of advanced defence technology into fighting units, thereby giving them the cutting edge.
The recommendations above are neither exhaustive nor a sure-shot solution to fast track the transformation process, which is highly dependent on equipping strategies and induction of newer equipment. However they are a multi- pronged approach, which keeps track of technology acquisition and development alongwith force structuring to reap rich dividends.
The author is a Senior Fellow at CLAWS.
Views expressed are personal.