Is digital supremacy second to battlefield supremacy? (3/3)

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A discerning shift

Defence sector has always been perceived as the military force with battlefield capabilities, warfighters can rely on. But now the world is gravitating towards newer realms of warfare like biowar, cyber and information warfare. This big shift is entailing armed forces to prepare for future warfare, to modernise, in anticipation of or in response to changes in threats and technology and pursue capabilities required in future.

Modernisation of defence forces requires upgrading military technology, platform, weaponry or ecosystem, integrating technology in command and control systems and supporting infrastructure.

So is it wise to say that scales are tilting towards gaining digital supremacy instead of the traditional battlefield supremacy?

Digital supremacy – A game changer

Digital supremacy involves leveraging digital technologies like cloud computing, big data, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and blockchain as change enablers. The adoption of digital platforms is empowering the defence sector, enabling better continuity of operations and bringing it to a new level of combat readiness.

Many armed forces globally have identified challenges and opportunities for using digital technologies in future warfare. Amongst various elements – the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT), autonomous robotics, bio data analytics and AR/VR solutions for land, sea and air- are the topmost technology solutions that the defence firms worldwide have started adopting for battlefield-related decision making.

For instance:

  1. The Israel Ministry of Defense has chosen Fire Weaver, a networked sensor-to-shooter system, to help revolutionize its Defense Forces. The system connects defense forces on the battlefield to a network that works with advanced computer vision and AI technology to help in targeting for commanders and soldiers and allows them to prioritize fire allocation and find the best shooter for the target.
  2. Recently, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) launched its new Defence Technology Framework and its new Defence Innovation Priorities. The framework sets out how the MOD intends to identify and focus efforts on technologies that offer the greatest potential to enhance capability across internal business functions and military operations.
  3. The U.S. military is already integrating AI systems into combat via a spearhead initiative called Project Maven, which uses AI algorithms to identify insurgent target

Though digital transformation has kicked off and is creating a shift in traditional working process, operations and services with a deep impact on delivering military capabilities, but hard reality is that there is no concrete plan and budget for digitising the defence ecosystem.

Indeed! A great time for establishing digital supremacy

The traditional combat warfare is at an all-time low if compared with the past decades. The defence industry has changed since the Cold War. Should we not take this as opportunity to beef up our defence forces’ digital strength and dedicate budget just for that purpose?

The Indian defence sector must adopt to ADAPT…

The digitisation of the Indian defence sector has a long way to go. There are four important aspects of warfare digitisation, better known as Network Centric Warfare or Internet of Battle Things (IoBT) –

  • Information sharing
  • Improved situation awareness
  • Speed of command
  • Enhanced Mission Effectiveness

Till date, the Indian defence sector has been taking baby steps towards digitisation. The defence sector does not even touch the half of the total level of digitisation in India which stands at 50%.[1]

How do we choose between battlefield and digital supremacy

This is a tough choice! But warfare has been changing over the years and the countries have been adopting IoBT.

Traditionally, India has been focussing on battlefield supremacy with the Indian government allocating Rs. 3.37 lakh crore for the Ministry of Defence (MoD), an increase of 5.8% as compared to the last year[2] But now the defence sector is facing the imperative of digitisation, however there is no dedicated ICT budget for defence. On the other hand, to stay competitive in the defence space we have to look at adopting digititisation.

While we do not have any dedicated ICT budget and we cannot go full throttle on digitisation, here are top four digital capabilities our armed forces should adopt to gain digital supremacy over battlefield supremacy

Jointness of digital forces

Till date our defence ecosystem lacks a joint network. All three forces – army, naval and air, work in a disjoint and do not have a common network. There is a lack of cohesiveness among logistics and transportation and centralised decision-making and decentralised execution. But now, our defence services are emphasizing on integrated and collaborative approach to execute joint operation in a well-coordinated and efficient manner

AR/VR-based training for soldiers

AR/VR-based live training will adept our soldiers to reach the highest level of battlefield readiness. The defence VR projects are increasing and by 2025 they are expected to generate a $1.4 billion in revenues[1]. While training soldiers is one avenue, AR/VR could also be utilised for analysing military manoeuvres and battlefield positions.

Creating ‘Digital Twins’

Digital twins combine numerous technologies to create digital versions of real objects and processes, which can help defence determine their performance. Adoption of Digital Twins technologies can enable the defence ecosystem to effectively manage its complexity and inter-dependencies.

Technology-led security solutions

In the recent past, there has been a remarkable increase in terrorists’ infiltration breaching the Indian army’s security system. The Indian military posts have increasingly been becoming soft target for cross-border militants. To prevent these attacks, our defence system needs technology-led security solutions. It needs a secure network connected with high intrusion-proof fibre that is capable enough to keep a check at these infiltrations.

Way forward

Our defence sector can take few steps to modernise the ecosystem and gain precedence over other nations.

Technology will continue to disrupt at its own pace. The real question is – will the Indian Defence sector ride this disruption wave and win, or wait for some more time?




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