Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Thursday that the current weapons of war are fast losing their importance and are being overtaken by disruptive technologies that operate in the cyber and space domain.
Speaking during a webinar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) on multi-domain operations and the future of warfare, Naravane said that everyone has seen how the very imaginative and offensive use of drones in Idlib and then in Armenia-Azerbaijan challenged the traditional prima donnas: The tanks, the artillery and the dug in infantry.
He also talked about the showcasing of swarm drone offensive striking multiple targets during the Army Day parade last month, terming it as a strong message to India’s adversaries.
India is facing a two-front war situation in the northern and western borders with China and Pakistan.
The Army Chief said that the swarm drone demonstration was a message to India’s adversaries that: “The Indian Army is steadily inducting niche capabilities to enhance its combat proficiencies in multi-domain operations.”
He said that swarm drones can overwhelm and effectively suppress an enemy’s air defence capability, creating windows of opportunities for strike elements.
“It is also no longer necessary to score a physical hit to destroy a target. Offensive capabilities in the digital domain can effectively neutralise satellites and networks, denying them at critical junctures to decisively alter the course of the conflict,” he said.
Concurrently, India is also working towards penetrating the anti-access bubble of the adversaries by investing in long-range vectors as also through the smart leveraging of aircraft and aerial platforms, Naravane added.
The Army Chief further explained how disruptive technologies are now driving doctrinal cycles like never before. “It may not be inaccurate. therefore, to infer that technology itself is steadily emerging as a core combat capability,” he pointed out.
Large platforms which were once the mainstay of the 20th century battlefield — the main battle tanks, fighter aircraft and large surface combatants — have been rendered relatively less significant in the face of emerging battlefield challenges in newer domains, Naravane said.
He then explained that for years the Indian adversaries have studied the attributes, especially the weaknesses of western style militaries in war-fighting, and have developed stratagems to exploit the same.
Naravane said India has been schooled in many of these precepts and had focused on fine-tuning of operational preparedness in hardcore kinetics but the adversaries focused their energies on the ambiguous grey zone, seeking to out-manoeuvre in the competitive spaces short of all out conflict.
“As we fixed our gaze on building core capacities in land, sea and air, they (adversaries) took the battle to the newer domains of space, cyber, and informatics,” the Army Chief said.
“With Western militaries focusing on amassing massive combat power through the aggregation of large military platforms, viz, tanks, guns and aircraft carrier led huge naval armadas, our adversaries invested in creating a formidable stand-off enterprise in the form of long range precision fires, PNT (precision, navigation, timing) systems, hypersonic vehicles and robust air defence capacities,” Naravane said.
He said that a few years from now, in a typical multi domain operations engagement, a combat group assault on enemy dispositions will be enabled by multiple capacities across domains.
“So, a High Space UAV System or investments in Low Orbit Technologies will provide the combat group commander with complete transparency of the enemy battle space through real time, persistent surveillance,” he pointed out.
This could be complemented by a Su-30 reconnaissance mission, hours earlier, with the imagery of key enemy dispositions offloaded into a “tri-service cloud” for instant retrieval.
A cyber strike, as part of preparatory bombardment, will disable enemy radars, command and control apparatus and electronic warfare systems. Having achieved complete mastery over the battle space in terms of visual transparency as also domination of the electromagnetic spectrum, the kinetics are unleashed.
As the traditional fire and manoeuvre elements of the combat group launch the physical assaults, a swarm of offensive drones, based on autonomous, artificial intelligence enabled edge computing and distributed intelligence projects 25 km in depth to neutralise enemy mechanised columns that are moving in for a counter attack.
Through such ‘smart convergence’ and the ‘innovative bundling of technologies’ across multiple domains, a futuristic, multi-domain operations enabled Indian Army combat group will achieve its mission with surgical precision, in compressed time frames and at fractional costs.