Amid LAC face-off, Army to study lasers, robotics & AI for warfare

NEW DELHI: The Army is now undertaking a major study headed by a senior Lt-General on advanced “niche and disruptive warfare technologies”, which range from drone swarms, robotics, lasers and loiter munitions to artificial intelligence, big data analysis and algorithmic warfare.

Sources on Friday said the aim of the “holistic study”, which comes amidst the ongoing military confrontation in eastern Ladakh with China, is to bolster the conventional war-fighting capabilities of the 13-lakh strong Army as well as prepare for “non-kinetic and non-combat” warfare in the years ahead.

China, of course, has been assiduously working to develop futuristic warfare technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI)-powered lethal autonomous weapon systems, towards its overall endeavor to usher in a major “revolution in military affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics”.

Indian Army’s new land warfare doctrine in 2018 had stressed the need to sharpen the entire war-fighting strategy, ranging from creation of agile integrated battle groups (IBGs) and expansive cyber-warfare capabilities to induction plans for launch-on-demand micro satellites, directed-energy weapons like lasers, AI, robotics and the like

The new IBGs, after a similar study, have already started to take initial shape as self-contained fighting formations that can mobilize fast and hit hard. Each with around 5,000 soldiers and a varying mix of infantry, tanks, artillery, air defence, signals and engineers, the IBGs were war-gamed in exercises on both the western and eastern fronts last year, as was earlier reported by TOI.

“Technology will also be the key driver in future wars. The new study, which is headed by one of the seven Army commanders, will recommend the roadmap for inductions with timelines, along with an overall cost-benefit analysis being done for each disruptive technology,” said a source.

The study incorporates AI, remotely-piloted aerial systems, drone swarms, big data analysis, block-chain technology, algorithmic warfare, “Internet of Things”, virtual reality, augmented reality, hypersonic-enabled long range precision firing systems, additive manufacturing, biomaterial infused invisibility cloaks, exoskeleton systems, liquid armour, quantum computing, robotics, directed-energy weapons, loiter and smart munitions, among others.

“The Army’s existing equipment, ongoing procurements and long term perspective planning are based on concepts of warfighting which may transform due to induction of these niche technologies. They will accordingly be reviewed,” said another source.

The Army’s future military planning will revolve around the effective integration of soldiers and such disruptive technologies into a cohesive war-fighting machinery. It will also focus on enhancing capabilities for ‘Grey Zone’ warfare, where operations may not necessarily cross the threshold of a full-fledged war, he added..

India, incidentally, has already done some groundwork on developing drone swarms or air-launched small aerial systems, which can overwhelm and destroy an enemy’s air defence systems, in a joint project with the US.

It is one of the seven joint projects identified under the bilateral defence technology and trade initiative (DTTI) last October, with anti-drone technology called “counter-UAS rocket, artillery and mortar systems” being another one, as was reported by TOI.


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