New Age Warfare, Emerging Technologies & Armoured Vehicles

Sub Title : Seminar Report

Issues Details : Vol 13 Issue 5 Nov/Dec 2019

Author : Editoral Team

Page No. : 34

Category : Military Affairs

: December 9, 2019

South Asia Defence and Strategic Review has been conducting an annual symposium on future armoured vehicles. This year it was decided to widen to scope of the symposium by including aspects related to emerging and disruptive technologies, as they will  have an overbearing  influence  on  battlespace dynamics. To make the  seminar more  topical  it has been renamed as ‘New Age Warfare, Emerging Technologies and Armoured Vehicles’. The tenth edition of the seminar was conducted by  South Asia Defence and Strategic Review in concert with the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies and SIDM on 20 and 21 Nov 2019 at the DRDO Auditorium New Delhi.

The annual symposium has been providing a platform to bring together concerned stake holders viz the user, DRDO, the industry and the PSUs and encourage discussions about armoured  warfare and vehicles. The takeaways from the seminars have given vital inputs on many important issues for the policy makers. However, as the entire process is highly dynamic, a continual dialogue is necessary  so that course corrections can be done where required.

Deliberations during the seminar were greatly enriched by the participation of veterans, who contributed through their vast experience, during the discussions, wherein wide ranging on issues related to technology and its impact on the nature of warfare and weaponry  were held.

Opening and Keynote Session

Chairman’s Address. This was delivered by Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, PVSM, AVSM, SM (Retd), Director CENJOWS. He stated every year new  buzz words enter the military lexicon. In 2019 it is ‘disruptive technologies’ the next year it is likely to be ‘new age warfare’. The nature of wars, that India may get involved in, will range from grey zone wars to conventional wars with domains like cyber and space coming into play.  As rapid technological changes take place, we need to continually modify our war prevention, war waging and war fighting techniques. New age warfare may not warrant going to war as is generally understood. Economic wars or behavioural changes through virtual societal warfare may meet our ends.

Opening Address. Lt Gen Rajeev Sabharwal, AVSM, VSM, SO-in-C delivered the opening address and spoke about New Age Warfare – Emergence of Electromagnetic Spectrum as the New Domain of Warfare. He stated that EM spectrum has acquired a domain with a wide continuum and can be used in peace, crisis or conflict. In the beginning warfare was restricted to a singular domain viz land and subsequently the maritime and air domains came into play. Thereafter the genesis of space and cyber domains has now turned warfare into a multi domain affair.

Theme Address.  The said address on Full Spectrum Warfare: Preparing the Indian Army for Emerging Threats and New Age Warfare was given by Lt Gen Arun Sahni, PVSM, UYSM, SM, VSM, Former C-in-C, SW Command. He stated that the warfare has now extended to the nonmilitary dimension, however, the mechanized forces will continue to be relevant for the next may decades. The nuances of the new age warfare are  firstly non stage actors, who could be fighting for states or be independent organistions  like the ISIS driven by ideology, and secondly disruptive technologies. Future wars will be multi domain and hence may be kinetic or non kinetic. We need to prepare accordingly and structure our forces basis our requirements rather than  model ourselves on developed nations.

Keynote Address. Lt Gen RK Jagga, AVSM, VSM, ADC, DG Mech Forces spoke about Future Conflict Scenarios and Mechanised Forces. He stated that we have to be prepared for the unknown. Technology is changing fast and our procurement procedures are slow. There is hence an imperative and urgent need to balance the two. We are looking at incorporating new technologies. However, the issue that exercises the mind is whether we are prepared in terms of human skills to absorb the technology.

Special Address. Lt Gen Taranjit Singh, AVSM, VSM** Dy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Operations) spoke about Contours of Future Wars, Tracing the Common Thread between the Present and the Future.  He stated that we need to appreciate the nature of future conflict as technology is rapidly evolving and it is technology which has influenced the shape of warfare throughout history and it is a process which keeps continually evolving. The adversary will fight in many domains and there will be blurring of lines between various levels of threats. Narratives that influence the mind space of the adversary will be the norm.

Session 2 :Emerging technologies and future conflicts; role of mechanised ops in full scale war and asymmetric ops.

Panel Discussion

Role of Armour and Mechanised Infantry in Future Operations, Conventional and Asymmetric was discussed. Lt Gen Taranjit Singh was in the chair and the discussants were Lt Gen Arun Sahni, Lt Gen NB Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, former DGEME, Brig Varun Sehgal, Brig Eqpt, DGMF, Mr T Paneer Selvam, Scientist ‘G’, CVRDE and Ashwani Sharma, Editor, South Asia Defence & Strategic Review. The issues that came up were:-

  • The relevance and requirement of mechanized forces in the next three to four decades need not even be debated.
  • Disruptive and emerging technologies like AI, quantum mechanics, 3D printing. AR and VR will have to be factored into our scheme of things.
  • Data fusion will give us immense ability in terms of information and intelligence.
  • We need to provide protection to infantry and other supporting arms which operate with armour and mechanized infantry.
  • We need to upgrade our human skills so that the technologies being inducted can be properly exploited.
  • DRDO has several projects to exploit new technologies like loiter assisted ammunition, unmanned ground vehicles and hyper engines.
  • In view of the fact that ISR capabilities have enhanced exponentially, is there a need to look at our structures at the operational level which have big signatures as also our tactical organisations to be able to suitably carry out tasks in hybrid wars (like fighting in built up areas).

Session 3 :Protection and survivability in the age of unmanned and autonomous platforms: new threats and emerging concepts of individual and collective protection. Lt Gen Sanjay Verma, AVSM, DGWE was in the chair.

Industry Presentations : A presentation on Protection and Survivability in Operations was given by Vaibhav Gupta, Director, MKU. It covered  details of  personnel and platform protection solutions which MKU has   developed and the continual improvements being carried out by the company to make them more effective and convenient to use.

Another Presentation was done by Manish Dalmia, Director, Hyperstealth. The company is an Indian startup and have indigenously developed the following products.

  • MSCN (Multi Spectral Camouflage Net)
  • MSCPE (Multi Spectral Camouflage Personal Equipment)
  • MSCP ((Multi Spectral Camouflage Paint) / IR Paint.
  • Stealth Coating (Radar Absorbing Paint)

Panel Discussion : The subject of the discussion was Examining Current and Future Threats and Solutions at the Individual and Collective Levels for Soldiers and Platforms. Effect of Increasing Battlefield Transparency in a Networked Scenario. Lt Gen Sanjay Verma was in the chair and the discussants were Maj Gen JS Sandhu, ADG Infantry, Brig Varun Sehgal, Brig Equipment, DGMF,

Mr Vaibhav Gupta, Director, MKU  and  Manish Dalmia, Director, Hyperstealth. The issues which came up during the session are:-

  • The changing nature of warfare warrants that we will need to provide protection against threats ranging from IEDs to state of the art precision ammunitions.
  • In the Indian context challenges are compounded due to varying types of terrain.
  • We have to use innovative ways and means including decoys to enhance protection and survivability.
  • AI enhances the OODA cycle. We must incorporate it in systems to the extent feasible.
  • There are presently no dedicated systems against kinetic and loiter ammunitions.

Session 4 :Emerging and disruptive technologies: emerging contours of operations in new age warfare scenario and strategy to counter the threats. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Director cenjows was in the chair.

Special Address. Lt Gen SS Hasabnis, PVSM, VSM, DCOAS (P&S) gave a special address on Need to Strategise for Future Conflicts and yet Maintain a Balance between Conventional and Emerging Technologies. He brought out that we need to comprehend the nature of war and threats and prepare for future wars accordingly. We have to equip ourselves with high end technologies as well as appropriate equipment required in proxy wars, hence we have to maintain a balance between low end and high end technologies. We must  develop our capabilities in a manner that we can create adequate deterrence. New technologies will change the spectrum of mechanized warfare

Industry Presentations. Benjamin Ng, MELCO. He spoke about the anti-drone systems developed by the company. These are compact and portable. They are capable of automatically detecting and jamming drones. There is also a provision of a manual jam i.e. after verification of the drone.

Paul Taylor Enterprise Control Systems gave a presentation on CUAS Capability and Denial of Data Links. He spoke about jamming solutions against data links and the counter drone system which has also been enhanced for deployment on semi portable containers and on a range of vehicles for quick deployment and to provide on the pause capability against malicious drones.

Panel Discussion. A discussion was held on Identifying New Threats, in particular Unmanned and Drones, their potential, and Strategising to balance between Conventional and Future Wars. Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Director CENJOWS was in the chair. The panel comprised Brig Jagroop Singh, Brig Ops & C&R, Army Air Defence, Brig Raghav, Brig Ops, Artillery Dte, Paul Taylor, Enterprise Control Systems and Mr Benjamin Ng, MELCO. The following issues emerged.

  • Threats in future conflicts will be multi dimensional and from a vast array of weapon types.
  • RPVs are ideally suited for dumb, dirty and dangerous tasks and have added a totally new dimension to the threats and we need to be prepared for them.
  • RPVs can be used to fire  ATGMs, Air-to-surface Missiles, Air-to-air Missiles and  LGBs or any possible combination of these.
  • RPVs reduce the loop between surveillance and engagement.
  • RPVs will be employed across the spectrum of conflict during situations of peace, NWNP, crisis and conflict.
  • We need to induct suitable counter drone systems at the earliest. These should have hard kill and soft kill options.
  • AI will play a very important part in counter drone technology.

Session 5 :New dimensions in firepower: loitering munitions, precision munitions and their lethal effect on operations. Lt Gen Subrata Saha, PVSM, UYSM, YSM, VSM** former DCOAS (P&S), Member NSAB was in the chair.

Industry Presentations. Col Vikram Mahajan, Bharat Forge spoke about Precision and Loitering Ammunitions and stated that  these ammunitions are still evolving, and it would be ten years or so before they are fully developed. It is of the utmost essence that we understand how these are going to be employed in our operational canvas.

Maj PV Krishnan (Retd), Cassiopiea also spoke on the same subject. He stated that loitering ammunitions are a cross between UAVs and guided missiles. They provide the advantages of smart as well as conventional ammunitions and can be used for standoff engagements with day and night capabilities. However, their lethality may be relatively less due to the warhead weight and the fact that cost needs to be kept in mind.

Panel Discussion. The topic of the discussion was New Dimensions in Firepower: Loitering Munitions, Precision Munitions and their Lethal Effect on Operations. Lt Gen Subrata Saha  was in the chair and the panel comprised Maj Gen Deepak Obhrai, VSM, ADG Artillery (A), Brig S Pagay, WE Directorate, Mr Ramesh Kumar, Scientist ‘G’, ARDE Pune, Col Vikram Mahajan, Bharat Forge and Maj PV Krishnan (Retd), Cassiopiea. The following points emerged.

  • There is a need to converge our operational experience with technical knowledge to arrive at the right solutions.
  • Precision and Loitering ammunition necessitates that we have appropriate surveillance and recce capabilities so that the characteristics of these ammunitions can be exploited.
  • The factors that will influence artillery are the need for policies to keep pace with technological changes and how to meet the increasing demand for resources.
  • All types of targets do not require precision weapons as these weapons are not replacement weapons and have their own unique roles.
  • Compared to precision weapons Precision Guided Kits are much cheaper.
  • DRDO has projects in the field of such weapons.

Session 6 :Futuristic armoured vehicles encompassing threats, technologies and cost effectiveness.

Panel Discussion.  Design Considerations and Parameters for Modern AFVs in tune with Requirements of Future Battlefields. Lt Gen RK Jagga, DG Mech Forces was in the chair. The discussants were Lt Gen NB Singh, PVSM, AVSM,VSM, former DGEME, Maj Gen Sanjiv Khanna (Retd), Principal Advisor, Bharat Forge, Brig Anurag Chhibber, Brig Ops, Mech Forces, Sh A Hafeezur Rahman, Scientist ‘F’, CVRDE. The discussions highlighted the following points.

  • Technology must be used as a tool to deter war.
  • We must carry out a capability-based analysis to reach what is required by us.
  • In our context varying types of terrain on our western and northern borders is a constraining factor in working out our requirements.
  • Terrain also dictates that we have a delicate mix of wheeled and tracked vehicles.
  • Wheeled vehicles have disadvantages like lesser floatation capabilities and a bigger signature.
  • Since new technologies are essentially software based, there would be a requirement of frequent upgrades, this would considerably enhance life cycle costs.
  • Technology induction will have to be commensurate with skills.
  • DRDO has undertaken several projects, including a 1500 BHP tank engine, related to new technologies.

Key Takeaways

New Age Warfare. Earlier it was operational needs which dictated what was required from technology, like in the case of the battle tank in 1916, whereas now it is technology which is going to drive operational concepts. Warfare has extended to the nonmilitary dimension in the battlespace and has new nuances in the form of disruptive technologies and non stage actors. Emerging and disruptive technologies have an overbearing  influence  on  battlespace dynamics. Hybrid wars which blend conventional warfare with irregular warfare and use other influencing methods like cyberspace and economics will be the norm. The battlefield of the future will be multi dimensional, net centric with integrated and synchronous operations by a multitude of weapon systems. Technology has advanced rapidly and the operational construct has changed drastically. Autonomous and unmanned systems have created a paradigm shift in the scheme of things. The attack on the Aramco facility in Saudi Arabia was an epoch making event which will shape future conflicts. Such attacks make weaker opponents gain parity with stronger adversaries making it a level playing field.

Indian Context. India has two disputed borders with one continually on the edge of war and other in a situation which fluctuates between peace and NWNP. We have to be prepared for the conventional, however, with new elements coming in, placing caps on some of our conventional abilities is an option. We must also be prepared for hybrid wars. Hence our preparations for both conventional and hybrid must go on simultaneously. It is also of the utmost essence that we are prepared for both kinetic as well as non-kinetic warfare.

Indian Army. The Army must be prepared for manoeuvre warfare. A high degree of mobility is required in all types of terrain. The infantry will have to be given mobility as per the dictates of the terrain and what is of the utmost importance is that infantry is given suitable protection, this is a great necessity in view of the lethality paradigm in the battlespace having changed. Military pundits are agreed  that operations will increasingly take place in built up areas. This has been borne out by the fighting in Syria. This underscores the need for appropriate protection for all elements engaged in combat.

Future Armoured Vehicles. The QR for our future armoured vehicles has been worked out basis the capabilities required by us. Varying types of terrain on our borders has been a restricting  factor that came into play whilst working out our requirements. As far as the aspect of wheeled versus tracked ICVs is concerned, the issue has been considered and we have decided to go in for a delicate mix of both. The RFI for a wheeled ICV has been processed. The FRCV is on course and as per current indications should be available by the end of the next decade. New and emerging technologies have been duly factored in, keeping the skill levels of our troops in mind,  and we are looking at optimal solutions balancing available technology and operational needs.

Precision and Loitering Ammunition. Precision ammunitions are the key to the future as they will play the role of Force Multipliers. However, they are not a replacement ammunition and we cannot do away with conventional ammunition altogether due the prohibitive cost of precision ammunition and the advantages, it offers (like dispersion – cover large areas). Scaling will have to be done keeping different types of terrain in mind. Use of precision ammunition will not offset the need for boots on the ground. The induction of precision ammunition necessitates that we have good surveillance and recce capabilities so that this type of ammunition can be exploited. However, the high cost factor needs to be borne in mind and a viable alternative viz precision kits which can be used as ‘add ons’ to conventional ammunition to make it semi smart can also be looked at. Loitering ammunition offers advantages like stealth (due to the small point of origin), standoff engagements and precision but their lethality may be relatively less due to the warhead weight, and costs are high.

Unmanned Aerial Systems. Unmanned Aerial Systems and are posing new challenges as they can be used in multiple mission modes. With the integration of AI and ML these become more potent and are also capable of swarm attacks. They pose threats during peace, crisis and obviously conflict. Anti drone systems, both active and passive systems need to be looked at. The challenges and opportunities arising out of the new dimensions of employment of such systems need to be factored in while planning military operations and capability building strategies.

Electro Magnetic Spectrum. A new war is being fought for control of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum – war in a domain which major powers cannot afford to lose as the EM spectrum will greatly influence all future wars. We therefore need to look at CEMA (cyber and electromagnetic activities)  integration, tri service synergy, ensuring that all our structures are appropriately networked and that required EW capacity and capability exists.

Protection and Survivability. As protection and survivability  are intrinsically linked,  they must be looked at in a  much wider  context than mere simplistic protection solutions. The need of the hour is holistic protection solutions which can enhance survivability to the required levels. Hence, there is a need to include issues like enhancing survival of causalities through provision of appropriate medical kits. We need to look at signature management, improved camouflage technologies, vision devices, passive and active means of protection. Evasive and destructive means will  all form a part of a system which can increase the chances of survival of an individual/ vehicles of all types and groups of them. Net centricity and communications too play an important role in survivability. We must also incorporate innovative means like decoys etc.

Organisational Structures. In view of the changes in battlespace dynamics, we need to revisit our organizational structures to make them lean and mean. A case in point is the armoured regiment- to fight in built up areas and irregular type of conflict should we have a tank squadron with ten tanks with each troop having  two tanks? At the higher levels we should consider organisations which do not present very big signatures.

Procurement. The speed of technological change and our procurement policies are out of sync. We need to revisit our policies to ensure that technology does not outpace us, and we end up inducting obsolescent equipment. Another important factor is that of price indexing of technology. This will give the policy makers  a realistic assessment of costs. It is of the utmost importance that the aspect of price indexing is earnestly driven by the users. Our wish list, for good or for bad, must keep the budgetary aspects in mind.