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Indian army developing capability to fight multi-domain, technology dominated battlefields of the future

The Indian Army is the third largest army in the world in terms of size, based on the number of personnel. But this description obfuscates the fact that it is not as powerful as what such a portrayal should signify, in terms of its capacity to undertake military operations optimally in the multi-domain, technology dominated battlefields of the future, writes LT GEN PHILIP CAMPOSE.


The Indian Army essentially remains a force largely organised, equipped and trained to fight wars of the past. That is not to say that the Army cannot carry out its role and tasks successfully in the current context, more so, if it is provided the requisite means. Nonetheless, it needs no emphasis that the Army needs to modernize expeditiously if it has to be prepared to take on the security challenges of the future, he further writes.


India faces multidimensional and wide spectrum of security challenges from asymmetric to conventional wars; no contact wars to localized low intensity border wars; strategic encirclement of Indian Ocean Region, internal insurgency fueled by foreign powers, electronic warfare to cyber warfare to information warfare, militarization and weaponization of space, WMD (Biological, Chemical, Nuclear), Robotic warfare and under water conflicts. The new forms of conflicts at regional and world level may also emerge due to global warming and mass migrations, energy, water and food security.


India`s defence preparedness is the “best deterrent” and will guarantee peace in the region, said Indian Defence Minister. Defence preparedness is not simply the aggregation of military personnel, platforms, sensors and weapon systems. It is the readiness of the armed forces to undertake a wide variety of tasks involving individual and collective training, experience, skill to operate military platforms and equipments in different combat scenarios.


Defence preparedness needs addressing a wide range of issues such as critical infrastructure and mobilization; R&D on defence technologies and materials; defence industry bases; nation’s defence expenditure; weapons and platforms; intelligence, communications and networking; combat structure, Doctrine and training, political leadership and human resources.


The new Land Warfare Doctrine-2018 released by the Indian Army envisions conduct of operations through Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics into warfighting systems and effective integration of soldiers. The Indian Army will be structured to be an agile, mobile and technology-driven force, operating in synergy with the other services, in pursuance of the national interests.


The Indian Army needs modern weapons and technology so that soldiers remain empowered, trained, and equipped in order to fight future wars, said Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat. “We need modern weapons, technology. We have to look at what we require to fight the future wars. We have to get systems that are best suited for our requirements. When we talk of empowering soldiers, it is to give him technology,” General Rawat said at a press conference here, and added that a soldier should have capability to carry out operations in day and night.


Multi Domain battlefield

The emerging battlefield is a multi domain battlefield which shall include all the traditional domains of land, air and sea as well as Cyber, Space, Low Intensity conflicts, Information warfare including Psychological warfare and cognitive warfare shall be exploited by our adversaries simultaneously or in any desired combinations. Our adversaries have also developed the advanced capability in these domains as evident by Anti Satellite capability that can target from Low Earth Orbit to medium Earth orbits, constant abetting of cross border terrorism, ever increasing cyber attacks and cyber warfare campaigns, autonomous AI based weapons and psychological warfare in Doklam standoff. Cognitive warfare including mind warfare and control is another future threat.


The battlefield threats and capabilities have also expanded to directed energy weapons both laser and electromagnetic types, CBRNE threats including tactical nuclear weapons, hypersonic weapons and platforms, UCAVs, Rail guns, large number of autonomous air, ground and underwater systems, Quantum encryption based unhackable networks, etc. All of these battlefield threats have also been integrated into comprehensive C4ISR framework and Network Centric Operations.


The PLA’s threat comes from the jointness of its forces, combined with the capabilities – kinetic and non-kinetic – that can be brought to bear on India. The PLA’s impressive non-kinetic capability is amalgamated under the new Strategic Support Force (SSF). The SSF, comprising space, cyber, electronic, psychological and other technical capabilities, has two tasks: to support joint operations, and to independently paralyse and sabotage enemy’s command, control, communication, computer and intelligence systems. The PLA’s kinetic capabilities include its army, air force and navy domains, reinforced by precision long-range cruise and hypersonic missiles, unmanned combat aerial vehicles and directed energy.


These  capabilities will be complemented with the second wave of technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), partially autonomous unmanned systems, robotics and human-machine interface, under China’s New Generation AI Development Plan. The AI will help the PLA increase the speed of conventional operations and overwhelm the enemy war-fighting loop – called the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) – to ensure the enemy remains defensive and unbalanced in war.


The response of this multidomain battlefield needs to be met with integrated multidomain response by developing capability to deliver effects across all domains based on our strengths and our adversary’s weaknesses. This is also requires integrated command and control which is effective across all domains. Modern AI tools should also be integrated into command and control which can generate automatic intelligent responses, overcome all countermeasures, provide rapid course of action analysis e.t.c. In addition to the preparedness in individual domains, Defence capability should also include Network Centric Warfare capability and Joint Operations capability. Therefore there is need to develop new doctrines, strategies, tactics, capability and training required in this environment.


The Indian Army (IA) is seeking to create integrated battle groups (IBGs), expand its cyber warfare capabilities, and induct energy-directed weapons as well as artificial intelligence-based systems to manage multiple security challenges, the service announced in its Land Warfare Doctrine-2018.  The doctrine states that the IA will employ “composite” IBGs comprising a mix of five to six battalions to execute conventional combat operations for “greater flexibility in force application”. Each IBG, which would be larger than the existing 3,000 personnel-strong brigade but smaller than a 10,000-strong division, would be headed by a two-star officer and include infantry, armoured, artillery, air-defence, and support units, all of which would be backed by attack helicopters.


According to the doctrine, the IA’s will also focus on developing cross-domain capabilities, facilitating enhanced jointness and integration among the three services, and optimising the available forces and resources “for effective and robust military responses in a future battlefield milieu”. The IA is also refining its strategies to deal with dangers emanating from “restive, complex and active” border disputes with Pakistan and China and what it referred to as “state-sponsored-terrorism from across the border”.


The doctrine states that the IA will deal with “deliberate transgressions” by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) across the disputed 4,057 km-long Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in a “firm and resolute manner” and in “consonance with existing agreements and protocols”. This comes after the IA and the PLA were embroiled in a 72 day-long stand off that ended in August 2017 at the Doklam tri-junction, which is situated along the disputed borders between India, China and Bhutan. The IA is of the view that it faced down the PLA at the time.


The doctrine also states that the IA will continue to carry out counter-insurgency (COIN) operations against Pakistan to “ensure deterrence through punitive measures” such as the September 2016 cross-border ‘surgical strike’ carried out by IA special forces against suspected militants in the disputed border region of Kashmir.


Capability Requirements

The armed forces will be enhancing information warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for precise and decisive employment of long range vectors, strategic and other non-contact assets to cause maximum degradation to the adversary. The forces will make efforts towards theaterisation of all critical assets (ISR, long range vectors, aviation, air defence and logistics) for optimum application in future conflicts.


The existing cyber warfare capabilities will be upgraded to develop cyber deterrence and defence capabilities and developing means of eliminating such threats. The doctrine acknowledges the evolving domain of electronic warfare, saying the force shall evolve such capabilities into full spectrum, electro-optical dominance to include capabilities in Communication Intelligence (COMINT), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), interception, jamming, spoofing and deception. To contain proxy wars, there will be a concerted effort to degrade the communication capabilities of the adversaries and enhancing technical prowess to combat the impact of radicalisation.


“The Indian Army will continue to modernise to fight in a techno-centric combat environment which is likely to emerge in futuristic conflict scenarios due to revolution in technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, nano technology, high-energy lasers, directed energy weapons, hypersonic weapons, etc. so as to cater for high technology threat of Swarm Attacks including Drones, Laser and Pulsed Microwave Weapon Systems and Injection of False Information,” says the doctrine.


The deployment of satellites to provide accurate inputs for planning of operations, mitigation of threats and integration of space based assets with ground based weapon platforms will be a priority for the army. The new strategy envisages the prioritisation of developing micro satellites, and intelligent outer space satellites on ‘on demand basis’ as essential future requirements.


Aiming for Technology superiority

The Army of the future will have to be technologically oriented, with many more specialists, as compared to generalists. It will have to be equipped progressively with modern weapons and weapon systems, supported by technology based processes and automation to meet the needs and challenges of the future battlefield. There is lack of expertise within the Army in the field of weapon designs and technology, resulting in lack of meaningful inputs for the indigenous defence industry. An Army Design Bureau (ADB) has been inaugurated recently to address this shortfall.


Indian Armies Army Design Bureau (ADB) will be similar to Navy’s Naval Design Bureau (NDB) in concept but Naval Design Bureau does not actually design weapons but weapons systems and platforms like Nuclear Submarines,frigates,destroyers or a Aircraft carrier and procures offensive and defensive weapons and other equipment like engines and auxiliary units either within India or from established weapons manufacturer from around the world . For Armies Army Design Bureau (ADB) task will be to design and manufacture weapons systems like Assualt Rifles, ammunitions and parts for its Main battle tanks, Infantry support requirements in likes of Bulletproof jackets, communication equipment, clothing materials and smaller firearms.


Government is also in the process of amending its defence procurement manual, which will enable the armed forces to procure the latest tech in a speedy manner. The move to amend defence procurement manual (DPM) by adding a separate chapter on tech products — a long standing demand of the industry — will significantly speed up the process of the defence forces procuring and implementing the latest technology, people aware of the development said. At present, defence procurement takes years, sometimes up to a decade, they said.


Army is entering into joint collaborations with academia. It has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) to set up a research and development cell. Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) calls to identify and enhance the critical technological areas that can be enhanced in the armed forces. Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras and Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (P&S), signed the MoU in March 2017 at the IIT Madras campus.


Recently, a proposal for creation of an Army Technology Leaders cadre has been made to the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat at the Third Annual Technology Seminar of the Indian Army held in the capital. Mooted by the former Deputy Chief Of Indian Army, Lt Gen Saha, the proposal calls for a cadre of select officers who can combine technology with operational requirements. These officers he said “should get groomed as they grow in service to provide the critical interface between military-industry-R&D”. While this proposal was put forward to the Army he said similar cadres should be there for Navy and Airforce.


It is essential for services to have their own pool of officers who can combine operational experience with technological expertise. This competency is essential for the services to keep track of evolving technology and their implications on the battlefield. With their operational experience the technology leaders would be well placed to even guide research or lead research activities to find smarter solutions to various problems of the battlefield.



Defence preparedness largely depends on technological capabilities and research on advanced areas of military technologies. Defence Research &Development Organisation (DRDO) through its 7 Domain Clusters across 46 Labs, has been working dedicatedly to ensure the technological superiority of the Armed Forces by actively engaging in design and development of state of art weapon systems and technology thereby enhancing the defence capability and countering threats and challenges. DRDO is enhancing self-reliance in Defence Systems by undertaking research, design & development leading to production, induction, life cycle upgrades and sustenance of world class weapon systems and equipment in accordance with the expressed needs and the qualitative requirements laid down by the three services.


DRDO is developing many future capabilities for realizing Defence Vision such as Network Centric Systems and Operations, Air Dominance platforms, Army Modernization and Transformation technologies, Blue Sea Strike capability, Missile Autonomy, Space Security, Information Security, Unmanned and Autonomous Systems, Directed Energy Weapons, Integrated Air and Missile Defence, CBRN Defence, and technologies for Low intensity Conflicts.



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