High-Intensity Warfare (HIW) or High-Intensity Conflict (HIC) refers to state vs state conflict with a modern, peer adversary – as envisioned during the Cold War period. As the name implies, the tempo of operations is greater, and the concentration of forces and firepower is also substantially greater. High-intensity war is often equated with conventional or regular war, as after the Middle Ages, this was the ‘usual’ type of war.
The concept of high intensity warfare (HIW) or high intensity conflictHIC) has rapidly become a dominant theme within the global defence market over the last few years, with recent events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Europe, Chinese territorial disputes with nations across Southeast Asia, and continued proxy wars between Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East cementing the importance of remaining informed and prepared for such a scenario.
Due to the increased risk of open conflict between geopolitical superpowers, nations across the globe have been incentivised to increase their defence budgets to better prepare their armed forces for any future high-intensity armed engagements. Following the invasion of Ukraine, several previously pacifistic nations such as Germany and Finland have significantly enhanced allocations to their domestic defence budgets in light of the deteriorating security situation in Europe.
Since the end of the Cold War, Western Militaries have been mostly engaged in low-intensity asymmetric warfare which has required a significantly different force posture than is needed to counter a peer adversary. This demands complex, full-spectrum capabilities. Aspects such as Air Dominance have been taken for granted, and capabilities such as heavy armor and Electronic Warfare have been allowed to stagnate.
As opposed to Low Intensity Warfare which is typically fought through small-unit engagements, high intensity warfare is primarily fought through engagements of larger units (typically manoeuver units) and sees the deployment of the latest technology that armies can field. The renewed prospect of state-based warfare means many militaries are looking to recapitalize and upgrade their war fighting assets.
Expanding Military Domains
Five warfighting domains have become established these are Air, Land, Sea, Space, and Cyber. The military develops strategies, tactics, commands, personnel, weapons, equipment, and adequate supplies for Fighting in these domains. These traditional domains are also expanding as more and more physical spaces are now becoming militarized from deep oceans to Arctic to Cislunar space up to the moon. Countries are developing technologies from surveillance platforms, propulsion, materials to weapons for dominating these domains.
The space has become another domain of conflict due to enhanced militarization and weaponization. Countries are developing many counter space weapons such as electronic warfare, hit-to-kill anti-satellite weapons, killer micro-satellites, DEW weapons (laser and high-powered microwaves) and high-altitude nuclear detonations. Many countries including the U.S., China, India, and Russia have been developing anti-satellite capabilities over the years, with the most recent demonstration occurring when the Russian Federation destroyed one of its own satellites. a missile test in late 2021
Cyberwarfare is emerging as the next frontier of war. The states can target the enemy’s critical information infrastructure by damaging the computer systems that control them. The targets can include electricity grids, health sector, traffic control systems, water supplies, telecommunications and banking. It’s has been considered the cheapest and easiest form of warfare but to develop sophisticated cyber weapons require lot of time and expertise.
The emerging battlefield is a multi-domain battlefield in which all the traditional domains of land, air, sea, Space and cyber, along with Hybrid warfare, Information warfare and cognitive warfare which will be exploited simultaneously or in any desired combinations. This multidomain battlefield requires an integrated multidomain response by developing the capability to deliver effects across all domains. There is also requirement of integrated multidomain command and control to conduct operations and create desired effects across all domains. There is a need to develop new doctrines, strategies, tactics, capabilities, and training for this multidomain environment.
Weapons and technologies
There will be a significant spending push in High Intensity Warfare (HIW) related technologies – including major land system programs and upgrade programs. This may cause smaller nations to prioritise acquiring a smaller amount of new, advanced systems over a larger quantity of legacy systems, as such technologies could act as ‘force multipliers’ in the appropriate circumstances.
Fifth generation stealth fighters, that are extremely hard to detect with conventional radars
Hypersonic missiles that can travel at Mach 5 to Mach 10 that is 5 to 10 times speed of sound. They are also highly maneuverable making them extremely hard to detect and shoot down.
Directed-energy weapon (DEW), that uses highly focused energy to damage their target including lasers, and microwaves.
Electromagnetic Rail Gun, EMRG, is a cannon that uses electricity to launch projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles at hypersonic speeds.
Super Cavitating Submarines and Torpedoes, that use cavitation effects to create a bubble of gas that greatly reduces drag and achieve very high speeds
The engagement through larger units is a consequence of the need to concentrate capability and firepower in order to generate the greatest lethality and power possible, as well as the need to maximize the ability to provide over-watch and cover to friendly units. The symbiotic nature of different unit and platform types is evident here, as the heightened tempo of operations strains co-ordination and rapidly exposes weaknesses.
Multi-role system and HIW platform
Another explaining trend in HIW interior technology is the development of dual-use or multirole systems and platforms as the military around the world continues to adapt their equipment to operate effectively in a single scenario. in multi-domain conflict. It can be found on all levels and domains, from the F-35 JSF; in A2/AD systems; drones; and personal protective equipment (PPE).
These types of technologies are essential in a HIW scenario, as significant material loss and the interconnected threat environment dictate that many systems and platforms need to be modular and adaptable to changing conditions and. mission parameters. Multi-role platforms can also reduce the strategic impact caused by the loss of specific equipment and capabilities, as capability gaps are more easily filled by the same platform or systems that are able to complete that task.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
AI/ML is widely regarded as one of the most promising and important disruptive technologies that could be employed in future armed conflicts. It can be expected that AI/ML capabilities would most likely be employed by geopolitical powerhouses such as the US, China, and Russia, increasing the likelihood that they would be included in any HIW operations plans.