FIND InnoNuggets


Monday, August 17, 2015

Indian Air Force in the age of Unmanned, Hypersonic, Inelligent, Stealthy and CPGS world

Indian Air Force celebrates its birthday on 8th October. The following article was written last year on 8th October.

Indian Air Force in the age of Unmanned, Hypersonic, Intelligent, Stealthy, and CPGS world
We would like to wish the Indian Air Force a very happy birthday – the IAF was born in 1932 on 8th October – a good 15 years before India attained independence. Today, one of the finest air force of the world is in dire need of new equipment – as the Chief of Air Staff has been clearly telling everyone. In 2014 and beyond, however, “the equipment” needed for the Air Force need a hard and soft relook in the light of changes that are visible now or discernable for future.
Should IAF think about increasing the number of its fighter aircraft squadrons as a response to increasingly complex and dangerous set of challenges? Below we try to see what “equipment” will be appropriate and may be needed for IAF as it faces near term and long term challenges.
The key changes in the war in the Air
Recent trends indicates that the warfare in the air and space – aerospace – if one may, is seeing following five characteristic trends
1.       Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) augmenting the nuclear armed Ballistic missiles as a “useable” option as compared to “just threat” but non usable option of nukes
2.       Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles emerging as a step-change from the conventional piloted aircraft
3.       Hypersonic (speed of 5 times and above of speed of sound) Vehicles, Missiles and Munitions
4.       Intelligent munitions, systems and machines
5.       Stealthy systems and platforms

In August 2014, Amy F. Woolf, Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy published a report for US Congressional Research Service (, report number R41464) titled, “Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues”. The summary of the report starts with,
“Conventional prompt global strike (CPGS) weapons would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. This capability may bolster U.S. efforts to deter and defeat adversaries by allowing the United States to attack high-value targets or “fleeting targets” at the start of or during a conflict.” {Emphasis not in the original}
The CPGS is an unprecedented capability. As envisaged and being developed through integration of “extreme” limits of technologies – a vision that will give the sole superpower capability beyond anything any adversary can deploy in near future. The report lists following 8 options for US for CPGS – land based ballistic missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles, submarine launched intermediate range Ballistic missiles, Long range bombers, Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Hypersonic cruise missiles, Scramjet technologies, and Forward based Global strike. Except for long range bombers and perhaps forward based global strike all other options are unmanned.
Can IAF consider these and perhaps other options for creating a system for conventional prompt regional strike (CPRS)? Even to contemplate this shift, IAF and DRDO will have to work together – can they work to build a new type of force?
In a telling article in 2012, the Economist wrote “the future belongs to Drones”. The article published was titled “The last manned fighter” and it gave a detailed account of F-35 fighter plane costs and defines a future direction that clearly seems to be favoring unmanned combat aircraft. It states, “In many roles, unmanned planes are more efficient: they carry neither a bulky pilot nor the kit that keeps him alive, which means they can both turn faster and be stealthier. And if they are shot down, no one dies. Even the F-35’s champions concede that it will probably be the last manned strike fighter aircraft the West will build.” Given the promise and capability of unmanned aircraft, and increasing cost of training pilots to operate complex fighter aircraft, it is but foolhardy to build a future military capability ignoring the new unmanned and remote lethality.
Is there any thinking in IAF, to increase the unmanned component of its force? Many functions can be carried out by unmanned aircraft – increasingly more and more functions can be given to unmanned platforms. 
India is already on its way to develop BrahMos II – a Mach 7 hypersonic cruise missile. However, due to the MTCR constraint it has to be limited to 290 kms range. IAF should learn and create a future force structure that will utilize more of hypersonic systems – missiles, platforms and munitions.
What are the plans of IAF to incorporate the hypersonic shift that the world is seeing? A roadmap for hypersonic IAF is essential.
Increasing intelligence of combat systems
Law of increasing intelligence of technical systems found that human beings by collectively evolving their technical systems, are trying to make each technical system as close to a human being as possible - or at least a model of human being and its environment based on the current understanding of the world (for example, understanding of laws of physics and chemistry in making an automobile) and the current understanding of the system called the human being. As man understands the world around it as well as its body and its mind, it wants to create an "ideal man" or at least an idealized human of all technical systems it is creating. (One can download the pdf on law of increasing intelligence of technical systems at

As per the law, dumb systems become guided systems, then smart systems, brilliant systems and genius systems. Today, we are already in the era of smart munitions. Brilliant munitions are emerging. Genius munitions will the next stage. What are IAF’s plans to move on increasing intelligence of its platforms, munitions and missiles? Perhaps a UCAV with Genius capabilities will fulfill many requirements of a fifth generation fighter aircraft.
The fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) being developed with Russia is supposed to have stealthy features. US already have F22 and controversial F35 as the fifth gen fighters. Increasing stealth in combination with the BVR combat is already a visible trend.
It will be important for IAF to define the stealth roadmap it should have and means to create it with organizations existing in the country.
Key Messages
Indian Air Force in its 82 years of existence has not faced such technological and strategic challenges that it is going to face in next two decades and beyond.
We have characterized these as 5 dimensional. The air war that we envisage will be more unmanned, more hypersonic, more intelligent, more stealthy and demanding prompt conventional global strike.
A force structure based on only increasing the number of fighter squadrons to meet the above disruptive or revolutionary challenges is a recipe bound to fail. We propose an integrated roadmap on these five dimensions will be of essence for the IAF.
Wishing IAF a wonderful birthday today.

Of Fighter Aircraft, Indian Air Force and search for Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)

In January 2013 as The Rafale Fighter aircraft was chosen to be the medium multi-role combat aircraft for Indian Air Force (IAF), I wrote down the following article. The article created a minor controversy.

Well, I still hold on to view of making our Air Force structure on Su-30MKI, LCA I and II, AMCA, FGFA and potentially UCAVs.

Posting again the original article for historical reasons.


With the defence cuts, the outrageously visible and comprehensively debated Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for 126 modern aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to be delayed. Through a complex, comprehensive and conclusive competition Rafale fighter aircraft came out trumps last year. Although the aircraft has been selected, the deal has not been signed and we were told that negotiations are on. It has also been mentioned that by end of FY 2012 the deal would be signed. Given the cuts now, it is clear that IAF will have to wait for MMRCA for some more time. Considering this delay as a blessing in disguise, can we look at what the genesis of MMRCA and how much do we need a new MMRCA? Also if we acquire a new fighter aircraft, what are the implications?

The Variety of Aircraft with Indian Air Force

The last major aircraft acquired into IAF is the SU-30MKI. India today operates 8 squadrons of Su-30. Mirage-2000 is the next important aircraft, though, not in terms of numbers as IAF operates only 3 Squadrons of this multi-role aircraft, with which IAF is very happy. Besides the above, IAF has Mig-21s, Mig-27s, Jaguars and Mig-29s in its inventory. When the need for MMRCA came into picture it was for filling the gap – as Mig-21s – the real work horse of IAF for many decades – was coming to the end of its extended shelf-life. As is the case with so many varieties of Mig-23s, Mig-27s etc that IAF acquired in 1980s when US gave F-16s to Pakistan. The Mirage-2000 was also an acquisition in response to Pak F-16s. In 1990s, country hoped that LCA-Tejas would be ready in the first decade of 21st century for squadron level entry to replace Mig-21s. With the delay in LCA, IAF said we need to fill an immediate need quickly by getting a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft in the force. The importance of Medium in contrast to LCA’s Light is easy to distinguish. What could be a medium combat aircraft – definitely which can carry heavier load – may be more “hard points” – better, longer range avionics etc. When it came to choice, we created the competition between the best “Medium” aircraft available.

Is Su-30MKI a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft?

Everyone agrees that Su-30 MKI is one of the most capable aircraft. It is already been improved and the new lot of 42 ordered last month will have better avionics etc. What is more, we would have our local Hindustan Aeronautics Limited able to absorb and built them as we get into future. Capability wise – will Su-30MKI fill up the role of MMRCA - May be yes, may be no. For one, it is not medium, it is heavy. But cost-wise and continuity-wise may be better if we look at an option of SU-30MKI and LCA for numbers this decade and next.

The Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft/Perspective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)

By 2022 India will start receiving the FGFA or PMF being jointly developed with Russia. This is the logical evolution from SU-30MKI. Also IAF should start getting LCA and the LCA mark 2 as well. India will be working on three key aircraft streams FGFA, Su-30MKI and LCA and its variants.

The Unmanned Combat Aircraft Dimension

Many key operations performed by manned combat aircraft are rapidly being performed by Unmanned Air-borne Vehicles (UAVs) and the upcoming Unmanned Air Combat Vehicles (UCAVs). Indian Air Force will be well-served to increase more UAV/UCAV component in its inventory rapidly. Here, Indian Industry can be handy with our vast experience in software. The key to “Unmanned” is mission-critical software that makes these vehicles – unmanned.

Given the above factors and dimensions, it may be prudent for IAF to rethink its future order of battle and design itself on three key streams of Su-30MKI, LCA++ and FGFA. Also, IAF will be well-served with increasing and creating potent “Unmanned” capability – long-range, medium-range and short-range. The transitions will be well-served by the existing MIGs, Jaguars and Mirage-2000s. Rafale, although a fantastic aircraft, will not fit into the long-term requirements of the country. Unless it is being considered to include Rafale as the third leg of the IAF future thereby, making LCA still-born. If IAF take this as the key requirement – then in 2030 we should be giving may be Trillion Dollars for buying the latest Toys that French may create and our adversaries will be laughing continuously as China would have its own stealth fighters and bombers which China will gleefully share with Pakistan.  Hope the defence budget cut proves to be a blessing in disguise and we stop this “Medium” search to focus on real future.

Artificial Intelligence - set of views - The Law of Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is becoming hot again.This time though it looks wide and deep enough to stay though as a technology that can solve real problems.

Jeff Zaleski explains the Challenges of AI at this article at parabola.

1. The danger however is what happens next - the superintelligence challenge as described in some details in Bostrom, Nick. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Oxford University Press, 2014).
"Perhaps the most important characteristic of artificial intelligence is that it keeps getting smarter. AI will not remain human-level for long. Most experts believe that within a few years, if not a few days, after the advent of human-level intelligence, artificial “superintelligence” will arise. As soon as human-level AI is reached, corporations and governments in possession of that AI will flood resources into its betterment."

2. Here is another view of Robots developing someday ethics as per Minsky. However, the challenge will be if we make them ... religious ... Will BOTS be religious?

3. The first steps include chatbots with personality - the Huffingtonpost article describes this trend here. 

4. AI intrudes into traditional drug discovery even - how AI can make drugs better is unseen benefit. See the article here. 

5. And there is obvious application in War fighting with rising IQ of machines.
6. ... and there are views that all these fears are way too much into future - we really do not have AI as of now.

“I’m actually really bemused by this sudden furor over the dangers of AI,” Underkoffler told me. “It’s a pretty simple reaction. We don’t have AI and we’re nowhere close to it.”

7. Machines by the way will become "philosophers" anyway - Here's what Google's AI Bot answers

Human: What is immoral?
Machine: The fact that you have a child.

8. In the age of intelligent machines - what will man do - My Views are - Open Evolution.  

9. We need to understand the difference between intelligence and consciousness of machines. Please read here. What Elon Musk, Stephen Hawkings and Ray Kurzweil do not get! 

10.  Law of Increasing Intelligence of Technical Systems - as proposed by me Here - is the definite direction and we can not avoid it.

My Book @Goodread

My GoodReads