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Friday, December 14, 2018

Innovation in Indian Defence

(An abridged version of this post has been published at Indian Defence Industries and can be accessed HERE)


“Battle Scene in Year 2020” was perhaps the first national workshop of its kind held in February 1998 at Delhi that invited experts from armed forces, paramilitary and defence R&D to discuss geopolitical scenarios and technological change and impact on military evolution. A book was published on the proceedings. The author of this article participated as a Scientist from DRDO and also contributed few papers. In the context setting talk at the start of the Workshop, Dr Kalam, said and I quote from the book that has the proceedings, “We now have a plan of self-reliance in defence systems approved by the government. The present 30%-40% of self-reliance has to be improved to about 70% in the next five years.”  20 years down, in 2018, we still are talking about 70% import and need for self-reliance in defence. Please see recent article by Ex-Deputy NSA of India, Mr. Arvind Gupta. He says, The past experience shows that achieving self-reliance in defence manufacturing remains an elusive goal. India continues to import 70 percent of its defence equipment.”  

Is the question of why the so-called self-reliance percentage has remained static at 30% for defence equipment for last 20 years important? 

Of course, one can quibble about relative percentages on specific defence systems including Missiles (strategic and tactical), Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Main Battle Tank Arjun, etc. Yet, it is imperative that India should not only ask this question but also create an actionable response and as Mr Gupta pointed out a “Roadmap” to complement the new defence policy.  

Innovation in Military Affairs

We define innovation to be “successful creation of needed change through ideas”. This of course requires understanding and defining what “change” is “needed” and of course how to evaluate that change process has been successful. Above all innovation need ideas. And until we create an Idea vending machine, unfortunately, we must depend for ideas on Human minds which has thoughts that brings in genesis of change. There are 5 different paths to innovation as we have found. They can be initiated by, (1) Imagining the Next (2) Transforming the existing systems (3) Solving key problems (4) Fulfilling articulated and unarticulated user/customer needs through user insights and finally (5) Developing technology foresight to utilize the advances in science and technology for creating the needed change successfully. Since ideas come to human minds, we need to involve and maximize the number of primed, trained and practicing human minds for generation of ideas.  In effect, if one allows more minds (quantity) to be exposed to the potential five paths of innovation and also allow them to ideate, explore creatively and utilize their experiments into produce of change, then only we can not only harness the existing potential but in fact evolve and expand the potential of the nation. There is need to create more innovation crafters

Military change, world over, has seen various initiatives such as (a) through technology focused evolution, (b) using technology change to create new operational, organizational and doctrinal concepts, (c) juxtaposing military change as the change in overall world affairs including Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic (called DIME) and (d) relatively newer concept of Military Transformation (MT). The MT is considered as a continuous and ongoing process to create major changes or improvements without any specific rigid end-goal through a continuous process of adaptation, creative exploration, experimentation and learning. 

Interestingly though, the USA – the sole superpower since 1991, and a major proponent of Military Transformation has seen significantly lower military transformation compared to China and Russia, between 1992-2010 according to an interesting paper describing a Military Transformation Index.  It may be an interesting exercise to see how much military transformation India defence forces have seen on the proposed model. The model for evaluating military transformation Index proposes 4 transformation dimensions – (a) Organizational Structure (b) Personnel (c) Weapon Systems and (d) Defence Expenditure.  Indian army recently proposed a Brigade+ based organization compared to Divisions based organization. The MT Index or transformation does describe this trend to be seen everywhere – USA called it Modularity. Indian Army did experiment with RAPIDS and RAMIDS in 1980s – the mechanization of infantry by General Sundarji was perhaps real organizational innovation as also announcement of Mountain Strike Corps, although it was not clear how it will evolve on the ground. 

The changes being seen in the evolution of warfare and security dimensions need to be studied. Historically it is clear that character of war keeps on changing through newer technologies, doctrines and organizational structures. However, we are seeing in this century an evolution of warfare from unrestricted warfare to hybrid warfare and the multi-dimensional warfare

Comprehensive Action Plan – Continuous Military Innovation
India need a comprehensive action plan for multi-dimensional continuous military innovation. And time is ripe that this action plan should be based on real assessment of existing capabilities, potential current and future conflicts, comprehensive review of national power and multi-dimensional forays into five paths of innovation using maximum number of minds available for such creative explorations. We propose following elements of such a comprehensive Action Plan.

(a) Comprehensive identification and articulation of India’s National Interests – what are our permanent National Interests
(b) India should become a Robust Nation that combines the elements of adapting to change and creating and designing change simultaneously
(c) Define the Indian Defence forces for the Sixth Wave of Innovation for the years 2020-2045. This wave as we describe will be driven by (i) Networked, Autonomous, Nano and Hypersonic things, (ii) Algorithmic Intelligence (Not Artificial Intelligence) and Quantum Computing and (iii) Synthesis of Biology, Energy and Reality.
(d) Create a comprehensive Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) and Conventional Prompt Global Defence (CPRD) Framework for India. Similarly define clear future missions in the 15 dimensions warfare and for the Sixth Wave of innovation. Use these mission mode frameworks to create technological challenges and allow a small teams of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers to work in incubation hubs with a time bound tenures that can be hived of as future companies owned by the members.
(e) Focus on creating the next Revolutions in Military Affairs through original conceptualization. Software based RMA and Military Transformations are the key.
(f) A new organization or a new Ministry of Future to evolve India to future through a foresight, design and innovation driven approach involving all sectors – public, private, academia and various science and technology organizations and think tanks need to work together through a mechanism that needs a transparent and well defined protocol to be established.
(g) The mission mode projects/initiatives should emerge from identified Key Missions to create Doctrine, Organization, Technology and Strategy (DOTS)

India need to create DOTS for following missions

Modularity of Army – Brigade, Integrated Battlefield Group and Division – what should be the unit of fighting for next 25 years for Indian defence forces

Conventional Prompt Regional Strike and Defence system Using Hypersonic weapons

An integrated and joint logistics support system for the defence forces has been long in demand. For example see

C5ISR = C4ISR + Combat Systems
Traditional approach of separating combat systems from combat support systems must be relooked in the new integrated/networked system of systems – or what is being termed as the C5ISR – the fifth C is the combat systems.  The Rand report on the recent Afghanistan Mission Network (AMN) states key lessons learned from the development and evolution of the AMN). It states “The AMN began as a network for facilitating fairly commonplace human-to-human exchanges … Over time, it evolved to become the primary C5ISR system in Afghanistan”

BMD/ASAT/Anti-TNW – for the Strike Force
The Indian Strike Force faces a de-capacitating threat at the start of any war – a preemptive elimination through cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, or even a tactical nuclear weapon. A question is how to design a strike force that can withstand a pre-emptive strike and still perform its function. On obvious conceptual framework is to keep it in a diffused state so that it is not visible in the initial stages of the war. This will require modularity, comprehensive C4ISR integration with the strike force and reinforced integrated logistics support system. 

Responding to China
Responding to a comprehensive, controlled and integrated Chinese assertiveness backed by a unilateral posturing and meddling in multiple dimensions – economic, geopolitical, military, and foreign relations. 

Responding to Pakistan
Creating a credible, conventional, rapidly executable response against Pakistan that is feasible and effective under the threat of nuclear war constraints and especially the use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW) using NASR and recently acquired SH-15 Howitzers from china

Information, Asymmetric, Hybrid and Multi-dimensional Warfare
Understanding, developing and creating - infrastructure, capability and response to the disruptive nature of information war

Maritime security and continuing to be the Net Security Provider in IOR and further
Maritime capability and response for the high seas in a rising China and declining US world

Self-reliance in defence has been a worthy goal for India for many decades. Unfortunately, it has remained unfulfilled. Innovation in defence is the key call for action. Our hypothesis is that we have remained self-unreliant in defence because our military doctrine, technology roadmap and mission profile of the future has either remained in the past or has been borrowed from others. A true response requires a multi-dimensional action plan invoking the changing and expanding nature of warfare, planning to respond and leverage the upcoming sixth wave of innovation and defining the new Indian military for the sixth wave of Innovation and 15 dimensional warfare. Using these through specific organization structures, mechanisms and protocols to involve as many minds as India can to develop specific missions and creating doctrine, organization, technology and strategy to fulfill those missions.

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