TIME TO LEAPFROG TECHNOLOGY : A VIEWPOINT
The United States has reportedly submitted a list of 10 defence technologies for transfer to India, bringing it into a small group of closest allies with which America shares such sensitive details without export control. Concurrently, the US has sought opinion from its own defence industry to identify next set of technologies which could be shared and transferred to India and it is estimated that the number of such defence technology transfers could cross 90.
The US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has said that under the Bilateral Defence Trade and Technology Initiative, US has submitted a white paper explaining where India falls within US export control system. The US has included India in the list of “Group of Eight” nations that receives the best of the technologies without export control. India is reportedly reviewing these offers. The issue merits serious attention considering the threats that India is facing that are likely to magnify in the future. These not only cover the entire spectrum of conflict (NBC, conventional and sub-conventional) but more importantly we need to bridge the asymmetry with our adversaries, particularly China, in the dimensions of aerospace, cyber and electromagnetic.
If the capability gap has widened exponentially between China’s PLA and the Indian military, it is because of our technological voids and the inability of our military-industrial complex and accredited redtapism that has prevented us from bridging it. Therefore we must resort to leapfrogging technology. Global technological transformation is already on the threshold of fully network-centric forces, better PGMs including high energy lasers/plasma/electromagnetic/ultrasonic/directed energy weapons, long-range strategic aerospace platforms, improved ISR and communications systems, stealth and smart technologies, improved compact nukes, optimised artificial intelligence, nano weapons and equipment, micro UAVs, ant robots, cyber warriors/worms/virus/cyBugs, anti-satellite weapons etc. While conflict will be five dimensional (aerospace, land, sea, cyber and electromagnetic) information will be of immense strategic value with information warfare spanning network-centric warfare, C4I2 warfare, electronic warfare, cyber warfare and all other forms of operationalised cyber space. Space combat, cyber space combat, radiation combat, robotic combat, nano-technology combat will add to forms of combat.
From the very essential engine technology, we need networked elements of national power; information dominance and information assurance; ability to paralyze enemy C4I2 infrastructure; credible deterrence against state-sponsored terrorism that requires optimising technology as well; long-range expeditionary strategic forces; standoff weapons to pre-empt enemy attack; adequate mix of DEWs, PGMs, ASATs etc; ability to disrupt enemy logistics / sustenance; mix of hard and soft kill options; layered strategic air and theatre missile defence; competitive cyber warfare capability; ability to exploit space and cyber space and conventional forces capable of winning high-tech wars.
We need to accelerate: establishment of an integrated C4I2SR system; integrated communications (vertical and horizontal); all platforms network enabled; graduate from cyber security to information assurance and dominance; holistic review of DEWs, standoff PGMs, ASATs; exploit technologies like steerable beam, wide band/software defined radios, network security, common GIS, data, fusion and analysis, alternatives to GPS, dynamic bandwidth management, shooting down UAVs, camouflage. Spying, snooping, reverse engineering has given China designs of the US F-I6, B1 Bomber, US Navy’s quiet electric drive, US W-88 miniaturized nuke (used in Trident Missiles) to name a few. China aims parity with the US in science and technology in three decades plus.
The J-20 stealth fighter has been developed in record time. Stealth helicopters and vessels are being worked upon. The indigenous aircraft carrier under development is estimated to be twice as fast with double the capacity of launching and landing capabilities through twin decks. All this has given China a tremendous boost in defence exports aside from a modernised PLA. What India needs to learn from China is optimising technology reconfiguration wherein available technology is integrated in multitude of combinations to attain self-reliance.
Technologies notwithstanding, base level equipping of PLA (Army, Navy, Air Force) is almost completely indigenised. As regards the joint ventures proposed by the US, it is high time India opens the defence sector to the private industry fully considering the existing military-industrial complex is not even meeting the requirement of assault rifles, carbines and light machine guns of the military, paramilitary and central armed police forces. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author.