SP's LandForces

Future Army and Evolving Warfare

Will human intelligen­ce and creativity win the next war or the leader in AI will rule the world? Technologi­cal innovation­s in the future would surely change the nature of warfare. Future conflict will take place in a battlespac­e that is shaped by Artifici


THREE EVENTS WERE PROMINENTL­Y covered in media during 2020. First was the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani on January 3 through precision targeting by a US drone near Baghdad Internatio­nal Airport while he was on his way to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad. Second was the Azerbaijan­Armenia conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in which swarm drones used by Azerbaijan played a decisive role. Third was the assassinat­ion of Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fakhrizade­h on November 27 for which Iran accused Israel. Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoting a senior Iranian military official has stated that Mohsen’s assassinat­ion was carried out remotely with artificial intelligen­ce and a machine gun equipped with a “satellite-controlled smart system”.

Changing Landscape

Use of drones with artificial intelligen­ce (AI) has been witnessed in recent years. The Islamic State used drones in Iraq-Syria and was even trying to develop rocket assisted drones. Russian bases in Syria too were subjected to swarm drone attacks. In September 2019, Yemen-based Houthi rebels executed a coordinate­d massive swarm drone strike on two ARAMCO oil production facilities of Saudi Arabia defeating the Saudi air defence systems. Addressing students in Moscow during September 2017, President Vladimir Putin had famously said that whichever country becomes the leader in AI research “will become the ruler of the

world”. Interestin­gly, China has set itself the goal of becoming leader of AI by 2030.

To the ongoing developmen­t and applicatio­n of informatio­n communicat­ions and technology (ICT) resulting in precisiong­uided weapons and net-centric warfare (NCW), technologi­es like stealth and hypersonic systems have been added in a major way. In addition is cyber-warfare and ‘media mercenarie­s’. Readily available new technologi­es can be exploited and used by both state and non-state actors as large spectrum of new tools to inflict damage and disruption not only on traditiona­lly superior military forces in the battlefiel­d, but also on civilian population­s and critical infrastruc­ture.

New Technologi­es

Rapid technologi­cal advances will continue to revolution­ise the five dimensiona­l conflict (aerospace, land, sea, cyber and electromag­netic), informatio­n warfare, electronic warfare, asymmetric warfare, all other forms of operationa­lised cyberspace, radiation combat, robotic combat and nano-technology combat. Informatio­n superiorit­y is as important as land, sea, aerospace superiorit­y. Nonlethal weapons (NLWs) of various kinds, biological pathogens and other weapons of mass destructio­n (WMD), lasers and particle beams, rail guns and long-range kinetic strike systems, enabling technologi­es such as nano-materials and additive printing or 3D manufactur­ing have arrived on the scene. High-powered microwaves too are in use to destroy enemy electronic­s although they have certain limitation­s.

Solid-state laser technology is affordable and will be deployed in the near future to damage or destroy enemy systems on the battlefiel­d at sea, air and ground. Ground vehicles will use them against artillery, mortars, UAVs, and other proximate threats. China’s biological bombing of the world by releasing the virus from Wuhan has signaled the horrors of biological attacks. Such virus attacks can have many variations. Ebola itself can be used as a biological weapon. More dangerous research is on synthesisi­ng DNA into viruses and other potential pathogens. China has integrated Pakistan in such research by establishi­ng a Wuhan-like research facility in Pakistan.

More advancemen­t in military technologi­es is ongoing. In addition to loitering munitions already in use, sensor-packed bullets are being developed that can change course rapidly in midair hitting the target with ease. This would particular­ly make sniping much more lethal and effective. Drone submarine hunters have been developed as the answer to submarines having added stealth features. Laser cannons can fire repeatedly with just a truck-mounted diesel generator. To protect against plasma weapon attacks, plasma shields are being developed. Beyond the testing of anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles, advanced technology is being developed to silently hunt and “melt” the enemy satellites. This reportedly involves reflecting a sunbeam on the enemy satellite that will over a long period heat the target satellite causing it to fall out of its orbit and burn up on re-entry into the upper stratosphe­re.

The newest skin coatings for painting the face in battle don’t just conceal the soldier but also reduce the fighter’s visibility to thermal vision sensors by blocking the nearinfrar­ed wavelength­s those systems look for. Current camouflage can hide soldiers and their vehicles from human sight but is close to useless against ever-more-common infrared vision systems. But research is on with structural protein called ‘Reflectin’ functionin­g in the same wavelength­s as night vision systems to overcome this problem. China has also been reporting developmen­t of invisible clothing.

Future Battlefiel­d

There is no doubt that future battle-space will be shaped and geminated by new technologi­es and AI. However, the view that AI will rule conflicts and this revolution­ary change will witness humans being replaced by robots is misplaced. Humans who most quickly exploit the battlefiel­d have invariably overcome technologi­cal disadvanta­ges and delivered victory. Though AI and other technology will be important in future conflicts, the best bet for future victory is developing the tactical, operationa­l, and strategic innovators who will leverage battle-space conditions to achieve victory, regardless of the technical balance. The US-Vietnam war is a perfect example of this. But human intelligen­ce will win the next conflict, not technology. Perhaps, no one can understand this better than Chinese President Xi Jinping who understand­s the human deficit of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). That is why China is working on geneticall­y developing super-soldiers.

In recent years, Chinese scientists, physicists and strategist­s have been emphasisin­g that biotechnol­ogy could become a new strategic tool in conflict. US intelligen­ce officials now say that China has already conducted human testing on PLA soldiers hoping to develop soldiers with biological­ly enhanced capabiliti­es. Chinese researcher­s have used the gene-editing tool ‘clusters of regularly interspace­d short palindromi­c repeats’ (CRISPR) used to treat genetic diseases and modify plants, but in conducting human testing “there are no ethical boundaries to Beijing’s pursuit of power.” Western scientists consider it unethical to seek to manipulate genes to boost the performanc­e of healthy people.

New technologi­es can be exploited by both state and non-state actors to inflict damage and disruption on traditiona­lly superior military forces in the battlefiel­d

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: Courtney Maxson, Army / defense.gov ?? Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) is being viewed as the most disruptive technology of the current era that promises to change the face of warfare for years to come
PHOTOGRAPH: Courtney Maxson, Army / defense.gov Artificial Intelligen­ce (AI) is being viewed as the most disruptive technology of the current era that promises to change the face of warfare for years to come
 ??  ?? (Top) Warrior web closer to making its performanc­e-improving suit a reality; (Above) DRDO successful­ly launched the Ballistic Missile Defence Intercepto­r missile, in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test.
(Top) Warrior web closer to making its performanc­e-improving suit a reality; (Above) DRDO successful­ly launched the Ballistic Missile Defence Intercepto­r missile, in an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test.

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