Disruptive Impact Of Technologies On Defence And Initiatives Taken By the Government

 By Ajay Sud

What is Disruptive Technology? Disruptive Technology is an innovation that significantly alters the way that consumers, industries or business operate. A disruptive technology is the one that displaces an established technology and shakes up the industry or a ground breaking product that creates a completely new industry. The term ‘Disruptive Technology’ was coined by Professor Clayton M Christensen from Harvard Business School in 1997 in his best selling book ‘The Innovators Dilemma’. He categorised new technology as being of two sorts, either sustaining or disruptive. Sustaining technology is the gradual development of existing technology whereas Disruptive technology does the opposite, it revolutionises the field, but comes with risks attached because it is new, untested and initially limited in scope. Hence the innovator’s dilemma. Scotswan Alexander Grahm Bell disrupted the way we communicate when he invented the telephone and British computer scientist Tim Berners Lee disrupted it again when he invented the world wide web. Now the military and the defence industry are facing their own disruptive technology challenges and dilemmas..

Technological developments have affected all aspects of human life. Access to emerging contemporary technologies, along with their development and regulation is the new normal of geo strategic leverages. Technological developments are heralding the possibility of a quantum leap in the methods of waging war. Technologies that only yesterday were in the realm of science fiction could cause unprecedented catastrophes tomorrow or even disrupt the international balance of power. We are entering an era where supremacy on land, at sea, in the skies in cyberspace and in space will increasingly be determined by the technological differential of the adversaries.

Autonomous fighting platforms, cyber warfare and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have already begun to impact war fighting. Directed Energy Weapons, Big Data Analysis, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Addictive manufacturing Technologies nearing operationalisation will have a major impact on the ways the wars will be fought in the future.

The battlefield of future will be a lovely place. We may not see large armies, instead we will see fewer humans on the battlefield who would be more technologically advanced – “augumented humans”. Augumentation could see soldiers with exoskeletons, multiple implants, even genetic engineering to create seamless access to sensing and cognitive enhancements.

At the tactical level the future battle space will also be more qualitatively automated. Autonomous processes will make many of the decisions made by the human beings and these decisions would be integral  to all command and control, Intelligence Preparation of Battlefield, ISR and Battle Damage Assessment process, filtering information, fact checking and disseminating as well as deploying sensors and dynamically evolving communication paths.

As the landscape of warfare is changing in potentially disruptive ways, technologies and their associated military innovations may fundamentally alter our long-standing concepts of warfare. Potential adversaries are seeking asymmetric capabilities to exploit our vulnerabilities and offset our current advantages in key domains. Therefore, strengthening own capabilities to avoid technological surprises will be vital. We need to invest in enhanced capabilities from human to cyber. We must economise by merging new with legacy technology as well as new with old war fighting method. Identification, acquisition and induction of these technologies along with relevant changes in concept of operations is the need of the hour.

Many of the technologies have obvious civil applications from delivery drones to bio-technologies to treat complex ailments and these are largely being developed by civilian entrepreneurs. It is imperative to keep a close watch in the technologies being evolved world over and review requirements duly premised on the capability development plan. Essentially, it would involve synergising the efforts of academia, research and development establishment  and various production agencies to include DPSUs, MSMEs and Private industry towards our future technological needs.

Initiatives taken by Government

The Make in India enterprise in the Defence Sector is an opportunity which must be directed strongly towards the modernisation needs of the armed forces. We are very confident that Indian technology providers and our defence industry have the requisite potential to deliver world class weapons and equipment.

The Government has taken major policy initiatives to provide impetus to self reliance through indigenisation involving DPSUs and civil defence industry. The impetus given by the new Make 2 process and Suo Moto proposals have helped in energising the entire process of involving industry proactively and capitalising on the technological innovations by our indigenous industry. The iDex (Innovation For Defence) scheme was launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister last year to build an eco-system of innovation and entrepreneurship which has already taken a concrete shape.

To overcome the challenges and support innovation and development of prototypes, MoD has also launched SPARK (Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart) initiative, which will enable calling for proposals to address specific technology needs of defence establishment.

Towards this end, Army Design Bureau was raised in Aug 2016 (event attended by Hon’ble Raksha Mantri) which now acts as a single point contact for industry and academia. This initiative will go a long way in providing user inputs and facilitating development of indigenous solutions.