Banner Banner
Home > Brand Media Stories > Inspire Stories > Article > How Deep are Indias Defence Forces Sailing for Autonomous Warfare

How Deep are India's Defence Forces Sailing for Autonomous Warfare?

Updated on: 16 April,2024 04:58 PM IST  |  Mumbai
BrandMedia |

India has been dedicating resources to research and development efforts aimed at improving its autonomous warfare capabilities.

How Deep are India's Defence Forces Sailing for Autonomous Warfare?

Advisor for Cyber & Aerospace Securities for Middle East & West Asian Countries Eminent International Expert -Counter Terrorism

Autonomous warfare in South Asia and the readiness of the Indian Defence Forces are crucial topics to consider. Autonomous weapons are capable of independently searching, detecting, evaluating, and engaging targets without human intervention. Major countries like the U.S., China, Russia, and South Korea are actively developing these weapons. The global autonomous weapons market was valued at $11,565.15 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $30,168.14 million by 2030, with a projected CAGR of 10.4% from 2021 to 2030. Various nations, including the U.S., Netherlands, Israel, China, Russia, and others, are investing heavily in highly autonomous weapons systems.

The Indian Defence Forces' preparedness for modern conflicts in different terrains, especially along the Indo-Pak, Indo-Tibetan, and Indo-Sino borders, is a critical aspect that needs  a deep examination. The Indian Army  should start integrating unmanned platforms for surveillance and attack roles in the skies and on land. Additionally, a significant number of robotic units  should be  deployed  and as understood few are already deployed along the challenging Indo-Sino borders in disputed Tibetan Autonomous Regions. The Indian Navy and Air Force should  also focus  seriously  on integrating resources for cyberspace, autonomous warfare, communications centres, and AI cloud commander structures within the planned 06 Theatre Command Structure.Given the expensive nature of resources, a mix of weapons platforms across the three services is essential for deployment based on timing, terrain, and tactics, utilizing advanced technology to minimize collateral damage.

India has been dedicating resources to research and development efforts aimed at improving its autonomous warfare capabilities. This involves creating native Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), and autonomous systems for tasks like reconnaissance, surveillance, and combat operations. In addition, India is procuring advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and sensor technologies to enhance its autonomous warfare capabilities.  But do these efforts and steps describe the real definition of Autonomous Warfare in terms of Indian Army .

The focus should be on developing systems that can function effectively in various environments and carry out complex missions independently or with minimal human intervention. The Indian defense forces  in reality should be incorporating autonomous warfare capabilities into their military doctrine and operational strategies.

This  should include integrating unmanned systems into existing force structures and devising new tactics, techniques, and procedures for the efficient deployment of autonomous assets on the battlefield. There is a growing  need for training and skill development in these areas to ensure that the personnel can operate and maintain autonomous systems proficiently. Huge demand and need will be for the specialized training programs for drone operators, sensor operators, and technicians responsible for the upkeep of autonomous platforms.

Collaboration with industry and academia is a key aspect of India's efforts to enhance its autonomous warfare capabilities. By partnering with technology firms, research institutions, and educational establishments, India aims to leverage expertise and resources to drive innovation and accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies. India is actively modernizing its defense forces and investing in emerging technologies, such as autonomous systems, to bolster its capabilities.

We cannot deny that the world is moving in the pace  just as quickly as a bird’s eye view in the US perspective. If we see, the US defence budget is allocated across various areas like personnel, maintenance, acquisitions, and research and development (R&D). Investments in autonomous warfare equipment typically fall under the R&D and acquisitions categories, with budget allocations of 25 billion US dollars annually until 2030.

Justifying  the statement  in the US perspective like the US  X-47B experimental drone, known as Salty Dog 501 and Salty Dog 502, which is a highly advanced aircraft with a futuristic design resembling something out of a sci-fi movie. From 2011 to 2015, these drones achieved significant milestones by autonomously taking off and landing on aircraft carriers and refuelling in flight. Despite its ground-breaking capabilities, the X-47B was not intended for combat but rather as a demonstration program to advance technology for future aircraft.

The US  Navy's upcoming carrier-based drone, the MQ-25 Stingray, is envisioned as a tanker to support manned combat aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Unlike the X-47B, the MQ-25 is not designed for combat roles. The X-47's origins trace back to the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) program, which aimed to develop uninhabited combat aircraft. The program led to the creation of the X-45A, designed for combat missions with stealth features for penetrating enemy defenses. However, the J-UCAS program was restructured in 2006, shifting away from uninhabited aircraft in combat roles.

While there seems to be a strong push towards robotic weapons from an external perspective, the reality within the U.S. military is more complex. There is significant resistance to using uninhabited systems for combat roles, with robotic technology being more commonly accepted for support functions like surveillance and logistics. The US Army is focusing on logistics robots rather than frontline combat robots, and the Air Force heavily utilizes drones for surveillance purposes rather than pursuing drones for air-to-air combat. Vision documents from the Pentagon and the Air Force often outline ambitious plans for robots in various roles, but these visions can be disconnected from budget constraints.

The shift from the ambitious J-UCAS combat aircraft program to the MQ-25 tanker is a clear example of this disconnect. The Navy initially aimed to develop a combat aircraft with the X-47B, but later shifted towards a less ambitious non-stealthy surveillance drone.

This change in direction reflects a broader cultural resistance within the military towards combat drones, as seen in both the Air Force and the Navy.

The US Navy is also  facing pressure to develop unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) due to the threat posed by China's advanced missiles. While there is a recognized need for UCAVs to enhance the range and effectiveness of carrier-based aircraft, the Navy's current focus is on using drones like the MQ-25 for refuelling purposes rather than combat missions. Despite the impressive capabilities of drones like the X-47B, there is limited support within the Pentagon for fully autonomous combat drones. Both the Air Force and Navy do not currently have plans in place to develop operational UCAVs, indicating that the future of combat drones remains uncertain.

The fast-paced world of stock trading offers insight into a potential future where autonomous systems engage in high-speed adversarial interactions in war scenarios. There is a concern about the possibility of a sudden escalation of conflict, akin to a "flash war," due to the deployment of autonomous weapons in various contexts. While nuclear command and control remains a specialized area, the use of autonomous weapons in non-nuclear scenarios carries risks of accidental escalation. Tensions between militaries, as seen in recent interactions between the U.S. and other nations, can lead to brinksmanship situations where war may seem imminent. In such critical moments, even minor incidents could trigger a full-blown conflict.

Non-nuclear activities still pose risks for accidental escalation, as militaries often engage in tense interactions that could lead to conflict, even during times of peace. The U.S. military has been involved in various confrontations with Russian, Iranian, and Chinese forces in different regions, showcasing a pattern of brinksmanship where nations assert dominance through military displays without actual combat. These situations can quickly escalate into full-blown crises, as seen in events like the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

In factuality the presence of robotic systems further complicates these scenarios, as demonstrated by incidents like China flying a drone over disputed territories. But for India it is entirely important to focus on preparing for autonomous warfare in South Asia, which reflects and will demonstrate for India an understanding of the changing nature of modern conflicts in both the Blue Ocean and the Himalayan Ranges.

 It is crucial for India to prioritize technological advancements to maintain a strong deterrence posture and ensure effective national security, especially as a leader in the evolving geopolitics of the Indian Ocean Region and Asia-Pacific Region.

Written By Prof (Dr) Nishakant Ojha

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK