Simultaneous with day long schedules of visits by VIPs, delegations, B2B meetings, equipment demonstration, press briefings and a host of related activities, the DefExpo 2018 also hosted a bouquet of seminars. One of the imperatives of achieving Make in India is advancing our technological progress in defence hard and software. It’s an area where our research institutions and premium academic campuses have much to contribute. IIT Madras (IITM) and Bharatshakti.in joined hands to stage a seminar: Perspective on Technologies for Armed Forces.
There is a case for far greater involvement of the private sector and also our institutions of excellence in developing technologies to enhance our war fighting capabilities. The services have started the processs by defining their problems and asking for solutions. At BharatShakti.in, with our commitment to indigenisation of defence production, we thought the time was ripe for us to get into the arena and identify all that is doable.
The IITM – BharatShakti seminar was conceived accordingly and IITM fielded several professors who briefed the audience on various fields of interest to the defence forces. A brief note on the technologies chosen by them would be in order.
AI and its Impact on Battlefield. For the armed forces, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has multiple usage. To state a few, AI can be used for training, battlefield simulation, analysis of intelligence and predictive behaviour of adversaries. Prof. Narayanaswamy, one of the foremost researchers in the area, provided a comprehensive view of the applications that the forces would find useful.
Infrastructure Technology for Border Areas. The Indian armed forces man the highest mountains, live in the most treacherous weather, navigate across glaciers, exercise in the heat of the deserts; and do so with minimum logistical support. Not surprisingly, casualty rates are high. A considerable progress has been made in harnessing technology for high altitude operations where our men fight the vagaries of terrain and weather every day; Siachin being an example. Yet a lot more needs to be done. Prof. Murali Krishnan familiarised the audience with the modern techniques of building roads, buildings, bridges, underground spaces and other infrastructure as required in extreme cold climates and high altitude areas.
Energy for Armed Forces. Prof S R Chakravarthy focused on renewable energy, micro generators, efficient low charge cycle energy storing devices and latest battery technologies. All these aspects are critical for a military operating in areas where logistics are minimal.
Space based Surveillance. Prof Chakravarthy also dwelt upon space based surveillance for armed forces based on a multiple mini-satellites to focus on particular areas of the battlefield with multiple sensors. It can also be extended to satellite based communications, air space control systems and control and reporting systems for air defence platforms.
Enhancing the Battlefield Space. Longer range of weaponry is considered a bonus by all forces and longer the range more flexibility does it give to the user in employment of the weapon platform. Prof P A Ramakrishna explained the attempts at extension of the battlefield reach through better propulsion systems, both in air and under water including hybrid systems. He dwelt on the systems more useful for torpedoes and long range artillery shells.
Security of Communications for the Armed Forces. Communication security is a challenge for all armed forces. In a networked architecture, it attains greater criticality with chances of getting compromised increasing and such penetration of networks proving more costly. Prof V Kamakoti illustrated how security can be enhanced in network based communications using indigenous hard and software with protocols as required for specific situations in a low cost manner.
We remain the biggest importers of defence equipment, globally. Our bigger contracts that are over 2000 Crore, as specified in the DPP 2016, have a Transfer of Technology (ToT) clause in-built in them. However, there will barely be a country that would provide us the technology required for our armed forces to take to field in a technology driven battlefield, tomorrow. So far, the DRDO, our biggest repository of military technologies, has not been able to keep pace with technological progress in all our critical areas. Undoubtedly, it has produced some high end products, but the fact remains that a country which has sent a mission to moon, is having to source rifles that would shoot effectively at 300 meters range. There is definitely a case for the academia and the forces to address the shortcomings with vigour.
Brig SK Chatterji (Retd)