Letter from the Editor | July 2022

For a long time, we deliberated on what should be the cover focus of the July issue. The launch of the Agnipath recruitment scheme had taken the nation by storm, quite literally. The subject deserved comprehensive coverage. But as arguments in favour of the scheme trickled in, it became evident that the reality was lurking behind the front presented by the ministry of defence.

The Indian Army wanted troops as well as modern equipment. The Indian Air Force and the Navy wanted acquisition programmes, stalled due to the lack of funds, to progress. And the government wanted all of this to happen without spending more money. The Agnipath scheme appears to meet everyone’s requirements, at least for now.

The nub of the matter is modernisation, or procurement, in whose name the hastily conceived scheme without long-term thinking has been forced upon the military aspirants. This settled the matter. And hence, the cover story this month is India’s procurement woes. Why have we singularly failed to navigate any competitive tender to fruition? Why India’s procurement procedure continues to evolve year on year and yet remain incapable of steering the modernisation requirements of our armed forces? And in this scenario, do the requests for proposal even mean anything, given the rate at which technology becomes obsolete?

More to the point, given the revolution in military technologies, isn’t there a need to evaluate our own requirements based on the threats we now face? Shouldn’t Indian military now invest in emerging technologies, in addition to legacy platforms?

The starting point for this should be an understanding of the PLA’s asymmetric warfare comprising informatized and intelligentized operations. The key elements of informatized war are cyber, space, Electronic Warfare, networking, and firepower (including missiles) while intelligentized war is essentially about Artificial intelligence, 5G wireless communications, cloud computing, and big data.

The Indian military, which regards the PLA as its primary threat should concentrate on building dual-use and military-specific capabilities. In dual-use category, the priority should be cyber, EW, Electromagnetic Spectrum management, sensors, data, networks, cloud, AI applications for autonomy, and robotics. Specific military technologies sought should be directed energy (laser and microwave) weapons, missiles including hypersonic cruise missiles, and air defence systems. There is simply no need to waste scarce resources on quantum technologies (quantum computing, quantum sensors, and quantum communications) which are futuristic. While acquisition of drones and loiter munitions is a good idea, swarm drones is not, at least not until the Indian military acquires a good understanding of AI.

The July issue makes the best of both subjects—modernisation and Agnipath. Grab it.



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