The continuous advancement of technologies in military warfare must be accompanied by a doctrine which facilitates and governs their use. The use of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in warfare is a foregone conclusion, but it is too early to say whether the human-machine interface will be completely replaced by machines.
These were other observations made by military experts as they participated in a panel discussion on “Using Niche Technologies to Shape Modern Conflict: The Russia-Ukraine Conflict and Beyond” on the first day of the Military Literature Festival, which opened in Chandigarh on Saturday.
The 6th MLF was inaugurated at Sukhna Lake by the Minister of Tourism of Punjab, Anmol Gagan Maan. The festival is jointly organized by the MLF Association and Army Western Command.
Moderator of the panel discussion, Major General Harvijay Singh (Ret), Signal Corps, said the use of switchblade and kamikaze drones by the Ukrainians was one of the highlights of the ongoing conflict.
“The communications system used in the conflict was integrated with civilian systems and allowed parallel communications lines to operate. By mid-June, the Ukrainians had delivered the HIMAR. Later, in November, the Russians fought back with their own technology and have been It is striking infrastructure and energy targets. But it is worth noting that both sides lack electronic warfare capabilities,” he said.
Gas and coal reserves will be crucial even if Ukraine faces a mild winter in the coming months, he added. “The Russians got stranded in the mud in February. We’ll have to see if winter pulls them out of the mud,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Rajesh Pushkar, an armored corps officer who participated in the discussion, who is currently commanding an infantry division at the Western Command, believes that war should be the last tool of national craft. “We need to understand why this war happened. It started in 2014 with unconventional fighting between Russians and Ukrainians.”
He added that in the first few days of the special operation they launched, the Russians’ blitzkrieg-style offensive failed.
His team member, Brig Saurabh Bhatnagar Bengal Sappers, who commands an engineer brigade at Western Command, said the Industrial Revolution had shaped the contours of conflict and war.
“As of today, we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The key technology is the silicon chip – it has increased processing power but shrunk in size. Certain amazing technologies have come in. Autonomous machines, advanced robots Technology, 3D printing…and materials that make invisibility possible. Synthetic biology is also a reality today. These are no longer science fiction. We saw only glimpses of them in the Russo-Ukraine war,” he said.
On whether machines could replace boots on the ground, Brig Bhatnagar said machines would take over dangerous tasks and roles that could raise ethical questions. These could also empower non-state actors if the technology becomes cheaper, he said.
Colonel Ashwini Sharma (Ret.), Commander, 74th Armored Regiment, said: “War has changed, but the principles of war have not. Technology has changed the way we fight. Today’s technology can help you compress geographical and time constraints. The current The war started with an air-to-ground offensive. The Russians were unable to maintain the momentum and take advantage of their initial gains,” he said.
Kohl Sharma, editor-in-chief of the South Asia Strategic Review, said the technology was introduced into the Russo-Ukrainian war by Turkey, NATO and even Iran. “Wars go back and forth. More technology doesn’t win you wars. You need to have a principle and then find technology that can help you achieve that principle. The Russian military doesn’t have a clear military goal and that’s why they struggle,” he said .
Major General Pushkar then clarified that Russia was not launching an air-land offensive. “They launched a land operation. It’s not a military failure. It’s a political-military blunder. It’s a mistake to have only 60-70 battalions entering a country and trying to change the regime,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Harvijay chimed in to say that many Russian troops believed the actions of the Ukrainian troops were an extension of their ongoing Belarusian maneuvers, and only when they were fired upon did they realize they were at war and began to surrender.
Brig Bhatnagar said that it is difficult to say that technology will eventually shape the battlefield. “The real impact of these technologies will be seen in the future as they are incorporated into tactics. Certain trends are leading us in the direction technology is leading us. Super soldiers are no longer science fiction. China and the US have these. Ukrainians buy off the shelf Radio communication interceptors, they use them to intercept Russian conversations, and they work really well,” he said.
Maj Gen Harvijay raises ethical questions about using artificial intelligence (AI) in combat. Brig Bhatnagar replied that if the stakes were high enough, “it would be a very, very tempting option” for commanders.
Commenting on the use of drones in the ongoing conflict, Major General Pushkar said these were the first used by the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War. “In March 2020, the Turks brought in their Beyraktar TB2 drones and moved away from the anti-aircraft (AD) range. They destroyed several tanks and vehicles in two hours. In the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, the Armenians lost 75% of the equipment was caused by Azerbaijani drones,” Major General Pushkar said.
Drones are a very cheap form of attack, he added. “A drone with a small payload can also do a lot of damage. In the first phase of the war, the Russians were disadvantaged by the Ukrainian drone attack. In the second phase of the offensive, the Ukrainian drone was shot down by the Russian anti-dumping system … In Phase 3, the Russians use Iranian drones to cause up to 30% of the damage.
Rainbow drones/mini-satellite drones, laser systems, birds trained in counter-drone operations are some of the new developments. Breaking out of the AD umbrella is a crime. This is a shift in superpower dominance. You’ve heard of Turkey and Iran in this field. We need to compress the time to get into these niche technologies. We need to upgrade our AD system. Radar detects drones. A lot of things are happening,” he said.
Col Sharma believes that India should first enable the infrastructure and then introduce such systems. “It should be about organic growth and induction, not being swayed by these weapons,” he said.