Purple Beret publishes my article on The Next Revolution in Military Affairs
The Un-edited draft posted below
The Un-edited draft posted below
CAN INDIA CREATE THE NEXT REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS?
Given our past history – hold on, not our glorious ancient history – just a small period to last 60 years or so, the above question at best can be dumped as an internet joke or shall I say a Facebook status update or maybe a non-trending passive Tweet. Many will be justified by pointing to the futility of even asking this question – India has much more pressing needs – and all these talks of revolution we have seen enough – whether it is our vocal show or support to Jan lokpal bill or our candle lighting remembrances of Mumbai attacks.
Yet, it is imperative that India should ask this question? In 1911, had someone told my grandfather that India in 2012 will actually be divided into three countries – he might have said let my grandchildren take care of that – I am facing a bloody world war now. If I tell you today that Pakistan – that used to be India – oh really – will be Chinese territory in 2025, you may have this very strong urge to book my ticket for Agra – besides Taj Mahal it also has a mental asylum.
What is an RMA?
If you have read till now, may be you are one of those who still read articles which are longer than Facebook status updates. According to many established experts a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) creates a paradigm shift in the nature of military operations by either making the core capability of a dominant player irrelevant or creating new capability in some new dimension of warfare or both. The RMA combines new technology, organization and doctrine to employ new operational concepts to achieve the above. The Military history students may recall how a device called Machine Gun created a new model for land warfare and destroyed the massed infantry forces in the open – the way wars were won before. The German Blitzkrieg rendered obsolete the static defense of prepared positions by infantry and artillery and the Carrier Battle Group by USA and British created a new model for naval warfare. The current RMA being perfected and propagated by USA combines advances in C4ISR systems and long range precision munitions with new operational concepts of network centricity, information warfare and continuous, rapid, joint and whole-theatre operations is reflected in the new devices showcased as, for example, Military Drones. It has been proposed that the actual firing and engaging with the enemy systems - will be completely overtaken by automated systems. Humans will retain (remote) control through strategic decisions about where and when to strike for achieving war objectives.
Long-range precision fires, information warfare, system of systems, network centric warfare and cooperative engagement capability are key potential manifestations of the new RMA. When one looks at the model of a new RMA, one sees a culmination of synergy between new technologies, new devices and systems, new operational concepts and new doctrine and force structure. For example the ICBMs in decades after WWII combined advances in fusion weapons, multi-stage rockets and inertial guidance to provide hitherto unknown dimension of inter-continent strategic warfare by developing the capability of accurate delivery of high-yield nuclear weapons across continents.
One good news for countries who may be interested in creating the next RMA – hope our Chinese friends are not listening – the RMA’s have mostly been created by non-dominant player in any conflict- except may be the current Information and networking based RMA created by the sole super power.
How to create the Next RMA?
If one looks at deeply and may be broadly – one can see that current RMA has been designed not by military hardware – in the traditional sense of the term - but really by software. The ability to enable functioning of various hardware elements of a military system (or system of systems or ultra large scale systems) to respond and actuate destructive - reactive as well as proactive - actions against specific changes in and around the immediate environment in time and space – just by pre-coding a mesh of carefully written set of instructions stored on various forms of electronic organization called “media” or “memory” – has given the military and to the world at large unprecedented capabilities. The act of “programming” the machines through a set of rules – called protocols to talk to each other and also “process” inputs in the form of data and facts and represent by symbols – has come about not by manufacturing the “steel” bullets but by writing software into machines that talk to each other in a deterministic (more or less) manner to act against potential threats.
Yet, software is the Achilles heel of the current RMA. For starters, the reliability of software is a perennial problem – unsolved so far. Software has this amazing ability to remain “buggy” despite been checked by multiple human eyes and brains of species called programmers, testers and also their automated code checking tools. Further, to the great horror of any military commander, a perfectly normal and working software system – which was working absolutely without any trouble for many years – can fail and lead to a catastrophe just because a particular path/condition that the environment never gave trouble to the system suddenly gets activated in the light of a unique input – which most crisis situations will create. These “black swans” that software based systems are much more prone are the “soft belly” (pun not intended) of the new RMA.
Further, since the software based systems use open source, openly available, commercially available underlying software components – operating systems, communication protocol stacks, network routers, applications, GUIs, compression algorithms, security protocols, database management systems, etc, the field of cyber weapons – which exploit the inherent weaknesses of these known software systems – is the potential course of the underdog in the fight against New RMA forces.
To counter the software based RMA being perfected by USA and reflected in the Drones and C4ISR systems one need to think how to maximize the “black swans” in a real world conflict with the new RMA forces.
Candidate Ideas for Next RMA
One thought is to create the systems that use the proprietary software components instead of openly available or commercial software systems end-to-end. Avoiding the known software based components is a prudent strategy; however, it has a huge challenge of re-inventing the wheel (or wheels) at a massive scale. Given the task involved and resources needed – this initiative of for example developing your own operating system, own C++ compiler, own router, own compression algorithms, can only extract suppressed laughter from the software development experts, that is if they are restrained somehow in cracking completely by holding their stomachs by both hands.
Another thought and may be this can lead to something in future that may have some possibility - is to think of Counter Software Systems – these are specifically designed capabilities to maximize the possibility of failure of software based systems. The cyber warfare capabilities being developed and discussed in many reports online are testimony to potential of counter software system as a potential RMA. Imagine a much more precise and capable “Stuxnet” computer virus, than the one that reportedly disabled centrifuges in an Iranian uranium-enrichment plant couple of years back, being used to wreak havoc in the RMA force. A set of micro devices (electronic spiders) that roam the battlefield – air, sea and land – and just impregnate the C4ISR systems, drones and precision munitions – so that either the bits that make the “instructions” and the bits that make the memory are not erased, corrupted or destroyed but “re-programmed” in a manner that commands that drone handlers are giving the drones just turn against the RMA force. Looks like science fiction – may be!
However, the greatest possibility is the creation of new class of systems called Genius systems. If one studies the evolution of technical systems one very interesting trend is visible – our technical systems are becoming more and more intelligent. For example, the dumb bombs also called a gravity bomb, free-fall bomb, dumb bomb, iron bomb, or unguided bomb, is a conventional aircraft-delivered bomb that does not contain a guidance system and hence, simply follows a ballistic trajectory. The dumb system evolves into a guided system. For example, the dumb bomb evolved into a guided munition using homing guidance or command-to-line-of-sight (CLOS). Next stage of evolution was the smart munition with a limited target selection capability that does not require an operator in the loop- may be terminally guided ("hit-to-kill") or sensor fuzed ("shoot-to-kill"). The smart munitions became brilliant munitions - a many-on-many munition that operates autonomously to search for, detect, identify, acquire, and attack specific classes of targets. What are the next stages in this evolution? I call them the Genius Systems. For example a genius munition will be a brilliant munition that combines the elements available in run-time to build a specific munition to destroy/neutralize specific targets that are available, predicts targets that will be available in near future and get ready with the specific munition that will be needed to neutralize the futuristic targets. It may be a form of an autonomous UCAV – autonomous drones.
India needs to invest in development of Genius Systems
We have a window of opportunity for next 25 years when the young population percentage world over will be maximum in India. Further, our ability to understand the language of software – its basis in abstract thinking and logic of constructing – is traditionally strong and scalable. This is the time when India should invest in three pronged strategy of creating the RMA based on Genius systems – a set of highly evolved intelligent technical systems that work on principles of Next generation intelligence – a move from brilliance to genius system of on-line learning and innovating systems. The three pronged strategic dimensions are (a) Avoid as far as possible known, standard software components developed outside India and available as embedded in weapons systems being procured (b) Create a framework for counter software systems with all sort of cyber weapons being experimented within the framework and finally (c) leapfrog the “evolution of intelligent systems” by creating the doctrine, technology, force structure and operational employment of Genius systems.
If India combine the capabilities distributed across the country into a major mission mode initiative – we can do it, otherwise, we already have become the largest importers of the defence equipment as our doctrine is still based on dumb weapons/guided weapons whereas the world has already moved to brilliant systems.