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Factors Affecting Future Military Structures by Lt Gen OP Kaushik

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Author: Lt Gen OP Kaushik PVSM, AVSM, VSM, M-in-D (Retd)
Cooperation and joint planning will be required to decide about the balance of weapon mix and future technological developments are likely to offer many an alternative. Warfare is getting sophisticated and complex day by day and new developments in military science will call for greater integration among the three Services.


Organisations of armies, all over the world, have been influenced by technological developments. In fact, technology and soldiering are closely interwoven. In the European theatre, the Roman Armies became famous because of their new weapons of war and measures they took to enhance the mobility of their armies. Their smart small swords, compact and all supporting battle formations, ability to move over all types of terrain, resting in well defended fortresses and simple logistic systems enabled them to defeat any adversary and hold captured territories with very little forces. On the contrary, failure to appreciate the firepower of the long bow led to the French cavalry to disaster at Agincourt. Similarly, failure to appreciate the potential of machine gun, barbed wire and heavy artillery resulted in massive slaughter during the First World War. Even in our case, the failure to recognise the full implications of the aeroplane, led Indian armed forces to humiliating defeat against the Chinese during the 1962 war.

 

New Weapons

Today, the problem is more complex because of tremendous momentum gained by invention of fire arms. The atom bomb ended the Second World War but it was never used tactically. Nerve gases, although discovered, were never used, space based weapons were not thought of and neither there was any knowledge of cyber terrorism – the high technological form capable of causing immense damage to infrastructure without firing a single bullet. These new weapons will be to the next war what the tanks and the aeroplanes were to the First World War and their impact will bring about even more radical changes in strategic and tactical thoughts as well as the organisations of global armies, Herman Kahn said nearly 60 years ago, “The uncertainties and risks of the future are increased by the mounting race of technological progress … progress is so fast, the problems are so unprecedented and the lead times for cultural assimilation so long, that it is difficult to believe that we will understand our systems well enough …”

Nuclear Weapons

Use of tactical nuclear weapons is well on the card in the next war as more and more armies are getting equipped with these weapons. Technological advances have provided means to deliver them in the immediate battlefield as well as to places which are hundreds of kilometers away by means of missiles, aerial bombs, guided rockets, artillery projectiles and landmines, causing physical destruction and neutralisation by radiation. Heavy casualties will be inflicted upon bodies of men in the open. Impact on buildings and communication will cause massive destruction and blockage of routes. Radiation will put ground out of bounds and will necessitate relief of troops who survived initial explosion being in sheltered positions. Nuclearised battlefield environment, therefore, will need more of engineers, reserve food and water supplies, medical services, repair and replacement services and reserves of manpower.

Gas And Chemical Weapons

Gas was used during the First World War to cause multiplying casualties to the adversary. But these were not sufficiently potent to cause lethal effects. Today, those countries who are dispossessed with nuclear weapons are in the process of developing nerve gases and chemical weapons. The world has tasted these weapons in Syria more recently. Effect of nerve gases and chemical weapons is almost identical to those of nuclear weapons. No amount of effort by world bodies will be able to stop their production and, therefore, any future war is likely to see and experience use of these weapons exhaustively. Provisions will have to be made for extra reserves and other services as are required for a nuclear war. It must be understood that chemical weapons are easy to make and we can expect them to be used in conditions well short of general war as it happened in Syria recently.

Technological Change

There has been an explosion in surveillance and target acquisition systems. All weapon platforms, from individual weapon to the crew served, have thermal imagers which can pick out armoured vehicles at 5 km range at night and during all weather conditions. Battlefield radars today and those which are likely to come in service during next 30 years will be light, more powerful and easier to use with readily understandable displays. Remotely piloted vehicles which can traverse areas upto 150 km beyond the forward edge of battle area, will be freely available and thus will reduce requirement of sending patrols or asking for reconnaissance by aircraft.

Electronic Developments

Remarkable progress in the field of electronics has revolutionised the battlefield environment. Now we have small, light and easily portable radios capable of providing communications internationally. Satellite communications now provide communication whereby, although undesirable, Chief of Army Staff from Delhi can talk direct to the soldier in contact with the enemy. This will have large implications for command and control and may even make some of the intermediate headquarters redundant. We now have channel multiplexing, secure speech and data facilities and burst transmission. At the same time we must remember that an opponent’s as well as our capacity to disrupt transmissions has also increased. In short, there has been more progress in the field of electronic battle in the last 30 years than in the previous 150 years. These developments have made concealment much more difficult, causing serious implications for the movement of reserves and counter moves in depths. It is no longer possible to achieve surprise and even deception, keeping in view the variety of sensors to be deceived, will be complex and expensive in resources. As Herman Kahn has said, “Perhaps the most surprising thing that could actually happen would be an absence of surprises.”

Firepower

We hope to see, in future, artillery guns firing beyond 50 km with much greater accuracy, better speed in action and rate of fire. Multiple launching rocket systems will bring in large quantities of precision guided ammunition into the enemy’s depth. Artillery is getting equipped with missiles which can engage targets upto 350 km range and, to an extent, take on tasks and targets which until now were allotted to aircraft. There have also been equally revolutionary developments in Air Defence missiles and guns. Developments in anti-tank guided missiles, introduction of lasers onto the battlefield and development in mine warfare have caused significant implications for mobility on the battlefield.

Mobility

The most significant development in mobility has been the helicopter. Today, it is capable of flying trucks, weapon carriers and complete subunits, enabling airmobile air assault formation to overcome obstacles. It will enable force commanders to keep their reserve formations and units well behind and quickly move reinforcements of troops to areas where the adversary’s forces are leading to as also to close real gaps before the enemy contacts those localities.


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