Analysing Concept ‘Military 4.5’: Essential to win future wars

by Editorial

Military 4.5 is the lead to the industry to pull beyond industry 4.0, by half a notch. Since it is a new concept that was first coined by Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (Retd.) in a panel discussion on NewsX news channel, The Daily Guardian spoke to him to understand more about the ‘Military 4.5’. Lt Gen Pannu (Retd) is a former Deputy Chief of Indian Integrated Staff. He was instrumental in raising the Defence Cyber and Space Agencies as also the Special Forces Division. He is also former ADGMO (Special Ops), DG Infantry and 14 Corps Commander. He is perusing his PhD in the subject of indigenisation of defence industry. Excerpts:

Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu

Q: How do you see the current status of dependency and co-operation between military and industry? Especially in terms of extent of coordination and potential for future simultaneous growth for future warfares?

A: Future wars would increasingly be based on ‘technology’ rather than on ‘physical Skill’. While skills would certainly be needed to employ ‘man-machine combine’, in future ‘a machine shall largely fight a machine’ albeit with human effort and to meet human ends. From deterrence to battlefield dominance, a side having smarter machines would have an edge. Human skills would shift towards the ability or specialisation in managing these machines. Military would have to train on M3 (Man, Machine, Management). Humanmachine combine shall be all pervasive through HM2M-H (Human-Machine to Machine-Human) connect. Most important factor would be the ownership of machines — only possible through indigenisation.

India has been the largest importer of military hardware. Defence industry in India produces hardware that has low self-reliance content since it is largely dependent on foreign technology, design, materials and components. In the era of technology regulation (read denial), whatever technology is imported is generally second grade, yet cost prohibitive. More often, armed forces are constraint to buy indigenous hardware. It needs an understanding that military needs weapons and equipment to win future battles and not to give assured business to the defence Industry. Fighting battles with inferior weapons would mean spending money on buying defeat. There is no escape for Indian defence industry but to transform into producing indigenised military hardware that is superior to that of an adversary. Military must demand next generation war-fighting equipment from the industry. For this purpose, armed forces should have clear correlation between war-fighting doctrines and roadmap for the industry.

Traditionally, it is the industry which has been leading the military to adapt to what it can offer. Budgets dictate how much can be spent on hardware. Senior Generals and leaders are on record saying, ‘We shall fight with what we have’. In other words, it gives an escape to the administrator that whatever Military is provided with, they shall still fight. Having taken an oath to lay down lives to save the nation, armed forces rely heavily on the motivation, grit, determination and physical skill of a soldier, and willing ‘self-accountability’ of commanders. How does the industry step in to say — “We shall provide (Make) you with what you want to Defend the Nation”. For this to be achieved, military has to lead the industry.

Q: How are the military and industry dependent on each other and who is guiding whom currently? 

A: Armed forces and defence industry ideally should operate hand in hand. This relationship has not been formally established or recognised in the developing world. In India, even though there are well laid-out provisions for equipping armed forces, but processes and structures are complex, long and tardy. Procedures for procurement and production are generally ‘worksin-progress’ and amended frequently, as a result, both industry and military can neither synergise nor are confident in achieving their targets. Military puts out lists of hardware requirement periodically with priorities aligned to budgets. Acceptance of Necessity (AON) kick-starts the process for scouting around the market, locally and globally. The first hurdle is in taking a decision to Buy Globally/ Locally/Produce/undertake research (R&D).

As technology is time relevant and defence needs are time critical, procurement overshadows production. The local R&D and prototypes built, clearly fall behind by a generation due time lag in completing the development cycle. The trials are time consuming and usually a barrier to procurement of locally developed product. In the absence of expertise and lack of authority, neither the industry nor the military can take a lead — the process of decision is left to an administrator who is the least expert. In a failed procurement case, an administrator finds solace in having saved budget and registers that as achievement. In the developing and underdeveloped countries, the armed forces are seen to be struggling in absorbing the Industry 3.0-3.5.

 Due to above complications, lesser developed part of the world generally remains dependent on the developed that has matured Defence-Industrial complex — aligned to Industry 4.0. Advanced countries continue to leap forward in innovations due to matured R&D — convert prototypes into product in a much shorter timeframe, as such less developed countries cannot catch up. More so, industry in the developing world has neither the capacity nor awareness of the military’s needs. A good military interface is a pre-requisite to align with innovators and industry, for the latter to understand the war fighting doctrine and needs. Israel is a shining example where the military and industry work hand in hand. One of the reasons for this synergy is that most scientists and industrialists in Israel have served IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and experienced combat. This is true for certain other countries too leading in defence technology. India unfortunately has least connect between military and industry and therefore remains a procurement based nation, importing most of its military hardware.

Q: What’s the concept of Military 4.5? Why is it needed now?

A: Defence industry needs guidance and hand-holding from the military which should coach the innovators, guide R&D and get the military hardware to finality. Military 4.5 is the lead to the industry to pull beyond industry 4.0, by half a notch. With the guidance from the armed forces the product would be aligned to the war fighting doctrines. On the part of industry, it brings in the best technological and industrial practices. A synergy between defence industry and armed forces would make industry and military revolution to go hand in hand. Industry shall produce weapon systems to fight future battles rather than battles of yesteryears. Military, in the bargain would be equipped with the best and that too indigenously produced hardware. For years there has been a cultural divergence and separation between these institutions, especially in India.

 Military has continued to depend on imports and even those products that are produced in India have very low Indigenous Content. The Defence Procurement Plans have been modified every few years to accommodate participation by the Indian defence industry under Make in India programmes. However, the local products usually have not passed trials or found favour with the Military. TCPRs (Technology Perspective Roadmaps) prepared by the military for the industry are guidelines to the industry, but have met limited success because these are not wholesome concepts relating to Industry 4.0. The world is moving fast into new technology regime. Unless Defence Forces, Para Military Forces and Law enforcement agencies draw technology objectives together that not only aligns with the industry 4.0 but move half a notch ahead, country shall neither be able to break the cycle of R&D and development lag nor be prepared for future Wars.

Q: What are areas and domains under Military 4.5? 

A: Today we are deep into Industrial Revolution 4.0, marked by data and machine learning. For the military, that means moving our industrial platforms and war-machines to be run by Artificial Intelligence (AI) engines. Moving the military to 4.5 would mean hurdling of legacy obstacles. Light, small, and fast, nanotechnology and miniaturised components offer the military some obvious benefits in terms of portability, protection and connection. But it needs to go further.  We need the Military version — neo-nanotech — that’s even smaller, refined for reliable performance, and rugged and hardened enough to withstand the battle field rigorous.

As systems become more networked and the machines get smarter, the sheer speed and connectivity will challenge the human beings they are meant to serve, who will need to keep up. These systems will easily outstrip their operators unless some augmentation technology pairs with the operator to prevent fatigue, upgrade relatively slower thinking, and fuel a better decisionmaking cycle. This intelligent augmentation is crucial to controllable autonomous applications. Humans are now the weakest link in the chain: Vulnerable to lapses in attention, fatigue, even informational, psychological, biological and chemical warfare. Autonomous systems are much more impervious to such influences.

Network-centricity is at the core of future battles. When target acquisition and robotics are brought together, we will have C5I2-STAR2 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence and Information — Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance and Robotics) cluster, nearly achieving the Industrial Revolution for Military 4.5. A networked battlefield where decentralised, robotic-initiated decision making would be the norm. This would largely be linked through Secure Space Connectivity.

Network-centric operations won’t happen without the fusion of scalable satellite connectivity for narrowband applications; fibre and microwave links to support broadband applications. These would ultimately connect millions of sensors operating ubiquitously and support data transfer. AI would play a critical role, enabling the IoMT (Internet of Military Things) to transition from mostly telemetry and sensing to complete autonomous action guided by rules defined by individuals, organisations and even nations. High assurances and strong protection tools will need to be delivered by the industry. Call it military-grade secrecy; security protocols would need to be well defined. Secure Chips, Quantum Technology and IP concealment would be essential. 

None of the above will be possible if industry cannot pin down the core, baselayer PME (Power, Materials, and Electronics) capabilities. Military superiority will come from innovations that can deliver lighter, more sustainable power, perhaps delivered through nuclear, renewables or rechargeable through motion. It will come from lighter, stronger, selfhealing materials designed to maximize survivability and bear up extreme temperatures. It will also need next-generation electronics that are tiny, light, and programmable. It certainly requires developing the technological mechanisms that make it possible for humans and machines to partner in powerful new ways.

Q: How can the concept of Military 4.5 be adopted and executed?

 A: The groundwork has clearly been laid. We have data, advanced computing, new materials and engineering methods that are translating into the fastest evolution of physical systems in human history. We can process data in seconds and run experiment after experiment based on the evolving results. Even small companies can better innovate at scale because it’s cheaper and faster to do so. There are simply no excuses for failure. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Laboratories, Ordinance Factories, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and private sector must quickly align to achieve Military 4.5 standards. The Government of India has taken the right step in improving the performance of Ordinance Factories through Corporatisation before it can step up to absorb Industry 4.0 technologies and then pull up to 4.5.

Military 4.5 is not only a holistic war-fighting solution but a concept to guide the industry to push its envelope beyond 4.0. For all actors, elements of warfighting are coming together in a new technology-enabled paradigm — hybrid war — that will challenge us to be more thoughtful. The Grey Zone is expanding, stitching non-state and state actors as legitimate participants of Hybrid War. The conventional battles are subsuming the sub-conventional. Technology is the common denominator not only for the military but also for National Command Elements, Para Military Forces, Border Guarding and Law Enforcement Agencies. But it needs nuanced guidance of specialists.  

Q:How is Military 4.5 Concept relevant for India? How can this be implemented?

 A: Military Concept 4.5 is most relevant to India. We have a fast developing economy with a large industrial base. The growth of country is based on the modernisation of Industrial Complex. Unfortunately, Industry in general and defence industry in particular is lagging behind in technology. Despite having many indigenous programmes such as a fourth-generation fighter aircraft (LCA), nuclear submarine and main battle tank. India continues to be one of the largest importers of weapon systems and equipment. Import of Chinook and Apache Attack Helicopters from the US, Rafael Fighter Aircraft from France and S-400 Missiles from Russia are significant defence imports in a single year 2019-20. The target of 70% self-reliance in defence procurement set for 2005 is nowhere in sight. Currently, India’s self-reliance is seen to around 35-40% but not in niche technologies. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India is the world’s largest importer of major weapons, with a 15% global share during 2010- 2016. This does not augur well for a country with such a potent military and having regional aspirations.

To reverse the country’s huge arms import dependency and many reforms like a Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP-2020), Make in India, iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) and a host of policy initiatives have been taken by the Government to revive the static or waning defence industry. However, despite all these efforts, India has a long way to go from reducing its huge imports of foreign military hardware and achieve indigenisation. PM Modi has made a clarion call on aatmanirbharta (aelf-reliance) during 2020 coronavirus crisis. Following which decision has been taken for privatization of Space Sector by creation of IN-SPACe and Corporatisation of the Ordinance Factories. It is encouraging to see gradual policy shift towards unlocking the Private Sector into participating in the space and defence sector, earlier only reserved for slow and safe government agencies. This change is so very vital to achieve 4.5 goals.

Despite the numerous reform measures undertaken under the ambit of the ‘Make in India’ programme, the Indian defence industry still suffers from several legacy issues which need to be addressed in order to establish an efficient and credible defence industrial base. The reform agenda that needs to be pursued is a multipronged one and it needs to be implemented systematically. It should begin with an overarching and integrated institutional structure that would be responsible for the three critical but interrelated functions of procurement, production and R&D. The absence of Military guiding the industry to initially align to Industry 4.0 and then later on pull by half a notch to 4.5 standards, is unacceptable.

The current procedures and structures are incapable of meeting some of the most basic current requirements of the armed forces — not to talk about 4.5 standards for future war-fighting. These structural changes are required urgently to synergise military with industry, scientific community and the administrators. There is very limited formal education on defence matters in our country. An idea was mooted for many decades to create Indian Defence University (IDU), this among many things would have bridged this foundational gap. Unfortunately, IDU has been sanctioned for many years but not created.

Views expressed in this interview by Lt Gen P.J.S. Pannu (Retd.) are personal.

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