By Lt Gen Ashok Bhim Shivane, PVSM, AVSM, VSM
The exponential advancements in military technology in the 21st century have rapidly transformed warfare. The infusion of military technology has radically impacted a nation’s war-fighting capabilities aimed at gaining combat over match, at least cost, and in minimum time. The pursuit of niche military technology has thus become intrinsic to national security. However, technology access, denial/ protectionism, diffusion, and proliferation pose challenges to today’s interdependent world and quest for security. The pragmatic effort must be to bridge core technology gaps both through indigenous and ToT/ JV route till self-dependency and a vibrant defence technology base is established. The need is to encourage indigenous solutions and integrate mature technologies with incremental improvements while investing in future disruptive technologies in a collaborative mode.
Based on technology, an active mine protection system and active protection system are expected to be the largest segment of the future global armoured vehicles markets. Defence sector emerges as the largest demand in the global armoured vehicles market while the commercial sector is expected to witness the fastest growth during the forecast period (2018 – 2023). Infantry fighting vehicles are the largest segment in the global defence armoured vehicles market, by product. The segment is expected to follow the same trend during the forecast period (2018 – 2023). The need for reducing the weight and size of vehicles installed in the defence sector, and the demand for highly efficient, compact, and robust vehicles and weapons is a key driver for the armoured vehicle market. Promising innovations in the transmission medium, adaptability, navigation, surveillance, protection, and enhanced situational awareness are expected to boost the demand in the next few years.
India ranks third among the most attractive investment destinations for technology transactions in the world. Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Department of Science & Technology, has reiterated that technology is a strong priority area for the government and it aims to make people science-centric. India ranks 6th position for scientific publications and ranks at 10th for patents which included only resident applications. The total number of patent applications filed by scientists and inventors in India increased to 61,788 in FY19 (up to Dec 18) from 47,857 in FY18. India ranks 13th position at the Nature Index in 2019 based on counts of high-quality research outputs in natural sciences. India improved its rank on the Global Innovation Index for the fifth year consecutively. From being ranked at the 81st position in 2015, India improved its ranking to 66th in 2016 to 60th in 2017, to 57th in 2018 and now to 52nd in 2019. The Government of India is also extensively promoting technology business incubators (TBIs) and research parks (RPs) which would promote innovative ideas until they become commercial ventures including in defence sector. India is the world’s third-largest technology startup hub with the incorporation of 1,000 new companies in 2017. India’s march towards the acquisition of competitive defence technology and assured capability against the military threats it confronts has also gained an accent. While overall indigenous development and production have significantly increased in technology levels and volumes over the decades, it has been offset by the faster evolution of defence technology in the world. Consequently, the defence forces continue, to harness the import of competitive defence technology systems. Since indigenous capability is still evolving though at a fast pace, India nevertheless has been using ToT to bridge technology gaps and shore up its defence production capabilities in certain niche technology areas.
However, India needs to constitute an Indian equivalent American DARPA agency to identify current or future advances that have the potential to bend today’s security trajectories with transformational and disruptive technologies in an innovative ecosystem that includes academic, corporate, and governmental partners. Such a vibrant, interlocking ecosystem of diverse collaborators will prove to be a nurturing environment for the intense creativity in defence technology.
AFV Technology Perspective
AFV’s are the harbinger of modern technology and thus always front runners of state of art technology infusion. India’s DRDO, ODC’s in OFB, private sector have been investing in this sphere aggressively through a collaborative process involving all stakeholders including academia, the scientific community, technocrats with the user as the prime beneficiary and stakeholder. India is emerging as a big defence industrial base, there are nine defence Public Sector Units, 41 ordinance factories, 50 dedicated R & D labs, and many other establishments are included in it. There is about 70 license holding private companies. They have a dedicated workforce of 1.7 lakhs people. The force is increasingly driven by the quest for strategic autonomy in defence technology accordingly the R&D budgets are seeing a healthy hike and several JVs with international players for ToT or joint research maturing too.
The consequent effect on AFVs is the need for higher precision legality at longer ranges with superior optronics, multilayered survivability including signature management and situational awareness, improved connectivity in a network-centric environment, and enhanced agility and adaptability. The AFV would have to aviate to combine the capability of being a sensor & shooter with multi-domain operational capability against all emerging threats with enhanced legality, survivability, and agility. Modern technologies mean that future armoured vehicles would be powered by:
Active protection systems that can destroy incoming weapons fire reduce the need for heavy armour, allowing lighter-weight vehicles to be developed
Stealth technologies that make vehicles harder to locate, target and destroy
Electric drive systems that is smaller, lighter, and more efficient than traditional fossil fuel engines. Their use could also reduce the vehicles heat signature making them harder to detect
New energy storage systems that could power lasers and other advanced systems such as electric armour
Materials technologies that allow innovative forms of armour to be developed that boast both high levels of protection and low weight
Advanced suspensions and electric drive systems that enable wheeled vehicles to have similar mobility to tracked vehicles, but travel much faster
Remote-controlled unmanned vehicles that operate as an integral part of the vehicle which could be used in a range of ways such as reconnaissance, route proving, and force protection.
There will however always be the issue of affordability and robustness that comes with increased complexity, as these advanced solutions must be able to operate reliably in all environments and be resilient to all types of threats. Thus, the budgetary envelope will be a key factor.
Lt Gen Ashok Bhim Shivane, PVSM, AVSM, VSM Commissioned in the 7th Light Cavalry, Lt Gen A. B. Shivane was General OfficerCommanding of an elite Strike Corps under the aegis of Army’s south western command at Mathura before taking over as DG, Mechanized Forces in Oct 2015. The views expressed are his own
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