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Monday, December 1, 2003

Military might through satellite
D. S. Cheema

Blaring conches, clash of cymbals, pounding hooves, whirring chariot wheels: the battle is joined – fierce contests – no quarter given, no quarter taken. This was the story of warfare years ago. The story is, in essence, a narrative of survival, a saga of human ingenuity. It is the story of man.

That was when IT had not yet started making its contribution to the warfare technology. Now it is said that cyberspace has become the battlefield of the new millennium. Instead of just the bombs and bullets, the enemy uses IT and technical tactics to defeat his opponent.

IT has changed the warfare essentially in three ways — firstly the direct use in technology that helps in manufacture of sophisticated hi-tech weapon system, arms, ammunition, logistics support systems, repair and maintenance systems and so on, secondly IT’s role in Knowledge Management and thirdly in war-gaming, simulator development etc.

Use of IT and development of weapon systems, arms and ammunition since the Gulf War in 1991 and the recent US war in Iraq has seen vast changes. The US President George Bush made it quite clear when he said: "Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision, speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before." In just over a decade in terms of time, the technology has moved many light years. Tanks, guns, missiles, bombs, small arms owe their speed, accuracy and distance to IT. Also, the computer-aided repairs and other similar innovations, that help maintain and repair weapon systems have made major contribution to the outcome of war.

Free fall ‘dumb’ bombs become ‘smart’ bombs that are converted into bombs that can be guided to particular ground targets through satellites without any adverse effect of the weather conditions.

The present resolution of 50 cm, given by satellite pictures from height of more than 500 km, has a capacity to improve and pinpoint enemy locations by centimetres and not by meters. The silicon age offers so much to the Electronic Warfare (EW) and IT that its applications to these fields are beyond comprehension. The use of fourth generation technology for optical computing and holographic configuration, beside the issue of man-machine interface, better colour graphics, touch sensitive screen, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and so on have a great impact on use of technology for designing and developing more effective and lethal weapon systems. IT has already changed the concept of strategic, theatre and field force communications, laying more emphasis on the war effort of a country having better communication equipment system and engineering techniques. Hordes of multiple sensors, including battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRS), remotely piloted vehicles (RPVS), infra red thermal imaging, night vision devices (NVDS), low light level TV cameras (LLLTV) etc have converted the night into day.

Technology has proved that it is the only real force multiplier.

Management of the Knowledge assets and creation of system based on these assets now help command and control. Modern armies of the world are preparing Information Assurance (IA) policies. Information about the enemy can never be enough to reduce own causalities and cause maximum damage to the enemy as also to reduce the cost of the conflict. IT has revolutionised the KM potential of the defence forces of the world. Information Technology has taken a quantum jump in the area of communications as well. It takes only one system to cause massive and severe network damage or loss of data integrity and confidentiality.

The third component is the simulation of the battlefield and training of the soldier. IT is the nerve centre of ‘Institute, for Creative Technology’ in the USA. The latest X box-based ‘Full Spectrum Warrior’ is a training simulator par excellence and the dream of the soldiers all over the world. In India, the Army has a dedicated Simulator Development Division, engaged in developing simulators for training. Video gaming for the soldiers to learn how to lead under specific operational environment is the latest in the market.

Indian Army had launched IT Roadmap 2000 that spells out the objectives and action plan for the spread of IT in the Army. Air Force and Navy have also produced similar documents. The Army has already set-up an Army Institute of Information Technology. It is hoped that all officers and men become now computer literate to take advantage of the real potential of IT in the service of the Armed Forces. Indeed a tough task considering that most of our men come from the rural background.