For the past one month, the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has made the militaries world over sit up and take notice of the extensive use of high-end military technology — armed/unarmed drones and loiter munitions, colloquially known as kamikaze drones.
The videos that have emerged from the conflict demonstrate how artificial intelligence-based weapons system will have a major impact on shaping the contours of future conflicts, relegating the much romanticised close combat to the sidelines.
It is empirical wisdom that the development and introduction of path-breaking military technologies, and their antidotes is near simultaneous. What you require is the know-how and a will to reform and pay the costs involved — India is notorious for violating these cardinals.
Nothing demonstrates this better than our inability in neutralising the Chinese intrusions and coercion on the LAC due to the huge differential in high-technology capabilities.
I analyse these technologies, their exploitation by our adversaries, our current status and the way forward.
What are these technologies?
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones as they are popularly called, have been around for nearly four decades now. These were initially developed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Armed with an array of sensors and having long endurance, the UAVs gave real-time intelligence of the battlefield to direct the fire of various weapon systems.
The 21st century saw the advent of armed drones that could carry Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) and missiles. Their effectiveness was proved in Afghanistan beginning 2001—eliminating Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership. Initially, this capability was the monopoly of the US, but in the last few years, at least 10 countries other than America — Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates — have conducted drone strikes, and many more countries have them in their arsenal.
Drones can be used both at the tactical and strategic level. The latter is dependent on space-based intelligence, communications and navigation . The US, Israel and China are the biggest manufacturer of drones of all types. Turkey has progressed rapidly to produce, export and use armed drones.