When nations go to war, the nation with better technology will win,’ India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in 2019, and perhaps taking that cue, the country’s defence planners are embarking on their next-generation modernisation program in a quest to be future-ready.
The transforming geopolitical landscape is driving preparations the world over for future wars that will be waged less with the bullet than with cyber technology, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, quantum computing, augmented and virtual reality, robotics, big-data analytics, unmanned drones, small-satellite constellations for 5G and 6G telecommunications, information acquisition, 3D printing, nanomaterials and human augmentation devices.
Multi-domain, or cross-domain, operations will comprise ‘centaur’ teams, where human will bind with machines to optimise the performance of both. These human–machine teams will harness AI for military applications that will transform decision-making on the battlefield.
The Indian Armed Forces’ demand for just such a ‘connected’ soldier may be met by a public–private partnership under the government’s defence public sector undertakings (DPSU) program between Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Hyderabad’s Grene Robotics, a niche private-sector player in AI and robotics, which are jointly developing an advanced man-portable surface-to-air missile.
A key to its effectiveness is an ‘autonomous MANPAD data link’ which allows commanders to give real-time firing orders to a soldier in a forward area using augmented reality and virtual reality robotics, says Grene Robotics director Gopi Krishna Reddy.