Stating that Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) and Hypersonic Weapons have already been tested and employed by other nations, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari Tuesday said India’s defence industries need to push the development of these weapons and integrate them into its airborne platforms to get the desired range and accuracy.
He also said the ongoing Ukraine conflict has demonstrated that technological capability needs to be complemented by combat sustenance and thus Indian defence industries need to adopt the twin mantras of technical quality and production scalability to meet the requirements of armed forces in any future conflict.
The Indian Air Force Chief was speaking at the second edition of Def-Tech India — an event organised by PhD Chamber of Commerce and Vision Initiatives on ‘India’s Aerospace Capabilities and Technology Requirements’. Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel, and China are reportedly among countries which have programmes to develop DEWs or Laser Directed Energy Weapons and militaries of several countries have also employed them.
Stating that the weapons of India at 100 years since independence would look very different from weapons of India 75 years, the IAF Chief said that DEWs, particularly lasers, provide significant advantages over traditional weapons such as precision engagement, low cost per shot, logistical benefits and low detectability.
“Our defence industries need to further the development of these weapons and also integrate them onto airborne platforms to get desired ranges and accuracy,” he said.
He further highlighted that the concept of Atmanirbharta or self-reliance in defence should not be limited only to production but should encompass evolving home-grown designs and development capabilities by utilising the Indian defence industry, start-ups, MSMEs and academia to create a self-sustaining defence R&D ecosystem.
He said the key to faster development of niche technology is to identify core areas of development, clearly articulate requirements and closely interact with the industry to design and develop the technology.
“The process does not stop here. Well established defence manufacturing public sector enterprises must hand-hold and get the developed technology into the market for mass production,” he said.
“Unless all stakeholders come together, I am afraid, we will continue to wallow in the dark and not see tangible progress. This is where the indigenous R&D and production — be it platforms, sensors, weapons, or networking, assumes a critical role for future capability building,” he added.
ACM Chaudhari further said that earlier, technological advances resulted in incremental up-gradation of existing platforms in terms of range, weapon delivery accuracy and sophistication. “Today, path breaking technologies like Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Autonomous Systems and Battle Field of Things are knocking at the doors of defence production,” he said.
He said the application of these technologies in the aerospace industry can transform the way wars will be fought. “…we need to incorporate and infuse these technologies in our future projects. This will enable us to produce cutting edge platforms, weapons, sensors, and networks essential to fight and win a future war,” he said.
The IAF Chief also listed areas where the Indian aerospace industry needs to invest and excel.
Stating that intelligent military ecosystems are the future of the battlefield, he said these systems need to be highly mobile and interconnected, supported by communication and operating across domains.
“AI-assisted military options will take the form of multi domain integration, cross domain attack and interfacing between manned and unmanned systems. In future, AI and Quantum Computing in tandem may prove to be a game changer providing quick and accurate inputs and enabling time critical decisions,” he said.
He also said AI in future would enable India to have strategic dexterity where combatants will be able to exploit all available assets simultaneously more efficiently.
He also said advanced technologies in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, has increasing applications and practical relevance today as well as in the future and that the use of such evolving technology in terms of swarms etc. in the military context will lead to a much higher demand of UCAVs and UAVs in future.
He said research is already progressing in drone-related technologies, including Quantum drones (QD) and quantum computing can impact the aerospace ecosystem in enabling efficient and accurate simulation, optimization of complex systems and data processing capabilities.
“Development of UAV technology within the quantum realm shall enhance concepts like Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) to much higher levels offering a new level of interoperability which could make a huge difference in the wars of tomorrow,” he said.
He added, “India should be looking at adopting, absorbing and more importantly indigenously developing such niche technologies.”
He further said the advent of stealth technology is an important development in military aviation and advancements in radar and stealth has started a cat and mouse game between Radars, SAM systems and attacking aircraft.
“We need to harness this technology to meet our future requirements and to have an edge. As a country, we need to focus on R&D and manufacturing in the field of stealth and anti-stealth technologies,” he said.
He said it is essential that the end users and the developers work hand in glove and emphasised on the need for cross pollination between the industry and the IAF to ensure that India possesses an air force that can address all challenges posed by its adversaries today and in the future.
He said the IAF has proved its capability across the entire spectrum of conflict ranging from peace, no war-no peace, and conflict situations and is on the path of transformation so that India can fight and win tomorrow’s wars.
“We are in the process of acquiring and operationalising cutting edge systems in our inventory. At the same time, the task of upgrading the existing inventory of aircraft, weapons and other combat support systems continues unabated,” he said, adding that indigenous platforms such as LCA Mk 1A, HTT-40 trainers, indigenous weapons and a wide array of radars will be inducted soon.