Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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30-11-2002 : Pune
Future Warfare and the role of young officers

I am indeed delighted to be here in National Defence Academy, Pune to review the Passing out Parade. I feel happy to share my views with the passing out cadets from the 103rd batch, faculty members who have shaped the cadets into responsible defence officers with sincerity and dedication to the nation. I envy you young officers who had the opportunity of joining the armed forces as a career which was my dream in the earlier stages of life. I wanted to be a pilot in Air Force. When I went to Air Force Selection Board at Dehradun, I was in the 8th position in the merit list while there were only seven vacancies. I was dejected when that dream could not be realized. Then I turned to be a aeronautical engineer flying missiles for the defense of the country. I am very happy to be here among the fortunate ones who could win their positions in the prestigious defense services. I congratulate all the cadets who have successfully completed this intensive training course at National Defence Academy and their parents who have guided and motivated these talented youth to opt for the defence career. I was thinking what thoughts I can share with you. The topic I have selected for today's address is- Future Warfare and the role of young officers.

Evolution of Warfare

Let us see the different faces of warfare and how they have evolved. We had initially human power on animal platform and primitive weapons, with which well-built people were fighting; next came mechanized warfare and now we are entering the era of automatic warfare - satellite warfare and space warfare. Many people say that conventional warfare is no more there and non-conventional warfare (nuclear warfare) is here to stay. But in the coming centuries, nuclear warfare will be replaced by low-intensity conflicts or both will co-exist. It is already prevalent in developing world and it will spread to the developed world also, shaped by advancing information technology. Along with the different types of warfare, the tools also changed. Initially religion was used as a driving force, then came ideology and now in these days of economic competition control of market forces will be the weapon with high technology as the tool. It will be interesting to look at the historical perspectives of past wars and invasions into our nation.


Historical Perspectives of Invasions

I wish to share the question that is bothering me for a long time. If we look from the time of Alexander, the great, our nation was frequently invaded. Many people invaded one after other. Even Afghans invaded. Then the British came, the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese and others from central Asian Nations. Why India has always been invaded? On the other hand during last 2500 years has India anytime invaded any nation? No. Why? We have few cases in which we had spiritual movement to spread Buddhism. We had spread of our civilization. India has always been leading the civilization heritage by respecting other civilizations, countries and communities. But now we have to understand, for a country to live in peace, we need to have economic prosperity and national security. Strength respects strength. While the development of economic prosperity of the nation is being supported by wider cross section of peoples from industrial sector, agriculture sector and service sector, the national security primarily lies in the hands of our armed forces. The armed forces have equal responsibilities in maintaining peace in the country.


War between Man and Machines

I would like to share with you friends, some of the predictions of Ray Kurzweil written in his book "When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence - The Age of Spiritual Machines". World Wide Web will make tremendous impact in the way we communicate and live. Most of the computers and accessories will be of micro sized, wearable and will have wireless communications with each other. Moderately priced PCs capable of performing about billion calculations per second today, will be able to perform about trillion calculations per second with in next 10 years. And by 2020 computational ability of an ordinary PC will exceed the capability of human brain. By 2030 the capability of a normal PC would be around 1000 times of human capability.

By the end of this century there would be a strong trend towards merger of human thinking with the world of machine intelligence that the human species initially created. When there would no longer be any clear distinction between human and computers, how are we going to retain the supremacy of man over machines? Computers are going to give us a challenge. Entire human community would have greater responsibility of keeping the mankind above the man-made computers. Fortunately, the creativity, imagination and dreaming will keep human race always supreme. The human genome is full of software that is yet to be activated to unleash the ingenious potentials of human spices. You have the key. Harnessing the hidden potential of a soldier will be a winning factor in the future battle.


Future War Theatre

There are three type of warfare - biological, chemical and nuclear, all in operation stage in the world. I have come across a study which says 300 kgs of sarin gas could kill about a few thousand people in an area of 0.2 sq.km, 1.5 kiloton TNT equivalent nuclear device could kill 50 to 100 thousand people in an area of 7.5 sq. kms, 30 kg of anthrax, say in the form of a cigar, can kill 100 thousand people. This one is tremendously dangerous compared even to the nuclear weapon. NBC warfare is a major threat for the armed forces world over.

Let me share some extracts from the book "Future Warfare". The book says "Among the things that move between the two poles, war alone permits and demands the commitment of all the faculties of man, the highest as also the lowest". This is not to advocate war but to show the brutality, ruthlessness, courage, determination, sheer power and strategy considered necessary for the conduct of armed conflicts.

In the next two decades antiballistic missile defence systems are going to be the major force, after which space systems and strategic military satellites will come in a big way, to guard against nuclear weapons attack. Despite the noise made against nuclear proliferation by them, the advanced countries are never going to reach the state of zero nuclear weapon under the NPT missile control technology regime. The countries responsible for proliferation of nuclear weapons are USA and Russia, and India has certain responsibilities when our neighbors have nuclear capabilities. As far as technology control regimes are concerned, the only answer we must have is in the critical technology area. The motive behind technology denial and NPT and MCTR is to control the market forces and gain domination.

The key to becoming strong nation is to have economic and military strength. India is capable of technological advancement. Starting with the Pokhran explosion in 1974 and the Green Revolution we have some expertise in launch vehicle technology, remote sensing satellites, communication satellites, some missiles, tanks, light combat aircraft, communications and super computers. Unfortunately they seem to be islands of progress. Now a movement has started for the integration of national capabilities. Therefore technology is going to be important for future warfare scenarios. We now have a plan of self reliance in defence systems approved by the government. The present 30% - 40% of self reliance has to be improved to about 70% in the next five years.



The global threat to peace has assumed a new dimension after the 11th September attack on WTC by terrorists. The insurgency, alienation, narcotics and instigated communal conflicts may ultimately culminate in the forms of terrorism. The terrorist armed with technology be it nuclear, chemical or biological warfare agents need to be handled by the defence forces besides other forces. Future terrorist action would have economic assets, communication networks and large population centres as targets. Terrorism in every form needs to be countered and curtailed in its initial stages itself. The armed forces have a significant role in this mission of national defence as we have witnessed in J&K and North East where our armed forces are doing yeoman service in counter insurgency operations.


Futuristic defence technologies

For the 21st Century, particularly for this decade I visualise in the Indian scene, five major technological revolutions taking place :

1. Integration of multiple technologies of supersonic aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft to transform into an unmanned supersonic long-range and low radar cross section vehicles. This will replace manned fighter aircraft.

2. India will progress the design of a hyperplane - a reusable hypersonic missile as well as a cost effective launch vehicle (15% payload factor in place of present 3%).

3. Anti ballistic missile with its satellite network, to protect land and airspace, will become an integral part of the national defence. This will have capability to counter nuclear weapons.

4. Supersonic cruise missiles will replace the current generation of subsonic cruise missiles. These missiles are low radar detective will be difficult to detect and will give very short reaction time for the enemy's defences.

5. Information warfare will dominate the future war with adversaries trying to break into each others computer network to gain control of the vital resources. Information Warfare will be more lethal compared to Nuclear tipped Missiles. India can take the initiatives through the Information technology for obtaining this strength.



The dimensions of warfare have changed the world over in the last five decades , particularly in the environment of new technology of aerospace vehicle, communication and computers. The Information technology is all pervasive. To day its growth has a tremendous influence on the national economy, the war theatre, health sector and education. The Information Technology area even though in the initial phase, had full support and thrust, from Defence Establishments, in the last one decade the Information technology is revolutionising on its own driven primarily by commercial forces. The Information Technology level is calibrated through two major technological bench marks. One is India's supercomputer status and the other is development of India's own microprocessor. With the network of multiple sensors and communication network in supercomputer environment together with our own microprocessor, a tremendous effort is possible to realise a Dominant Battlefield Knowledge (DBK). The DBK needed can be developed through our core competence to meet unified battlefield strategy.



Let us discuss the effectiveness of weapons in the IT environment. For example in respect of military dominance, range, lethality and speed are very vital. It is in the networked environment you have the advantage of having both range as well as speed. Organisation evolution, information technology evolution and access control evolution are discussed to highlight, graduation of information technology reaching anyone, anywhere and anytime. What can be the defence strategy in this environment? It can be seen that open algorithm will have to gradually graduate to own algorithm, own software with encrypted system. In the cryptography with its two components encryption and decryption will have the dominance particularly in the Armed forces Force environment:

a) It is essential for us to encourage research in cryptography and generate a trust in private companies and individuals that their information is indeed secure.

b) India has a good research base for this

c) Initiate a national debate for a secure information interchange policy for India.

d) Initiate a Inter-country debate for cross border terrorism

e) communication and cryptographic standards

f) A national security policy and a global security information technology policy need to be generated.



The future officers of the armed forces, particularly young officers have a new role. The new role is to equip ourselves to combat the technology driven warfare. The whole war environment could be electronically controlled combined with space encounters, deep sea encounters, and ballistic missiles encounters. The winner of future warfare will be the officers, who can visualize the strength of the enemy, not based on the previous war but based on the current capabilities, and technological advancements in global scenario. Now the officers have got greater responsibilities of keeping an eye on technological advancements in addition to keeping an eye on borders of our country.

Our armed force officers will have to get trained in virtual reality based simulated warfronts of all the terrains and all extreme conditions of attacks. Walk through during a space attack, chemical attack, nuclear attacks and electronic encounters need to be visualized and proper counter actions measures need to be practiced. The future battle field would require a synergized team work with joint services operation and use of aero space and ocean as important war theatres. Future soldiers and officers will also have to be knowledge workers.

Above all winners will be soldiers in the frontlines carrying maximum payload of weapon, life support systems and communication kits with minimum weight. Every gram weight saving of soldiers payload has to cover either one of the three. In the Physiological, psychological and Electronic Warfare - Computers with intelligent software will fight in the place of ballistic missiles and laser weapons. They will be more powerful- which will be in light speed - to destroy the economic stability of a country -with destructive capacity exceeding that of nuclear weapons. It is lethal weapon to destroy economic connectivity. Dear young officers you will have the opportunity to see that kind of technology intensive battle field. Develop all round capabilities to emerge as the best and most powerful armed forces at the global level.

My Best Wishes.




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