Preparing Indian Soldiers for a 7-Dimensional war

Indian army soldiers salute at a war memorial during "Vijay Diwas" in Srinagar

India has built its military on borrowed ideas, doctrines and most importantly arms and technology. The country however, faces such unique security environment and threats that in the 7th decade of Independence from British we should have created a military doctrine and force structure of its own. Given the increasing influence for which India is positioned in world economy and world geo-politics, it is but a matter of time that today’s largest arms importing country has to rethink about its military structure, doctrine and above all the type of soldiers it need to create. What should be an Indian military doctrine for 21st Century? Further how do we create defence professionals who will fulfill the emerging needs which are increasingly complex in multiple dimensions including potential 360 degree threat spectrum that India face. Today we are facing 7-dimensional wars. Soldiers, who will fight these wars, need to be multi-dimensional. Further, given the education scenario in India the key challenges that India will face to create the 7-D Soldiers of the future, need an open discussion and focus.

Future War – The 7D War

Military affairs have been revolutionized by increasing the dimensions of war. No one thought before the WW II thought that aircraft and submarines will play almost decisive roles. The War ended by US creating a totally new dimension of “mass lethality” by using fission bombs – not once but twice. One of the major legacies of Second World War has been the aircraft carrier group that was used by Japan with a telling effect during Pearl Harbor attacks and later by US and Soviet Navy during cold war global shadow boxing. Lesser powers – UK and France also operated aircraft carriers and still do. India had an aircraft carrier that helped us block the East Pakistan during 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.

On one side of spectrum the hi-tech future wars are going to be anywhere any-time wars. The fronts (battle, theatre and war) will vanish and will be replaced by whole five dimensional expanses of our existence i.e., the space, air, land, sea surface and under water, and interestingly two man made dimensions of WMD and Cyberwar. This seven dimensional war (the 7D war) will have operations in each dimension and will have trans-dimensional impacts due to remarkable jointedness between the war making elements. The clarity of goals will make the necessity of elimination of enemy obsolete. The attrition warfare of the yesteryears is replaced by the disruption warfare, where the intent is to control information flow and create information edge. The other side of spectrum the conflicts of future are most likely to be conflicts which will be messy, irregular and revolving around the rise of highly networked non-state actors, whose principal targets may, in many cases, be states.

Evolution of Lethality – Lethality the fundamental war making capability is seeing a marked shift. From “piecemeal lethality” to “massed lethality” and “stealth lethality” we have seen the evolution of lethality in the age of industrial revolution and a machine based world. In the information based world “remote lethality”, “virtual lethality” and “non-lethal lethality” are emerging new capabilities.

Lean Lethality – War making requires ability to inflict disruption, damage, and destruction of enemy capabilities and resources. This reflects in the primary capability of war making systems, instruments and arms, i.e., their lethality. The lethality should be protected from enemy’s lethality – hence every weapon system needs a self-protection capability – a defensive capability. Further, many weapon systems need to operate together to achieve an effective lethality hence a weapon system requires integration capability that become more pronounced in the information age with systems such as C4ISR attaining same importance if not more than combat systems. Further, lethality needs to operate and be operable in multiple heterogeneous environments. Hence weapon systems need operability in multiple environments without impacting their main function – that is their lethality. The de-massification of destruction is achieved by advanced technologies for surgical, pin-point attacks on high value targets instead of using the earlier method of massed attacks on large area in the fond hope that the target will be made in-effective. This is possible nowadays with the advent of ‘Smart’ and ‘Brilliant’ weapons and capabilities coming up in the form of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs).

Remote, Virtual and Non-Lethal Lethality – Besides these the recent capability in the “cyber warfare” dimension demonstrated by the sole superpower against Iran in the form of Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame is an indication of shift to “virtual and non-lethal lethality”. The unmanned systems are becoming more and more capable and with the advent of unmanned combat systems – we are entering an age of what we can call “remote, virtual and non-lethal lethality”.

Non-Linear Battlefields – The new and future battlefields will be highly non-linear. The old concept of sequential battle front has been replaced by Follow-on-Forces Attacks (FOFA), Strike Deep Strike Hard (SDSH) and Air land battle doctrines. In new battlefields, battle front is considered not only the immediate engagement area, but whole space and all those elements in that space which support enemy’s forward deployed forces. These war execution ways calls for hitting deep inside enemy territory – way behind the immediate fronts where the actual combat between regular forces is taking place. It involves, hitting enemy Command and Control centers, Surveillance and Reconnaissance systems, Logistics Support System and Strategic Units, etc. In Future battlefields, there will not be a clear enemy in the traditional sense of combat troops, reserves, armored division etc. Instead, enemy military force will be based on small, independent, highly mobile and highly integrated fighting units. It will be imperative for the attackers to destroy not only the fighter units but also the integration links. The basis of this integration will be the Command Control Communication Computers IntelligenceInterpretability Surveillance Reconnaissance (C4I2SR) system, Space and Electronic Warfare (SEW) system and Integrated Logistics System (ILS). Therefore, a shift from linear to highly non-linear battlefields will reshape the future warfare.

Joint Operations – It is in the area of joint operations that the future wars will depict a radical departure from traditional old fashioned wars. The trend of joint operations which started with Air Land Battle doctrine will be further improved and implemented. The benefits of joint operations are discernible from the fact that better effectiveness will be achieved by fewer resources. However these resources must be trained, bound, and integrated within the intellectual fabric of a joint military doctrine. This Joint Force Doctrine (JFD) combining all dimensions – Air, Land, Sea Underwater, Space and Time, of warfare will be the key to the future of warfare. Future commanders should be trained and educated to visualize and achieve the ‘best fit’ of available forces needed to produce the immediate effects and achieve the desired results. Indian forces are not trained to operate in joint operations. They continue to fight individual battles in the wars of future.A major pre requisite in this system of systems operating in joint operations is the need to provide logistics which are timely and good enough to support the higher tempo of battles.

Evolution of Lethality – Munitions

Military systems due to their nature, use and application, need to evolve more rapidly than non-military systems. Further, these systems need to be designed for future use under extreme conditions. Hence they may be a useful guide for understanding the evolution of technical systems in general. One of the simplest of these systems is a bomb. A bomb explodes, typically, to destroy an area or a specific target. With the advent of remote combat systems/platforms such as artillery guns and aircraft, these bombs were launched to travel a distance towards a target, before exploding to destroy a target. The remote launch of bombs helped the launcher to escape combat dangers in the form of enemy return fire.

Evolution of Munitions Preparing Indian Soldiers for a 7 Dimensional war

Evolution of Munitions

These long-distant munitions started with the bomb being what is now called the dumb bombs. Typically an aircraft dropped bomb is called an iron bomb, gravity bomb, or a free-fall bomb. These are unguided mass of explosives that simply follow a ballistic trajectory.

In the second stage of evolution of munitions, the guided munitions added a capability to the dumb bomb to be guided to the target, by riding on a signal wave either emanating from the specific characteristic of the target or on a wave illuminating the target. The latter arrangement requires an operator to illuminate a target by acquiring it on an active target illuminator.

In the third stage of evolution of munitions, they become what are called smart munitions. These munitions have fused sensors for the dumb bombs; hence, they can be self-guided and also have minimal target selection capability. In the increasing intelligence of munitions evolution, today we already have brilliant munitions that have autonomous search, detect, identify, acquire and attack capabilities.

Using the law of increasing intelligence of technical systems, one can predict the next stage of Genius munitions that will develop the type of warheads/munitions needed in run-time when they are acquiring targets. The drones – the unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) currently being deployed and used are becoming UCAVs – Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles – which will have higher level of intelligence than brilliant munitions. The Genius Munitions, we predict will start emerging within a decade or so.

We need forces which are organized into a large number of smaller sized highly independent and autonomous, capable units which are backed up by a mass transport and maintenance system to take care of all the potential threats. The future SLAP (Sea Land Air and sPace) forces will be highly mobile and their basic building blocks will be autonomous Knowledge Based Units capable of destruction of the enemy by selective attrition of key enemy elements.

Creating Future 7D Soldier

Today’s world structures are based on Knowledge. Be it the geo-political system, economic system or social system. This same trend can be seen in warfare of future. Due to the remarkable advances being made in the technology, the future military forces will be composed of highly interconnected units with greater autonomy and firepower. The future battlefields will have increased tempo, lethality and uncertainty. Therefore, a doctrine based on interconnecting technologies to take care of unanticipated, unknown and multiple threats is needed.

The Soldier of the future force need to work in an environment of

      1. Operating in Continuous change


      2. Able to operate and work with increasingly intelligent combat systems


      3. Ability to operate in joint operations


      4. Ability to operate in integrated teams


      5. Highly networked combat and combat support systems


      6. Virtual, Remote and Lean Lethality requires – precision decision-making ability


            7. Extreme Innovation to adapt, design and evolve military operations

More than the platforms, combat systems, or combat system of systems, it is creating the future soldier who can fight the 7D war will be the challenge. Are we prepared to create such a soldier? Can we create the new soldier? How to design a system of creating the new soldier who innovates, decides, and execute in a highly evolved lethal environments which has system of systems acting against and for him at the same time? These questions need to be answered quickly and a design of the future should be implemented or evolved – else we will not be able to fight the wars of the future!

By Navneet Bhushan
Frontier India