Friday, May 24, 2024

From Strength to Power – DRDO in the Sixth Wave of Innovation

By Navneet Bhushan

At the root of strength lies science – Balasya Moolam Vigyanam, the slogan of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has helped Indian armed forces in war, weapons, warfare and war-making for national defence since 1958. India’s August 1947 independent existence, was attained through uncountable sacrifices. Since then, DRDO had many occasions to reflect on the above slogan. History impacts future – but it rarely, if ever, repeats itself exactly. There are many patterns that resurface, which can be utilised to design a stronger future. The 21st century has already given us new inputs for a better and more secure future. There are new trends visible.

World Power Re-polarization

World war II paved the way to a bi-polar world hanging in balance in a cold war. First re-polarization of the world started in late 1980s, reflected in the fall of the Berlin wall, 1991 Gulf-war, and the demise of formidable USSR. The resulting US led unipolar world pointed to science that needed to be translated into technology for national strength, which led to the nation becoming a world-power.

The 9/11 attacks on the twin-towers, showed an ingenuity of human mind in the interplay of available technology and strength. A determined group can be “weaponised” to put the proverbial wrench in the wheels of the great powers. This lesson was not lost on others. In 1997, China defined “Unrestricted Warfare” – to make “everything” potentially “weaponizable”, especially against USA , claiming a new “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA). Russia, formulated the “hybrid-warfare” where-in the asymmetrical forces resort to a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic means to disrupt the more advanced adversary. This was perhaps a revolution in deniable disruptive affairs.

Today the world witnesses a more assertive China, unleashing its strategic “geo-political instrument” of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese assertiveness coupled with US withdrawal from world power-plays through “America First” since 2016, is accelerating the second re-polarization of world power. USA was engaged in its 20 years global war on terror, while China was perfecting its Systems Destruction Warfare. China created Anti-access/Area-denial (A2/AD) formulations to disrupt the in-theater combat-power build-up such as operation desert shield executed before the 1991 Operation Desert Storm. China combines aspects of what US multi-domain warfare and mosaic warfare are building up, but with its own unique features.

We are now in a more diffused world power distribution which has further accelerated through the Covid-19 pandemic. The fault-lines of a rising China and withdrawing US are creating an unprecedented plex of war and peace. The world has never been in between war and peace – definitely not for so long and surely not in so many old and new geo-political-economic-technological dimensions. China has defined a third “ization” of its military as the “intellitization warfare”. This is a new found confidence of China in leapfrogging the US. The first “ization” of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was mechanization, the ongoing second “ization” is the informatization. The three “izations” will evolve hand-in-hand as China has clear advantages in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, 5G networks and Hypersonic weapons. The new technologies are producing a new creative destruction.

The Creative Destruction towards The Sixth Wave of Innovation

From the start of the industrial revolution, different technologies have changed the way means of production of economic value. Each subsequent wave’s duration has been reducing. The 3rd wave was driven by electricity and steel besides the two world wars. The 4th wave by electronics and aviation and cold war. The fifth wave of innovation was driven by software and networks (years 1990-2020) and a unipolar world. We are in in sixth wave of Innovation. Every such wave starts with what is termed the creative destruction. The existing economic system becomes irrelevant or mutate, as the new economic system emerges. The sixth wave of innovation, is being driven by (a) Things becoming Networked, Autonomous, Nano and Hypersonic, (b) Algorithmic Intelligence (2020-2045) and Quantum Computing (2030-2045), and (c) Synthesized – Biology, Energy, and Reality.

The Manned-Unmanned Teaming of Complex Intelligent Strategic Systems (CISS)

With the sixth wave of innovation technologies, we need to invent and design systems that are going to evolve to high complexity, display intelligent behavior and will have ability to leverage strategic information in a seamless manner. These we call the Complex Intelligent Strategic Systems (CISS).

According to the law of increasing intelligence of technical systems, technical systems can be classified as dumb or unguided systems, guided systems, and smart systems. These are paving the way for brilliant systems that have self-learning abilities. These brilliant systems will be defining the sixth wave of innovation and will graduate to genius systems with a “mind” of their own. Rudimentary “minds” of technical systems are already emerging in the brilliant technical systems.

Complex systems have many parts and interactions that exhibit properties such as non-linearity, emergence, adaptation, spontaneous order, etc. The interaction mechanisms and the feedback loops that combine the components of these systems many times lead them to unintended consequences. Strategic information systems collect, collate, process and enhance information relevant to their operations, processes and contexts. Using the continuous/frequently evolving/changing information, these systems keep on updating their processes and operations to improve, adapt or adopt to the current view(s) of the information they have created, learned or have been supplied with. Every system, potentially, can be transformed to the strategic level by – (a) making it collect data and information relevant to its operations, processes and domains; and (b) processing and/or computing relevant actionable information that it can utilize during its future operations.

The complex intelligent strategic systems (CISS) will evolve into manned and unmanned. The Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) will evolve in multitudes of explorations. The earlier technical systems (Figure part A) transformed to the network-centric or cloud-based systems of today (Figure part B) are already giving way to a rudimentary version of manned-unmanned CISS networks. The emerging systems will comprise elements of cyber, space, electro-magnetic, and all physical domains. This is as shown in (Figure part C). The challenges of the reliability, robustness, safety and even security of CISS need to be taken head-on. At least the critical systems, if they are going to be CISS, or Manned-Unmanned CISS plexus, will need a new construct to be built to ensure their robustness and safety.

DRDO Ahead

DRDO is defining itself anew in the changed world that is becoming difficult to decipher, decode and dive-in using the thinking, means and systems of the previous world, as described above. The “Defence” in the DRDO is now expanding to “National Security”. The security of nation today demands multi-dimensional and multi-domain awareness and responses. DRDO and other institutions of India need to work together seamlessly to cohesively and collaboratively tackle the expanded war doctrines such as hybrid warfare and intelligentization of war, besides the technological creative destruction.

The research and development (the R&D) part of DRDO is already transforming to the new way of collaborative problem-solving with all stake-holders including “outsiders” such as private and commercial sectors of the economy. The “open innovation” needs to utilize the “resonate and design” mechanism to deliver appropriate solutions. The “organization” in DRDO is becoming a creative, collaborative, catalyzing and cost-informed organization (the C4O). These traits need to be strengthened in the sixth wave.

The strategic, organizational, doctrinal and technological nature and character of the world is being transformed. DRDO has served the nation in the last seven decades. India is becoming a new pole in the penta-polar world emerging ahead. The science at the root of the strength paradigm, need to create new teeth by developing newer technologies for desired changes through innovation. This will lead us to respond to global play of power. The multi-dimensional, multi-domain national security is key to propelling a prospering India ahead. We need to use our strength to attain our national goals and defend our national interests within the available resources and specific context – that is how a nation exercises its power. An agile application of science need to become technology. This need to be utilized for innovation, i.e., successful creation of needed change through ideas. Indeed, innovation is the seedbed of national power in this creative destruction and times ahead. DRDO is emerging as the catalyst at all three levels – strategic, operational and tactical. In the way ahead, India needs to build its Grand Strategy on “Displayed and applied technological innovation is power” – Sanrachnatmak Balasya Abhivyakti.

About the author: Naveen Bhushan worked as a Defence Scientist at ISSA, DRDO and is founder director of CRAFITTI CONSULTING ( – a Strategy, Technology, Innovation and Intellectual Property Consulting firm focused on co-crafting solutions for global problems.. He is the principal author of Strategic Decision Making- Applying the Analytic Hierarchy Process. Navneet Blogs at can be contacted at


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