By Aritra Banerjee
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come a long way since it was first imagined, and today it has become a powerful technology in various industries. According to a report by International Data Corporation, the AI industry was expected to grow to $432.8 billion last year. PwC predicts that the industry will be worth $15 trillion by 2030.
The defence industry is also looking to leverage the power of AI, with AI’s contribution to the defence industry being valued at $6.4 billion globally and is expected to grow to $13.15 billion by 2028.
India has recently shown interest in using AI for defence. During a visit to the United States in April 2022, India’s Minister of Defence and Minister of External Affairs discussed the use of AI in national security with their American counterparts. As a result, the US and India agreed to launch an inaugural Defence Artificial Intelligence Dialogue and expand their joint cyber training and exercises.
India has played a pivotal role in the growth of AI, just as it has in the rise of the software industry. According to an IDC report, the Indian AI market is expected to reach $7.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 20.2%. The Indian government has taken significant steps to increase AI technology adoption for public welfare in areas such as automated monitoring systems, conversational AI solutions, and fraud detection.
The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted economies worldwide, but AI thrived in the defence industry. Defence manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, IBM, and Northrop Grumman, along with governments worldwide, increased their investments in this technology. However, the process of building AI systems was affected by a shortage of raw materials due to disruptions in the supply chain during the pandemic.
AI-enabled solutions are the future of the defence industry. Countries worldwide invest heavily in their defence programs to remain robust, and a good amount of their defence budget is allocated for developing defence technologies such as AI in military applications. These applications can handle and process large amounts of data and have enhanced computation and decision-making skills.
AI can be a game-changer in logistics, information operations, intelligence collection and analysis, command and control, and semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles. AI has already been deployed on battlefields in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The technology is also being leveraged during training and simulations of the defence forces. AI helps employ system and software engineering ideas to create models to assist soldiers in training on different fighting systems used in military operations. The US Navy and US Army are already using simulation programmes to train their sailors, soldiers, and cadets.
The Indian Army, too, has begun leveraging hi-tech military simulator technologies to train its first batch of Agniveer recruits, a trend that is likely to mark its prevalence across military training in the near future.
Will The Indian Armed Forces Delve Into Robotics?
The introduction of robotics in military applications has the potential to significantly change the direction of battles and reduce the need for human soldiers. Robots equipped with AI can traverse dangerous terrain, perform remote surgeries, and carry out risky surveillance missions.
Recent drills conducted by a neighbouring country using remote-controlled diggers have highlighted the increasing use of robots in military applications. Germany and France have also announced their plans to construct a new fighter jet, known as the “Eurodrone,” to take flight in 2040.
The DRDO has also developed a series of robots focusing on surveillance and reconnaissance, such as the RoboSen. Other created robots include a miniature man-portable UGV, a wall-climbing flapping-wing robot, and a walking robot with four and six legs for logistical assistance. While India is making progress in the field of robotics, more advancements in technology are needed before robots can fully replace human soldiers.
Emerging technologies such as AI, 5G, robotics process automation, quantum technology, advanced materials, advanced computing, semiconductor technology, hypersonic technology, and blockchain are also crucial for the defence industry. Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) technologies, which provide a comprehensive understanding of the sea, and space technology, are essential for defence. The market for military robots is expected to reach $24.2 billion by 2025.
Defence forces are also exploring technologies such as next-generation rockets with land, air, and sea variants that will be improved with the latest propulsion technology, navigational systems, and high-grade sensors. These rockets will also be linked to AI-powered ISR systems. Disposable UAVs, AI/Machine Learning, and big data are also being used to simplify military operations and improve combat capabilities.
The use of military robots in battles has several advantages, including taking risks without risking human lives and performing tasks that humans cannot, such as constant surveillance and quick information processing. However, India’s current military equipment, such as T-72 and T-90 tanks and fighter jets, are outdated and lack the mobility, protection, and firepower to match those of other countries, particularly in a potential conflict with China.