By Aritra Banerjee
In modern warfare, the availability of accurate and secure real-time tactical information is critical. Russia has prioritised the development of tactical info-communication networks to support more efficient ‘Command and Control’ in the ongoing Ukraine War. Both sides rely heavily on drones, making electronic warfare (EW) and information warfare (IW) crucial in disrupting drone operations.
Various techniques have been developed to ensure data confidentiality, integrity, authentication, and guaranteed availability of secure communications, including Communication Security (COMSEC) and Transmission Security (TRANSEC). Russia’s ground forces have deployed advanced technologies like digital tactical Software Defined Radios (SDRs) for secure communication. However, the risk of captured info-communication equipment landing in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) labs for code-breaking has prevented the deployment of the latest Russian technologies within the Ukraine war zone.
The emergence of quantum physics has opened up new possibilities in military networks, specifically through “quantum communication.” Recent technological advancements have enabled advanced nations to apply quantum physics theories to real-world military problems. Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) is a system that utilises quantum physics to encrypt information sent over traditional networks.
China has already completed a QKD network spanning a 2000-kilometre fibre optic link between various cities and a satellite link spanning 2600 km between two land-based observatories. The use of drones in a quantum network is also being researched for a mobile quantum connection in a battle space. Quantum computers are also becoming increasingly relevant, with their ability to perform faster artificial intelligence (AI) and cryptography computations.
While quantum technology offers exciting possibilities for military applications, many issues still need to be considered in implementing these technologies in a standalone mode or integrated with other technologies for defence purposes. Nonetheless, the military exploiting cutting-edge technologies to gain an advantage over an adversary is a significant stimulus in making many advanced technologies prevalent in the commercial world, and quantum technology is poised to join their ranks.