According to Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, the current Russia-Ukraine battle is broadcasting comprehensive multi-domain activities that are taking place. He explained, "This is the first time we are witnessing the unfolding of truly hybrid warfare...We are witnessing the use of drones, hypersonic weapons, aircraft of all sizes and types, and ground forces all working in unison against the backdrop of economic sanctions and diplomatic heft. The IAF commander also noted that there is a lot to learn from the Russia-Ukraine war while speaking at an all-India management association event."Is it only in hardware? Is it going to be through soft power? Is it going to be a multitude of all this? Primarily what it amounts to is to be able to re-imagine, to re-invent, to be able to re-dedicate and restrain ourselves for future conflicts," he further added. He was speaking at the All India Management Association's event titled "The Future of Air Warfare: Securing the Skies and Beyond." The Indian Chief of Air Force said, "In the last 20 years, we have seen unprecedented developments in technology which have totally changed the way we live, socialise and work." Further adding to it, he said “ "Our social media followers are as much a part of our life as are our immediate family. Our increasing reliance on technology has reached such a stage where the modern generation is more likely to ask Siri if it is daylight rather than opening the windows to see if it is".
Despite its borders, the world has become a much smaller place since the introduction of the internet and social media platforms. Wars have traditionally been fought on land, at sea, in the air, and in some way in space. This spectrum has expanded during the last two decades to cover cyber and information realms. The first four realms are physical, whereas the remaining two are virtual. The impact of cyber and information warfare on the conduct of conventional battles has resulted in the emergence of a new, hybrid, and multi-domain spectrum of conflict, rendering earlier tactics and methods obsolete. "Therefore, to secure our borders, there is a definite imperative to Reimagine, Reform, Redesign and Rebuild our traditional war fighting machinery and adapt to this new emerging paradigm," he remarked."As we become more and more interconnected, a cyber-attack on our networks can cripple command and control structures. What I am trying to get at is that in the next war, the enemy might not be a country or an organisation. We may never know the perpetrators of a Distributed Denial of Services attack and we will not know when and from where the attack will take place." "In the future, we could be attacked on all fronts, ranging from economic strangulation to diplomatic isolation and military standoffs to information black outs in the form of attacks by Distributed Denial of Services. All this will happen well before the first bullet is fired or the first aircraft goes across the border."
All future battles are expected to be hybrid in form, with a spectrum of conflict stretching from conventional to sub-conventional, kinetic to non-kinetic, and lethal to non-lethal, all under the umbrella of a nuclear overhang. We're talking about weapons that range from a little computer virus to hypersonic missiles. The Indian Air Force has also faced challenges in the recent two years. During the height of the pandemic, the situation in eastern Ladakh deteriorated. The IAF was on high alert while also fully supporting the country's anti-covid campaign. "Our transport aircraft fleet flew to 18 countries clocking 4800+ flying hours in around 2,900 sorties distributing aid to our friends across the globe," he said. Additionally, over 2,600 hours were flown within the country for transportation and positioning of oxygen and medical supplies wherever they were required. The total distance covered was over 27 lakh kilometers, which is like flying to the moon and back - 4 times over." All this was in addition to the threat on our northern borders and while maintaining a 24x7 readiness to cater for any eventuality," he added. The Indian Air Force flew 240 hours to four countries during the recently finished Op-Ganga, returning 2,826 Indians from the battle zone.
What plans does the IAF have to be ready to fight and win conflicts tomorrow? Conflicts throughout the previous few decades have unequivocally demonstrated the primacy of airpower as the weapon of choice for practically all operational contingencies. Even now, the estimated advantage provided by 'high ground' is a must-achieve criterion. Airpower gives that high ground and the ability to hit targets in vast depth with speed and precision, bypassing deployed forces. Space has recently been widely utilised as the ultimate high ground from which nations' forces can operate with near impunity. In the chaos of war, it's critical to have a clear view of the fighting zone and the opponent's intentions. At the operational level, this would offer the commander a lot of leeways to make dynamic changes and shape the battlefield. "We are actively pursuing development of niche technologies in the field of space-based capabilities, Data Linking, and AI-based Decision Support Systems to shorten the sensor to shooter loop and for making the targeting cycle highly responsive," he told.
Access to cutting-edge technology
Having easy access to high-tech equipment creates new challenges for traditional forces. Drones used in the Yemeni-Saudi conflict, drones used with fighter planes in the Azerbaijan- Armenia conflict, and unsubstantiated rumors of Ukrainians employing drones against Russian forces are all examples of future war technology. "We have also doctrinally included drone usage in our scheme of operations to benefit from some of the exclusive attributes of these platforms. At the same time, we are pursuing unmanned combat systems and their integration with manned fighter platforms in what is known as a man-machine teaming concept," he said. Hypersonic weapons are on the other end of the range, and there have been rumors of some of them being used in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. The Air Force is heavily involved in weapon research and development as well as countermeasure development. "We have laid out a roadmap to add new capabilities and harness modern technology, making technological innovation an integral part of our security apparatus."This thought has initiated a process of re-equipping, retraining, and remodeling of our security infrastructure," the IAF Chief said.