The transformational capabilities and the technological advances are narrowing the gap between Civilian and Military products/applications, having serious implications on security environment.
The ultimate objective of any military organization is not to win wars but to avert them with minimal costs. The scarcity of strategic military resources can be achieved through the efficient management, distribution, use of resources and by investing and incorporating the very latest technology in the military hardware either through research and development, adaptation and upgrades; or through technology transfers. Technology in modern warfare has reduced the traditional reliance on numbers, mass and endurance while increasing the capacity for rapid and precise application of very large amounts of force, for a comparatively short time. This has significant implications for a developing nation like ours.
Recent years have witnessed dramatic changes in the global technology environment as a result of acceleration in both the pace of technological development and the rate of diffusion. The technological innovations, geopolitical and globalised business environment threatens to disrupt the global security and defence industry with cheaper alternatives. The boundaries between defence and commercial industries are likely to be blurred by the sources of cost effective technological innovation. The resources constraints will weigh heavily on decisions relating to tradeoffs between strategic priorities and competing capabilities, which may produce even greater disruptive effects. The issue of military technology, research and development advantage, and the ecosystem of acquisition and sustainment is also under question.
Technologies Prone to Misuse
The transformational capabilities and the technological advances are narrowing the gap between Civilian and Military products/applications. The strategic convergence of these trends in disruptive technologies will generate several disruptive effects in the years to come. The most devastating example of disruptive technology in recent history is the atomic bomb which changed the laws of war and gave a new extreme to the concept of total war during World War II. The undeniable fact of the use of this disruptive technology was that it brought the Second World War to a strategic close within five days. These systems and complementary technologies have diversified use which has profound implications for the world future and have radically altered the concept of how wars can be fought. Beside their huge contribution to quality of life and scientific progress, new technologies have intrinsic dangers, as they provide unparalleled power and influence to illegitimate regimes, crime syndicates, and terrorist for their nefarious activities, as discussed below.
Communications and Information Technology
The developments in information technology are revolutionizing approaches to national security and military operations. The digitized and “datafied” cloud computing, data integration and analytic suites have come long way. The information processing power and data analytics can be used for unmanned systems, robotics and synthetic biology, technology etc.
Information technology alone has had a profound impact on national security, enabling soldiers to use smart phones to obtain real time surveillance from drones and to coordinate with fellow troops via text messaging. Some of the negative aspects of the developments are:-
- Dangerous technical information is becoming available on the net.
- Computer Programming - Efficient software development, image understanding and distributed-grid-based processing Systems.
- Global networks of terror interconnected by Internet.
- Control and prevention of sensitive knowledge dissemination in free societies.
- Trends of miniaturization and cost reduction of many military technologies facilitates terrorism
- Electronic warfare against critical civilian communication infrastructures.
The cyberspace is the most famous changing technology. The cyber technology has blurred previously well understood boundaries, exposed vulnerabilities and created new threats and industry. The political objectives can be attained without the loss of lives, at minimal capital costs and with the battle-space anywhere inside cyberspace.
Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, unmanned e-spacecraft and weapons of “outer space, hypersonic missiles or aircraft" etc are few other technologies that will develop.
The achievements in Robotics smarter, smaller and cheaper robots increase the danger that such products will become available to terrorists. Use of robotic toys as platforms to high explosive chemical, radiological, biological devices for attacking defended targets.
It is the use of microorganisms or biological substances such as bacteria or yeasts and enzymes for specific industrial and manufacturing processes. Applications include the production of certain drugs, synthetic hormones, the use of genetically altered bacteria and Creation/Purchase of dangerous biological warfare agents (microbes, viruses, and toxins).
Advanced manufacturing is also beginning to influence the technology environment by increasing the speed, adaptability and customization of production, while simultaneously decreasing cost and, in some cases, material waste. The advanced manufacturing enables rapid prototyping as well as the product development and production cycles. However, given the commercial availability and relative affordability of related tools such as computer-aided design software and 3-D printers, non-state actors can also benefit by, for example, using open-source designs to manufacture untraceable weapons and component.
Nanotechnology broadly refers to techniques that produce or measure features less than 100 nanometres in size. Several technologies converge with nanotechnology, the most important being miniaturization of semiconductor and the science and technology of building devices such as electronic circuits from single atoms and molecules. Some of the threats are:
- High power new explosives and propellants.
- Mother of all Bombs: super thermites that combine nanometals with metal oxides that can greatly improve output.
- Metal less weapons.
- Small missiles.
- New highly toxic compounds:
- Human toxicity (respiratory and food exposures).
- Environmental long term pollution.
Alternative energy - micro electro mechanical systems, fuel cells, distributed energy and new-generation nuclear power plants.
Aerospace - Next-Generation space shuttle system and hypersonic/supersonic aircraft. Autonomous systems which could be used in a broader range of military operation as well as intelligence activities.
Directed energy weapons
Directed energy weapons are also envisioned as revolutionary. These consist of weapon systems based on millimetre waves, high power microwaves, lasers, and electromagnetic pulses. The main advantage of lasers is that there is no flight time between the shot and the target since the beam basically travels at the speed of light. It could be a powerful defensive tool against missiles.
Dual Use Technologies
Dual-use civilian technologies, especially information technology, high resolution imagery and global positioning systems as pieces of technology will empower state and non-state actors with new disruptive and destructive capability. The growing dependence on information technology (IT), with its tremendous advances and growth in recent years, has compelled nations to look into the subject of information warfare with greater urgency and scrutiny.
Mind Control Technologies
Another major game changer could be Human Performance Modification. It consists of using drugs, techniques, machines or genes to enhance or degrade human performance. Concrete applications could be improving IQs or developing natural night vision. Indoctrination using new technologies of learning and mind control technologies such as Virtual Reality, Hypnosis, New psychological drugs, Implanted electrodes detect brain signals, Artificial limbs controlled by thought and Recruitment of large numbers of suicidal candidates - "Human Bombs” by Mind Control etc.
The Need for Control
The current defence industrial capabilities are largely driven by investments from Govts or the Industry. The acquisitions are regulated through various arms control measures to safeguard commercial, national interests. By contrast, the dual-use technologies are driven by the commercial sector and hence the center of gravity in cutting edge, military applicable research is shifting abruptly away from the defence establishment to commercial ventures. In other words the trends are almost akin to democratization of technology with diluted governmental control, resulting in the uncertain security environment.
The technology trends, access to disruptive technologies, the strategic environment demographic pressures have increased the potential for conflicts. Such environment can enable even a rogue govt, individuals and small groups to perpetrate large-scale violence for outsized effects. The trends present economic and technological risks to state and non-state actors alike, as they are beyond the control of any individual government or entity. The convergence of these trends could expand the sources, nature and magnitude of future conflicts, which suggests the need for adaptable structures capable of responding to a growing range of contingencies. Hence the needs to adapt control measures, strategies, structures are relevant to current needs. Failure to adapt the control ecosystem to the emerging environment could lead to catastrophic outcome. War by other means, like Psychological operations, military deception, electronic warfare (EW) and economic warfare will gain greater eminence by their intrinsic association with technological sophistication. In the longer term, the possibilities and options for the military are endless and spectacular.