Modelling of Defence Preparedness
Vice Adm Raman Puri, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

Every nation, big or small, has to address its need for defence in a world that is full of conflicts and uncertainties. India with its growing economy and poised to become one of the top five powerful nations of the globe, therefore, has to have a robust defence framework. The budget announces every year a significant chunk of the nation’s revenue for sourcing of defence systems. Our armed forces make corresponding plans to utilize these funds to continually support as well as modernize the defence framework in the country. A key question is “Are we making the best possible decisions in our investments?” Related questions are “How scientific are the methods that we use to arrive at these decisions?. Can we quantify the enhancements to the effectiveness of our defence framework? What is, in this regard, the role of information technology that defines the times that we live in?”

To answer the above questions, a possible way is to model our defence preparedness. The starting point is to identify and enumerate every possible type of threat at the physical layer in all our spaces. An example is the threat from China in terms of capacity, capabilities and time frame to build up forces both along the disputed boundary in Tibet Autonomous Rregion as also in the maritime domain. A Cartesian product of all our assets and the types of threats forms the potential ‘threat envelope’. In this vital first step, taking advantage of the availability of information technology, the threat envelope should be represented and viewed in a computer. Adding the dimension of time, the threats should be modelled to target assets in a variety of temporal configurations. The days of managing this step and the rest of the modelling in our minds are over. The model of defence preparedness that starts with the threat envelope has to be computable, that is we should be able to simulate the model in a computer and get responses to our questions.

Following the enumeration of the possible types of threats, the next step is to identify the ‘defence systems’ that can effectively counter these threats. A defence system may be a combination of a sensor, communication links, a decision support tool, and a weapon. For each threat, one or more defence systems that can address and neutralize that threat should be identified. This exercise should result in a map between the threat envelope on the one hand and the defence envelope on the other in the form of a matrix. In mathematical language, this mapping would be a ‘many-to-many’ mapping, that is, a given threat may be countered independently by more than one defence system. Similarly, a given defence system may counter more than one threat. To manage the complexity involved in this task, the mapping may be done in two stages. In the first stage, only the spatial dimension may be kept in view. In the second, configurations of threats in time may be looked at exhaustively. An important supplementary step is to estimate the effectiveness of a defence system against a threat. These estimates should be an integral part of the model of defence preparedness. Having generated the matrix of defence systems versus threats, the final step is deciding on the placement and configuration of the defence systems across the length and breadth of our land, waters, and air space. These decisions have to be made keeping in mind the possibilities of second, third strikes and beyond.

While we should know our defence systems in respect of their capabilities, the actual numbers required depend on the quantification of the threats. Estimating the capabilities and inventory of our adversaries is necessary to quantify the threats. For example, there is a need for clarity on the capabilities of systems like ASBM, J-20 stealth aircrafts, cruise missiles and ISR sensors being fielded. This challenging task has to be addressed through scientific analysis of media reports, the claims of the adversaries, reports of think tanks, and our intelligence inputs, and the estimates must be put through an effective decision support system. A healthy margin of safety may always be added to these estimates and quantification of threats. Once the final estimate of the capabilities of our adversaries is made, a match-up between the actual defence systems and threats can be carried out, and the survivor and his margin of success can be computed with the help of a combat algorithm.

Once the model of defence preparedness is made computable, the concept of network centric approach for warfare can be experimented. The network of defence systems can be enhanced with machine intelligence to perceive the threats correctly. The targeting of the threats through weapons can be made more precisely. A spin-off advantage will be determining the efficacy of our current systems and deciding GSQRs for future acquisitions. Vulnerable points of the defence of the adversary can be identified and targeted for domino effect. Through a synergistic combination of machine intelligence and human commanders these objectives can be achieved. A computable model of defence preparedness also enables our commanders to play the game of war with the computers acting as the entire red force. War games between men and machines could bring out new tactics and strategies hitherto unknown to human thinking, justifying the appellation of thinking machines for computers. We would have then taken full advantage of the technology that defines our times.

Armed with a computable model of defence preparedness, mission planning for war can be taken up at a higher plane of scientific predictability. The state of our war machine and the forces may be parametrized in terms of their tactical and technical data. Its mobility and re-configurability requirements and feasibility can be examined and mapped out. This step would enable the mission planning exercise to explore movements in the state space of the forces including those of our adversaries. To take the Chinese example further, given the fact that China will need to build up forces from outside Tibet for any meaningful offensive options, the model must define build up phase in terms of airfields and resources to be activated, types of formations, when and where they will build up, nature of sensors, communications etc. Adapting to the changing demands of the combat situation through possible collective movements, more advantageous positions for our forces can be identified on the fly, and effective and dominant responses to the adversary could be visualized and delivered. At every instant, the numerical strengths of the blue and red forces can be estimated and commanders can modulate their actions based on these estimates. Using a generative grammar of warfare, the state of the forces may be factored into components that the commanders at various scales of operations can cognitively relate to and respond. Machine intelligence at its best can make such mission planning and execution as outlined above possible with the help of modern information technology.

The pivotal entities in the model of defence preparedness are the elemental defence systems. Their effectiveness is a function of their lethality as well as their suitability to work in Indian conditions and environment. Their maintainability, availability of spares, licensing conditions, and cost-effectiveness are equally important too. Increasing percentage of information technology components in the defence systems today bring in terrific new capabilities but also vulnerabilities that can be exploited over cyber space. Further, their trustworthiness becomes a serious attribute to be verified, especially if they are sourced from outside the country. Therefore, their specifications should be drawn after a lot of careful analysis of the factors mentioned above. Readily available versions in the market might not address these factors; therefore, sourcing of defence systems may require both indigenous development efforts and plans for procurement of customized versions from the global market. While immediate needs may be met by outright purchases, the long term strategy for superior preparedness should be based on the ‘Make in India’ initiative taking the ‘Defence Preparedness and Manufactured’ Route to the maximum extent feasible with system QRs being drawn after due modeling and analysis effort.


Published Date: 8th September 2016
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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