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A Renewed Focus on Emerging Technologies in Defence


The utilization of capabilities that leverage a combination of cyber technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), unmanned systems, and advanced computing is prevalent among most militaries. The Indian military is actively acknowledging this trend as recently highlighted by General Manoj Pande.


GS3- Defence

Mains Question:

Fully realising the potential of emerging technologies in the military requires altering existing organisations and approaches. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words).

Initiatives Taken by India that Focus on Emerging Technologies:

  • During the Chanakya Defence Dialogue, General Manoj Pande, the Chief of the Army Staff, revealed that the Army had identified 45 niche technologies in the field of military applications.
  • Similarly, under ‘UDAAN,’ the Indian Air Force (IAF) is employing AI, cyber, and virtual reality to address operational, logistical, and training needs.
  • The Navy is also progressing with emerging technologies, including an Integrated Unmanned Roadmap, and encouraging indigenization under the ‘Swavlamban’ project.
  • The Defence Ministry, through ‘AIDef,’ has showcased its initiatives in this domain, including the Defence AI Council and the Defence AI Project Agency.
  • Both efforts aim to incorporate AI into various allied organizations, such as Defence Public Sector Undertakings and the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Persisting Challenges:

  • While India’s military has focused on emerging technologies for some time, with the induction of drone platforms and recognition of cyber threats, there are significant shortcomings in the approach to this domain.
  • Jointness, or interoperability between the three services, remains problematic, and there is a need to revisit human resources practices to prioritize technical expertise in specialized technology.
  • Additionally, greater openness in sharing data with civilians is essential to fully realize the potential of AI.
  • While some view emerging technologies as the latest trend, others argue that traditional military elements like artillery, maneuver warfare, and infantry tactics still dominate, as evidenced by accounts of the Russia-Ukraine war. However, at a conceptual level, emerging technologies pose a dilemma for militaries on how to best respond to change.

Way Forward:

Creative Thinking:

Despite these well-intentioned efforts, there is a need for more creative thinking about the approach to emerging technologies.  Specifically, for these initiatives to succeed, the military must recognize that technology is not a silver bullet and should not be viewed as a ‘plug and play’ solution that can be easily adjusted to existing practices.

Instead, it should be accompanied by organizational and doctrinal changes and a willingness to share data with the civilian environment.

Collaborative Defence:

Effectively integrating emerging technologies requires closer collaboration between the military and civilians than ever before. The concept of “collaborative defence,” where the military partners with scientists, academics, technologists, entrepreneurs, and the wider industry, is deemed critical in incorporating such capabilities. In this regard, India’s defence organizations and the military still have some way to go.

Institutional Changes:

To fully harness the potential of emerging technologies, there is a need for changes in existing organizations and approaches. This transformation should start from the Defence Ministry, which should be more open to incorporating technocrats and qualified personnel from the private sector. The military, in turn, must create pathways for civilians to work alongside them as technology professionals and explore the need for separate cadres to tap into the promise of such technologies.


While ongoing defense reforms in India have set the military on the path to a significant transformation, realizing the vision requires greater willingness to engage with talent outside existing defense organizations

December 2023