The Indian Navy, the second largest component of the Indian Armed Forces must modernise itself to meet the ever-changing geopolitical situations and landscape of war. Modernisation of the Navy is not limited to just gathering futuristic weapons. The “Sea-Power Theory” of Alfred Thayer Mahan clearly states that those nations that have a strong navy and command of the sea, can rightfully be called powerful nations in reality. Nations across the World have been involved in the acquisition of new technologies and India is also on the progressive path of naval upgradation too.
The 21st Century is an era of “disruptive technologies” which intend to replace the existing obsolete and ageing technology. One such field is Artificial Intelligence or AI. It is also known as Industry 4.0 and it refers to the ability of machines to behave like human beings or develop human intelligence in machines. It was created by John McCarthy in the year 1956 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It includes technologies such as pattern recognition, neural networks, machine learning etc.
In modern warfare, the naval forces face hybrid warfare and conflicts are converted from human-centric to technology-centric domains. Thus, to improve the war capabilities of the Indian Navy, The Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan has been in effect since 2015 and will end in the year 2030. It shall be strengthening the “intelligent warfare” capacity of the Indian Navy.
There is extensive use of Artificial Intelligence in war. AI systems are much smarter than operator-based systems due to their quick-reacting capabilities. They can manage and operate on a large volume of data. The coming successive generations of war will be focused on autonomous weapon platforms. The Indian Navy has formed an AI Core Group that trains naval officers, sailors and seamen in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. The Indian Navy has also collaborated with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) for training marine personnel. The Indian Navy will include AI features in Sensor technologies, augmented intelligence, power/propulsion systems, Modelling and Simulation, oceanography and logistics.
Two Indian DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Undertakings) Goa Shipyard Limited and Bharat Electricals Limited to develop unmanned platforms such as the “Autonomous Fast Intercept Boat”. The main areas that the navy will work on are Maritime Domain Awareness, physical security, intelligence and cybersecurity along with the creation of a data lake. At present, India does not have many AI systems. They will have to be procured through the Transfer of Technology (ToT) from leading and technologically advanced allies such as the US, Japan and Russia.
Despite their significance and merits, AI-developed Equipment is very expensive and requires a lot of technical skill and expertise. It will also affect and impact the labour force to a great extent. They will be replaced by robots which have already been witnessed in China. There is a looming fear of existential threat. The technology must also not fall into the hands of organised criminals, terror outfits and most importantly pirates.
In the future, there are possibilities for the creation of MASS. MASS stands for Marine Autonomous Surface Ships. They have four degrees of autonomy, completely independent, partially controlled, and fully controlled on board or with some sailors on board. These ships can be deployed in the Indian Ocean Region as well as in the Indo-Pacific. If India becomes self-reliant in building AI systems, it will be a huge leap for Make in India and the Atmanirbhar Bharat Initiatives of the Indian Government.