A Holistic View of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)

Akshay Joshi, Research Officer, IDSA


There are three stages of technological development. During the first stage, technology takes the path of least resistance, that is, it is applied in ways that do not threaten people. Second, the technology is used to improve previous technologies Today's word processor is nothing more than an improved typewriter, for example. In the third stage, new directions of uses are discovered that grow out of the technology itself. New information technologies gradually give birth to new activities, processes, and products.1

— John Naisbitt, "Megatrends," 1982


As prophesised by John Naisbitt, Information Technology (IT) has now entered the third stage of technological development. It is now giving rise to new processes, activities and products. New tools and processes of waging war like information warfare (IW), network-centric-warfare (NCW), integrated command and control (C4ISR), system of systems, all powered by information technology, have led to the revolution in military affairs (RMA). This is likely to broaden the parameters of our thinking about national security. We are on the brink of a major revolution on how we conduct national security affairs. The ramifications of the RMA need to be understood not only by military officers but also by strategy planners, both military and civil. The military has to contend with the 5th dimension of warfare, information, in addition to land, sea, air and space. The strategy planners, on the other hand, have to consider the economic, political, military and information aspects in their policy and decision making. The new idea needs integration under a single and broader roof. The newly formed National Security Council is the ideal forum to study the ramifications of this revolution and to include them in the Strategic Defence Review.

Two recent incidents of computer hacking, that is the intrusion of Milworm hackers into the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) network and the social engineering of the Army website, armyinkashmir.com are only the benevolent manifestations of the RMA. However, these examples are very significant to students of the RMA in India and reinforce the importance of a detailed study on this new subject. The ramifications of the RMA go beyond the military. A national perspective is required to understand how the RMA will affect our national security policy making in the 21st century. It needs to be understood that the ramifications of the RMA do not make conventional warfare and thinking irrelevant. What has happened as a result of the RMA is that in future warfare, platforms (aircraft, ships, tanks or guns) will be less reflective of military power than the quality of sensors, communication links, avionics, munitions, etc that they carry.2 This article discusses how IT has revolutionised future warfare, the ramifications and implications of the RMA and gives some suggestions on how best India can exploit the RMA. The scope of this article is indicated in Fig. 1.

Information Warfare (IW)

The information revolution is permeating all walks of life. The last few hundred years have witnessed numerous revolutions in military affairs. More often than not these revolutions are initiated by a new technology. James Adams, the Chief Executive Officer of the international news agency, United Press International, has listed these RMAs in his book The Next World War: The Warriors and Weapons of the New Battlefields in Cyberspace. Beginning with 1340 AD, when a more sophisticated bow was developed, he lists 11 revolutions in military affairs. In 1420, artillery revolutionised old siege warfare. In 1600, ship-borne artillery, better fortress construction methods and muskets brought a three-way revolution. After the advent of the modern Army built around a staff system (1800), steam turbines, submarines and the torpedo (1800-1850), the arrival of the railways, telegraph and the rifle (1860), tanks and aircraft carriers (1920), the last revolution was in 1945, the nuclear bomb. The 11th revolution (1991), and the one that matters now, is the microchip.3 This ongoing technology revolution in which information is the resource, the target and the weapon has led to the concept of information warfare (IW). It needs to be mentioned that IW is linked to all the subsequent implications of the RMA. It has been discussed separately only for the purpose of this article.

There are a number of definitions for information warfare. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff definition reads like this: "Actions taken to achieve information superiority in support of national military strategy by affecting adversary information and information systems while leveraging and protecting our information and information systems." Simply, put IW is defined as "any action taken to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy the enemy's information and its functions, while protecting ourselves against those actions and exploiting our own military information functions." The definition of IW indicates that actions would have to be taken to achieve information superiority by affecting the adversary's information environment while defending one's own in any future conflict. This only provides an inkling of how the military is starting to come to terms with the new realities of IW.4

The Gulf War was the first time information was used both as a target and as a weapon. Command and control nodes, communication facilities, TV and radio stations were the first to be struck with missiles and bombs. In the initial stages itself the Iraqi units were cut off from their leadership. IW as a concept has fast gained acceptance after the Gulf War. The understanding of the concept, though, trails far behind. IW does not exist as a separate technique of waging war, but there are several distinct forms of IW, each laying claim to a larger concept.5 It is another tool which needs to be used to achieve the end result. According to this theory, there are seven forms of warfare or conflicts that involve the protection, manipulation, degradation, and denial of information. This characterisation of information warfare shows that it can by conducted against a country's military as well as its civil society. Against the military, information warfare could consist of command and control warfare (C2W), intelligence based warfare (IBW), and electronic warfare (EW), whereas against the society it could primarily consist of info-economic warfare and cyberwar. Common denominators of IW for the military and society would be psychological warfare and computer hacking.6 IW weapons either destroy information systems, or mutate the contents. These include electromagnetic transients, chipping and microbes, that eat, burn or disable the hardware; malicious software, that decimates data and pulverises the operating system; and information swingers of varied types which engulf the adversary in a fog of disinformation.7

A major implication of IW is that non-state actors have been empowered. These non-state actors have a non-hierarchical command structure while state actors follow a hierarchical command system. This fact needs to be appreciated while formulating steps to counter cyber terrorism, hacking, etc by non-state actors. Another major implication of IW, which falls under psychological warfare, is the media factor. The USA unabashedly used CNN in the Gulf War to win public opinion against Iraq. What has emerged is the importance of media management, news blackouts, propaganda and disinformation in the conduct of future wars.

The concept of IW is not a new one. Strategists such as Sun Tzu had spoken of the importance of knowing the enemy and one's self centuries ago in order to defeat an opponent's strategy before battle was joined physically. Today the methods for entering the enemy's decision making cycle and gaining insights into his strategy are powered by information technology. Information of superior quality is available to the commander in real time, thereby enhancing his battlefield awareness. The methods of refining this information and filtering it to avoid information overload are getting more sophisticated. Simultaneously defensive methods of denying the enemy access to our own systems and offensive methods of getting into enemy systems to disrupt their smooth flow of information are also being pursued. While work on offensive IW is going on, there is a more urgent need to develop defensive IW for our computers and networks. The Indian Navy has achieved a major breakthrough in developing a secure crypto system (TRINETRA) for computers/networks in collaboration with IIT, Kanpur. It is also working on other root technologies for defensive IW.8

The success of information warfare largely depends on the technological base of a nation, the extent of dependence on electronics for warfare and the extent of networking of its systems. Only the most advanced countries with superior technologies can fully prosecute IW. This also makes them more vulnerable to disruption by even modest technological powers. To say that conventional warfare is irrelevant due to the advent of IW is an overstatement. IW is only another tool which makes warfare more complex. We have the advantage of other nations' experiences of being at the receiving end of IW and must study the subject in detail before we rush into a complete overhaul of our war fighting architecture. It is for this reason that the Chinese are studying the Gulf War and subsequent US developments in this field before devising their infowar strategy.9 IW is a different approach to warfare and is likely to make heavy demands on us in the future. In the industrial age, the most powerful industrial nations attained supremacy. The same is true for the information age. Unless we become a preeminent information power, our military, ships, submarines and aircraft will be fighting wars with their hands tied.

Network-Centric Warfare (NCW)

Armed forces the world over are facing a paradoxical situation where they need to fulfil their tasks with decreased resources and decreased manpower. This necessitates working smarter and looking for force multipliers. Network-centric warfare enables us to manage this paradox. Network-centric computing is governed by Metcalfe's Law, which asserts that the "power" of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network. Sun Microsystems were the first to point out that it is not so much about the computer as it is about the computer in the networked condition. IBM Chairman Lou Gerstner announced that IBM was moving to network-centric computing. The compelling business logic for this shift in strategy was the opportunity for IBM to link its heterogeneous computing lines more effectively and provide increased value for its customers. This is the same value proposition we seek in warfare.10 Chief of Naval Operations, US Navy, Admiral Jay Johnson has called it " a fundamental shift from what we call platform-centric warfare to network-centric warfare." We are some distance from the detailed understanding of the new operations—there is yet no equivalent to Carl von Clausewitz's On War for this second revolution—but we can gain some insight through the general observation that nations make war the same way they make wealth.11 Let us briefly examine the reasons that led to the change from platform-centric to network-centric operations.

Emergence of new technologies created the conditions for network-centric computing; the explosive growth of the internet, intranets, extranets, transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP), hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), hypertext markup language (HTML),Web browsers (such as Netscape Navigator, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer), search engines, and JavaTM Computing. These technologies, combined with high-volume, high-speed data access (enabled by the low cost laser) and technologies for high-speed data networking (hubs and routers) have led to the emergence of network-centric computing. Information "content" now can be created, distributed, and easily exploited across the extremely heterogeneous global environment. Networking in stock markets has led to a shift from a trader-centric system to a network-centric system. This has considerably reduced the time taken to complete transactions and increased customer awareness about prices of stocks and shares. This is very similar to a soldier having real-time battlefield awareness, which will enable him to complete his task quickly and efficiently. Network-centric retailing in departmental stores enables better inventory management. Similarly, a shift to network-centric operations will help the military improve its logistics management. The Indian Navy is very successfully using network-centric computing for its logistics management. It can be concluded that the military stands to benefit from network-centric operations in the same way as the corporate sector does.

The basic element of military activity on the battlefield is the Information-Decision-Action (IDA) cycle. This is also called the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop. The information part of the cycle is carried out by sensors and associated systems responsible for generation of information. This activity is followed by decision and action in a cyclical fashion till the specific activity is completed. An activity might require more than one cycle for completion or a number of cycles before the action reaches finality. The probability of a single-cycle task is very low, considering that some cycle overrun would be needed for a reasonable degree of task achievement. The objective should be to complete the IDA cycle as economically as possible. Each part of the IDA cycle requires information technology in one form or another, whether for information processing, decision making or action. In fact, information technologies operate in all segments of the IDA cycle as catalysts since they hasten the individual segments, which in turn leads to dramatic compression of time.12 The structure or model for network-centric warfare is designed so as to compress the time taken to complete the IDA cycle.

The structure or logical model for network-centric warfare has emerged. This is shown in Fig. 2. The entry fee is a high-performance information grid (which corresponds to the information part of the IDA cycle) that provides a backplane for computing and communications. The information grid enables the operational architectures of sensor grids and engagement grids. Sensor grids (which corresponds to the decision part of the IDA cycle) rapidly generate high levels of battle-space awareness and synchronise awareness with military operations. Engagement grids (which corresponds to the action part of the IDA cycle) exploit this awareness and translate it into increased combat power.13 The US Navy is rapidly shifting from platform-centric warfare to network-centric warfare and many key elements of the grids are in place. New classes of threats have required increased defensive combat power for joint forces. The combat power that has emerged—the cooperative engagement capability (CEC)—was enabled by a shift to network-centric operations. CEC combines a high performance sensor grid with a high-performance engagement grid. The sensor grid rapidly generates engagement quality awareness, and the engagement grid translates this awareness into increased combat power. This power is manifested by high probability engagements against threats capable of defeating a platform-centric defence. The CEC sensor grid fuses data from multiple sensors to develop a composite track with engagement quality, creating a level of battlespace awareness that surpasses whatever can be created with stand alone sensors. The whole is clearly greater than the parts.14

The pace of future battle will be so swift that there will be no time to revert to rear headquarters all the time for instructions and advice. A typical military hierarchical structure in such an environment will fail. Commanders will have to decentralise and delegate, while officers on the battlefront will have to be fully aware of rules of engagement and the political factors so that they can take quick decisions. Network-centric warfare enables a shift from attrition-style warfare to a much faster and more effective warfighting style characterised by the new concepts of speed of command and self-synchronisation. Strategically it allows an understanding of all elements of battlespace and battletime, operationally it provides a close linkage between the units and the operating environment, and tactically it provides speed. It is one of the most important impacts of the RMA.


Today the advent of new forms of communication and imaging technology, incorporated into systems such as "smart" weaponry and digitised battlefield networks have led to the rethinking of war making and strategy conceptualisation. Over the ages, as technology has developed, new methods of collecting information have emerged. These new methods have improved the battlefield awareness of our commanders and soldiers. Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) has enabled the integration of these new inputs. Technological advancements of weapons and vehicles of air power are being developed in a manner that will continue to shorten the time cycles for action along with the other segments of IDA. A significant portion of technological progress being made in the military sphere deals with reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) systems. The employment of RSTA technologies is moving warfare further towards greater utilisation of aerial assets for gathering of information, greater range of striking power through long-range offensive systems, and higher accuracy through availability of better target information. If viewed holistically, then RSTA with communications give military forces the ability to locate targets with accuracy, carry out designation and cueing of weapon systems that significantly enhance combat power. Although airborne sensors have been used in the past, a more recent example was the Bekaa Valley conflict of 1982 where the Israeli armed forces achieved a high degree of favourable asymmetry in the opening stages itself. On a larger scale, the Gulf War of 1991 saw the use of RSTA and communication technologies that multiplied the combat power of the allies while degrading that of the Iraqis. The use of these technologies in this war led to far greater compression of time than before and signs of a new RMA emerged.15 The use of RSTA systems, Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and their integration into a C4ISR system has enabled the use of sophisticated weapons like "smart bombs" and precision guided munitions (PGMs) which are extremely accurate and reduce civilian casualties. C4ISR has also led to the expansion of space and the compression of time on the battlefield.

C4ISR provides situational awareness (SA) for integration and coordination of joint element manoeuvres and sensor to shooter connectivity for weapons employment. It is the essential capability for binding the nation's armed services, defence and intelligence agencies and other government and private organisations into a viable, coherent force. The resultant information superiority fundamentally changes the way operations are conducted. Joint C4ISR enables ability to mass effects without massing forces; protects against asymmetric threats; and, provides joint force flexibility, interoperability and efficiency.16 Throughout history one of the important elements of military tactics has been Command and Control (C 2). The concept developed into C3I (Command, Control, Comunication and Intelligence), C4I (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence), C4I2 (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence and Interoperability) and finally to C4ISR. The concept has developed with the development of technology and various nations are at different stages depending on the integration of technology into their Command and Control structure. India, like many developing countries, is implementing C3I at the tactical level and has drawn out the plans for a national C4I2 system. This "National Command Post" will integrate inputs from the various ministries, the C3I systems of the three services, inputs from intelligence agencies, strategic IW, EW, surveillance, communication and weapon control systems.

According to a recent US government report, "Selected Military Capabilities of the People's Republic of China," the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has recently modernised its C4I system, introducing an automated Command and Control system, developing a new kind of general field communication system, and disseminating new general signal regulations. In addition, it is believed that at least one or two PLA Group Armies—the PLA is made up of 24 Group Armies, which are similar in size to a Western corps—now have access to an advanced automation system that integrates field command, provides them with operational simulation and computer plotting capabilities, allows the Group Army to write documents electronically and transmit them to division and regimental commands. China is also thought to have developed an automated tactical air defence C4I system (the Automated Air Defence Command and Control System) which can identify targets, evaluate threats, allocate forces, guide fighters, command surface to air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery.17

In India, special attention needs to be paid to military satellites for communication, networking and reconnaissance so that we can graduate to C4ISR. For a largely dispersed armed force like ours, it will be cumbersome, time consuming and very costly to lay state-of-the-art cables for networking, while reliance on commercial satellites like Iridium and ASCOM may have security implications. China has been booking frequencies for its defence satellites and India must immediately create space for its satellites in the electromagnetic spectrum, before it is too late!

System of Systems Approach

We have seen how the RMA has introduced new concepts like IW, sophisticated weapons like smart bombs and PGMs, a change from platform-centric warfare to network-centric warfare thereby reducing the time taken to complete the IDA cycle, and C4ISR which has integrated various inputs thereby altering the time-space paradigm on the battlefield. In order to further streamline the complex business of warfare, Admiral William Owens, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US introduced the concept of "System of Systems." The system of systems approach is heavily draped in high technology weapon and surveillance systems of the battlefield and focusses on the integration of three sets of technologies that relate to precision strikes, communications, and sensors on the battlefield.18 The system of systems approach is pegged on the application of information technologies to warfare with a view to integrate and network existing and emerging technologies that can look, shoot, and communicate. This interpretation of the RMA is the one most frequently articulated by the Americans, who believe that given the military's superior technological capabilities and if the integration of the system of systems is accomplished, the US should be able to achieve "dominant battlefield knowledge" over any 200 mile by 200 mile area of the earth's surface, and consequently victory over any opponent.19 System of systems, in short is integrating the technical advances of ISR, C4I and precision force technology into a command and control platform at the national level.


The US military has performed the trail-blazing task of undergoing radical changes in response to the radically divergent techniques of warfighting in an information age. It is called "joint warfighting", but it serves as an umbrella phrase under which a multitude of changes are taking place. Under the Goldwater-Nicholas Act of 1986, the US military has not only been busy converting the task of joint warfighting into an art form, but it is continuing to do more with less. This means that the US military is continuing to come up with different organisational and functional (i.e., tactical) ways to serve as a credible warfighting force. In fact, the "Joint Vision 2010" has emerged as an abbreviated discussion of the utmost significance assigned by the military to IW.20

All the implications of the RMA discussed till now necessarily imply the need for jointmanship amongst the three wings of the armed forces. It is heartening to note that all three branches of the armed forces are fully aware of the importance of IT and a tremendous amount of work is being done to incorporate IT into the warfighting machinery. What is lacking though, is the integration of the Army, Navy and Air Force in projecting a Joint C4ISR. The three services are linking their individual C3I systems directly to the C4I2 system at the national level. This avoids the need for jointmanship at the level of the services. The Army, Navy and Air Force should integrate their individual C3I systems into a Joint C4ISR system which should later be merged into a "System of Systems" at the national level. The Army has conceptualised an operational information system called the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS) which will link the national C4I2 system to the Army's tactical C3I system, called the Command Information and Decision Support System (CIDSS). The CIDSS has the potential for functioning as a "fused sensor network" if the Navy and Air Force join in the project. The tri-service CIDSS could have up and down links to Indian "remote sensing"-cum-communication satellites.21 For a start, this arrangement could serve as a joint C4ISR. If we do not integrate our command and control system now, it will not be cost effective to do so at a later date.

All future operations may not be joint, but having a standard architecture for all three services enables merging of architectures if and when the need arises. Merging of architectures is important so that information from any of the sources can be used to deliver maximum firepower on the enemy. In tomorrow's battlefield, loosely knitted joint organisations put into place just prior to battle will not be successful. In 1971, we could take seven months to prepare for joint operations. Today, such a luxury will not be available. Change is inevitable and adjustments have to be made. B.H Liddell Hart has said, " The only thing harder than getting a new idea into the military mind is getting an old one out". In order to be effective in future wars, we have to prove Liddell Hart wrong.

Other Implications for India

The three most important issues for us today are doctrine, organisation of forces and training. The armed forces may not have a national doctrine available till the Strategic Defence Review is done by the National Security Council. In the interim, the three services need to work "together" in consultation with the IT Task Force (the services have two representatives on the IT Task Force) and other government agencies to develop architectures which can be merged later. Standardisation of hardware and software, identification of reliable sources of supply with backups, and the need to commence careful tests on all imported electronic equipment for hidden computer virus, malicious software, etc, should be included in our doctrine.

An effective organisation of the armed forces is very important in order to derive the maximum benefit of the RMA. In the information age, the dominant organisational model is the network. Traditional military hierarchies and the network forms have very different strengths and vulnerabilities. Reports of the death of military hierarchies are premature, but the military must consider ways to respond and adapt to this organisational challenge.22 Just as computers have flattened the organisational charts of corporations, the military may have to restructure its ranks with fewer layers of staff officers needed to process orders between a General and his men on the ground. The distinction between civilian and soldier may blur with more private contractors needed to operate complex equipment on the battlefield. There will, no doubt, be bureaucratic and even cultural opposition within the military to this new form of fighting.23 Chinese defence analyst Xu Chuangjie writes in Military Revolution Gives Impetus to Evolution in Command: "The revolution in information technology has increasingly changed with each passing day the battleground structure, operational modes, and concepts of time and space while dealing blows to the traditional 'centralised' and 'tier-by-tier' command structure". He recommends that a traditional vertical and tiered command structure be converted into a networked command structure and the centralised command system be converted into a dispersed type command.24 The US Quadrennial Review talks about reduction in personnel, restructuring the reserve component of the Army, reducing the size of the fleet of the Navy, etc. It will also accelerate its Force XXI modernisation plan, which will revolutionise combat capability by enhancing battlefield awareness through modern information technology.25 While it is not necessary to copy all that is being done, we do need to innovate and develop our "own way" of restructuring.

The third issue is training. Most current generation cyber warriors are self taught. In June 1995 the National Defence University in Washington D.C. graduated its first class of 16 infowar officers, specially trained in everything from defending against computer attacks to using virtual reality in planning battle manoeuvres.26 The Indian armed forces need to conduct customised courses covering all aspects of the Revolution in Military Affairs. Converting Information Operations (IO) into a separate specialisation, distinct from the "Signals" and "Communication" branches of the Army and Navy respectively, is long overdue. Training in Information Operations should be introduced at the National Defence Academy (NDA) and other training academies. It is this reality that is at the heart of the recent modifications in the military-academic programme at the NDA. Computer education is now compulsory for all 1,800 cadets at the NDA. The academy has approached its affiliate, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) for approval for a full-fledged BCS (a Bachelor in Computer Science) degree programme.27 More officers from the fighting arms of the armed forces should be made to do BEs/BTechs and officers from the engineering branches need to pay more attention to Information Operations.

At present, there is no national posture on the RMA. The three services, bureaucrats and other agencies in charge of national security are, therefore, trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle on their own. We are currently at the awareness and office automation stage of the IT revolution. In a way, this is a blessing in disguise. We are not susceptible to crippling attacks of IW, elaborate security systems can be designed and tested before we go in for networking in a big way, mindsets can be changed prior to implementation and joint architectures can be worked out to cut costs and mass effects. But we should not carry our luck too far. IT, networking and integrated Command and Control have tremendous benefits. Information superiority, enhanced combat power, flexibility, surprise and many other elements that win wars are available in the RMA. The simultaneous Revolution in Business Affairs (RBA) affords us an opportunity to remain common with industry, use their research and development infrastructure, and in the bargain, save time, money and effort.

Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) Technology

The four aims of the RMA spelt out by the US and other Western nations were focussed logistics, dominant battlespace awareness, good command and control and precision weaponry. This was made possible because of the availability of commercial-off-the-shelf technology (COTS) from the civilian IT industry. Information technology is a dual use technology, that is, it can be used for both military and civil purposes.

Former US Chief of Staff General Colin Powell in an article in the Juy 1992 edition of the Byte magazine had underlined the fact that "increasingly military requirements are being met by off-the-shelf hardware and software". This is a remarkable paradigm shift. Traditionally, militaries sustained whole industries and civilian/commercial spin-offs came up as a consequence of that. In the cyber-age, where infotech industry works on smart ideas and massive volumes that create the necessary economies of scale, the militaries will no longer be the prime consumers. They will have to look at the shop shelves, pick and choose and have the ability to employ essentially civilian technologies for military use. From militaries driving the market to market driven militaries—this is the impact of the RMA.28 The Quadrennial Defence Review by the US Department of Defence (DoD) emphasises the need to take advantage of the Revolution in Business Affairs. "Over the past decade, the American commercial sector has reorganised, restructured, and adopted revolutionary new business and management practices in order to ensure its competitive edge in the rapidly changing global marketplace. DoD is examining the best opportunities to outsource and privatise non-core activities.We need to deregulate defense just as we have deregulated many other American industries so we can reap the cost and creativity benefits of wide-open private competition."29


In the last decade, there has been a proliferation of articles , books and references on the information revolution and the RMA. Futurists like Alvin and Heidi Toffler, John Naisbitt and others gave early indications of this revolution. The Gulf War, fall of the erstwhile Soviet Union, war in Yugoslavia and technological developments in the civilian IT industry have increased the interest in the topic. This article has attempted to take stock of the developments in this field and highlight the implications of this revolution. India today stands at the threshold of the information revolution. The formation of the National Security Council, IT Task Force and Information Warfare cells of the Army, Navy and Air Force are steps in the right direction. These institutions now need to take a holistic view of the revolution and devise a "National Information Strategy". This strategy should be jointly formulated by representatives of the armed forces, bureaucrats, police, paramilitary, intelligence, IT industry and scientists under the National Security Council. This strategy should establish a National Information Infrastructure (NII) in tune with the Global Information Infrastructure (GII).

Special emphasis needs to be given to security overlays, checks on all electronic equipment at national boundaries, identification of reliable and diverse sources of supply and training of manpower. Some recommendations, for immediate implementation by the Indian armed forces, to help cope with the RMA are summarised below :

l Defensive IW needs to be given utmost priority.

l A joint armed forces computer emergency response team should be formed to deal with computer hacking, cyber-terrorism, etc. on military installations by non-state actors. The Indian Navy has envisaged an Indian Naval Computer Emergency Response Team (INCERT).

l Media should be used as a force multiplier and media management awareness should be brought about in the armed forces. The "CNN factor" needs to be studied by the military.

l Networking using COTS hardware and software needs to be started. The method of networking (through cables or satellites?) needs to be decided.

l Interaction with IITs, NIIT, IISc (Bangalore), IIIT (Bangalore) and other professional institutions dealing with IT should increase. Officers need to be trained in offensive IW in these institutions.

l IW needs to be made a separate specialisation in all three services. Special incentives for IW specialists merit consideration to attract the whiz kids.

l Interaction with private management firms, international banks and stock exchanges needs to be undertaken to learn how they manage computer security, information overload and other information related issues.

l A task force to formulate joint doctrine and joint information technology architectures for the armed forces needs to be set up.

l Building military satellites/connectivity to existing Indian remote sensing-cum-communication satellites needs to be explored.

l The Navy and Air Force should join the Army's tactical C3I project, the CIDSS. It should be developed into a joint C4ISR system by providing it with up and down links from remote-sensing-cum-communication satellites.

l Training issues like more IT awareness at the military training academies, more BEs/BTechs in the officer cadres, refresher courses in IW at the junior, mid and senior levels need to be implemented.

l Developments in China in the RMA need to be studied more closely.

l A joint IW laboratory needs to be formed. Personnel from the armed forces, intelligence agencies and civil bureaucracy could be trained here.

l All this information infrastructure finally has to use munitions. We need to identify what IW munitions we are going to use in the future.

For policy makers in India, the situation in the information sphere is similar to the dilemma faced by policy makers in the economic sector. The benefits of joining these revolutions are many, and integration in the long run is inevitable. In both cases, however, there is an uncertainty about what will be the fallouts of integration. Therefore, necessary safeguards and security measures need to be taken to ensure that we derive maximum benefits and don't fall prey to the malevolence of the microchip. We need not ape the West, but it is high time we innovate and devise a strategy to cope with the information revolution. The stakes and the costs are high and we must get it right the first time!



1. John Naisbitt, "Megatrends", 1982.

2. AVM K. Kak, "Impact of Information Technology on Warfare", paper presented at a seminar on Command and Staff Challenges in the 21st Century at Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, April 15, 1998.

3. Shekhar Gupta, "And the War is led by the Mouse," Indian Express, November 18, 1998.

4. Indian Navy's Information Warfare bulletin, Infowar Navy, March 1998.

5. Martin C. Labicki, What is Information Warfare?, (Washington D.C: Institute for National Strategic Studies, 1996).

6. For details on the types of IW, see Ajay Singh, "Information Warfare: Reshaping Traditional Perceptions", Strategic Analysis, March 1998.

7. For details of IW weapons, see Maj Gen Yashwant Deva, "National Perspective on Info War", USI Journal, January-March 1998, pp. 60-62.

8. Indian Navy's Information Warfare bulletin, Infowar Navy, December 1998.

9. Douglas Waller, "Onward Cyber Soldiers", Time, August 21, 1995, p. 33.

10. Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski and John J. Garstka, "Network Centric Warfare: Its Origin and Future," US Naval Proceedings, January 1998, p. 29.

11. Ibid., p. 30.

12. Ajay Singh, "RMA: 4-Dimensional Warfare," Strategic Analysis, April 1998, p. 3.

13. See "The Emerging Joint Strategy for Information Superiority", Joint Staff, J-6 at www.dtic.mil/JCS/J6.

14. n. 10, pp 33-34.

15. Ajay Singh, "Time: The New Dimension in War", Joint Forces Quarterly, (Washington D.C: National Defense University, Winter 1995-96), p. 59.

16. See http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/cno/n86/wc4isr.html

17. Damon Bristow, "Information Warfare Grips China," Pointer, November 1998. (www.janes.com)

18. Eliot A. Cohen, "American View of the Revolution in Military Affairs," Advanced Technology and Future Warfare, November 28, 1996, p 3.

19. n. 12, p. 1.

20. M. Ehsan Ahrari, "Chinese Prove to be Attentive Students of Information Warfare," Jane's Intelligence Review, October 1997, p 472.

21. Bharat Karnad, "Cost Effective Defence: Getting the Priorities Right," Indian Defence Review, vol. 13(1), January-March 1998, p. 19.

22. Commander William E. Rhode, US Navy, "What is Information Warfare," US Naval Proceedings, February 1998.

23. n. 9, p. 33.

24. n. 20, p. 472.

25. See Executive Summary of Quadrennial Defence Review on electronic mail.

26. n. 9, p. 32.

27. Abhay Vaidya, "The Commando and the Computer Nerd," Times of India, December 20, 1998.

28. n. 3.

29. n. 25.