Defence Industry

Technologies and National Security
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Issue Vol 24.1 Jan-Mar2009 | Date : 11 Nov , 2010

The world has witnessed two significant events during last three decades which has changed the contours of global strategic thought. The first being the end of the Cold War and second is the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center (WTC) terrorist attacks (9/11). The end of the Cold War could be said to have started a phase of unilateralism with United States (US) being in the so called ‘command’ of the world affairs while the 9/11 attacks could be said to have challenged the hegemony of the US to such an extent that they are still unsure about how to address this ‘asymmetric’ challenge posed by the terrorist organizations. So in a way it could be argued that the end of the Cold War created opportunities for the US dominance while 9/11 could be said to be the US’s Achilles’ heel.

The end of the Cold War also gave an opportunity for many states towards developing peace and prosperity, at the same time it also threw new challenges to the security apparatus of the nation-states. On the other hand, 9/11 made the world (read West) aware about the menace of terrorism

However, it could be incorrect to argue that these two events were instrumental only in shaping the US policies to address the 21st century challenges. The end of the Cold War also gave an opportunity for many states towards developing peace and prosperity, at the same time it also threw new challenges to the security apparatus of the nation-states. On the other hand, 9/11 made the world (read West) aware about the menace of terrorism and unfortunately, also could be said to have motivated the terrorist organizations to continue working on this path by using more heinous ways to spread terror in many other parts of the world.

To seize opportunities and meet the challenges of the post Cold War and post 9/11 era, the one strategy which states across the globe have been found bestowing upon is that of the investments in technologies. This is essentially because such investments have paid dividends and are expected to offer solutions to many challenges, if not all. Few states have developed a comprehensive approach to putting science and technology to the service of national security and global stability.

States understand that their security rests on three pillars: the readiness and capabilities of military forces, their engagement with other states to prevent conflict from occurring, and the strength of their economy. Strategies of many developed and few developing states are grounded in the conviction that advances in science and technologies are a vital part of the solution to many of the problems that world is facing today.

Last few decades have witnessed an exponential growth of technology. This growth has not remained restricted to few limited fields but various new/applied fields have emerged leading to significant changes into lifestyles. From security perspective impact of technologies has become an important premise of study particularly, during the last few decades. This article takes a macro view of impact of technology on security. It essentially argues that recent conflicts like the Gulf War (1993), Kosovo conflict and the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly demonstrated the relevance of technology for war fighting.

The market forces essentially dictate the growth of technology and subsequently military technologists take a note of it and then modify it for militaristic purposes. Another reason for this could be the realization by the global powers in regard to blind investments into military weaponry/ technology. States have learnt from the erstwhile USSR example and are not ready to invest in military hardware just for “˜effect.

Various modern day tools of war fighting are driven by technology and that makes technology an important theme in the study of international security. The impacts of science and technology on international security environment are all-encompassing. Technology is instrumental in influencing the ‘concept of war-waging’ in the minds of both the political and military leadership for many centuries but it appears that in the present scenario, it has almost become over-arching. Presently many emerging technologies are being talked about which have major relevance for militaries. Modern day wars are not always envisaged to be fought only on the battleground.

21st century defence preparedness involves demonstration of technological strength, display of technologies via various military exercises, conducting ‘tests’ of new weapons/weapon delivery platforms for the purposes of the expression of the power and building up of an effective deterrence mechanism. In short, there exists an inter-relation between security and technology.

Technology has always played a significant role in defence. But, there is a subtle difference in the development of technology vis-à-vis military and civilian fields during both, the World War II era and the Post Cold War era. During and after World War II, the efforts of states used to be towards the development of technologies, essential for militaristic purposes and such technologies used to find their relevance towards the civilian filed subsequently. Computers and Internet could be said to be the products of such a military development which in turn has brought in revolution in the civilian fields too.

However, for the last few decades it has been observed that the market forces essentially dictate the growth of technology and subsequently military technologists take a note of it and then modify it for militaristic purposes. Another reason for this could be the realization by the global powers in regard to blind investments into military weaponry/ technology. States have learnt from the erstwhile USSR example and are not ready to invest in military hardware just for ‘effect’.

At the same time, the growth of technology in military field needs to be viewed in two stratums. One, the investments made by defence industry in weapons & weapon delivery platforms. Two, the overall investments by the states in various ’support’ technologies. The support technologies could be categorized as technologies that improvise the manufacturing process of military hardware. Here, support is not only in terms of providing the software support but it also involves making the existing hardware more stealthy, more users friendly, lighter and more lethal.

Various innovations in the recent past in Information Technology fields and Communications have helped militaries to make their basic hardware and support infrastructure faster, securer and dependable. On the other hand, innovations in the fields like composite materials and nano-technology have made the platforms lighter and stealthier.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Gp Capt Ajey Lele (Retd.)

is Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

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