India celebrated its national technology day on 11th May 2022 to celebrate the Shakti series of nuclear tests in 1998, that heralded an era of nuclear-armed India with a well-defined nuclear doctrine. It is a worthy occasion for celebrations in a world that has become more diffused, devious and dangerous. The overt nuclear posture shows its deterrence value in clear and unambiguous terms, and validates India’s decision in 1998. There are however, questions on the potential failure of the nuclear deterrence as was shown in Pakistan’s Kargil adventure of 1999 or what China has been regularly doing especially in 2017-Doklam and in 2020-Galwan valley operations. Further, the world is working out mechanisms, weapons and systems to be able to build usable strategic-strikes below-the-nuclear-thresholds through conventional means. These include newer technological capabilities combining hypersonic missiles, anti-satellite capabilities and precise, stealthy and built-in-deniability through Cyber-AI weapons that can enable Bitskrieg – a new battle doctrine based on robotic swarms and AI control of autonomous systems.
India successfully tested an extended range (350 Km as against earlier 290 km) BrahMos firing from the Su-30 MKI on 12th May 2022, just a day after national technology day. Its significance for a future defence architecture of India should not be lost to anyone, anywhere. One need to see this test as a continuum of the anti-satellite (A-SAT) strike capability demonstrated by India’s DRDO and announced by Prime Minister on 27th March 2019 followed up by the launch of a unique satellite – the EMISAT – developed jointly by ISRO and DRDO and launched on 1st April 2019, fulfilling the needs of an emerging modern defence architecture for India.
These tests and capabilities reflect a potential phase-change from the existing Missile based architecture that has been envisioned in 1980s and has emerged in Agni series of missiles and BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. The change that is needed and is emerging for the future defence architecture against any enemy attack requires what we call Prompt Global Defence Architecture (PGDA) for India. This should be the overall architecture that India with all its armed forces, scientific organizations and strategic assets ideally should strive to build.
BrahMos and Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS)
China, Russia and USA have been developing key capabilities that US termed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) system in early 2000s. CPGS is a capability for US Armed forces to destroy targets across the world within an hour. As the system need to be “Prompt” as per definition, it requires missiles systems/ other destruction capabilities (e.g., Directed Energy Weapons) at speeds that break the hypersonic speed barriers – above 5 times speed of sound. Russia and China have already demonstrated newer weapons at hypersonic speeds [4, 5].
Given that future challenges of these type of systems being developed by major powers, it was proposed that IAF in the age of Unmanned, Hyper-sonic, Intelligent, Stealthy, and CPGS world  Indian Air Force need to evolve. When India demonstrated BrahMos firing from the Su-30MKI, it opened up the possibility of establishing a regional version of Conventional Prompt Global Strike that was termed Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) . BrahMos armed Su-30MKI gives specific capabilities that ground based BrahMos doesn’t – (a) flexibility to redeploy across 360 degrees around India quickly, in the so called 2 front or 2.5 front war that India is potentially facing, this flexibility is tremendous force multiplier, (b) Conventional Prompt Strike an emphasis on “prompt” within-hours-strike. Existing ground-based cruise missiles will need to be moved if the potential target is not within its pre-designated deployment position, (c) keeping the element of “Surprise” – it is essential in modern warfare to continuously keep the element of surprise at all levels and all times. BrahMos plus Su-30MKI gives that element.
Bottom line is – it is a unique capability with IAF and India. The way this capability has to be combined in the existing capabilities and doctrines – Strategic, Operational or even Tactical – is up to the forces to develop. We should consider it as an Indian innovation and a potential element towards Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) contrasting against the US, Russian or Chinese Hyper-sonic Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) capability – till we develop our hypersonic capabilities. CPRS should provide us to strike conventionally within specific distance from Indian borders – say 2000 or say 5000 km. Further, any missile attack launched within these distances towards India should be detected and we should be able to respond to it, promptly. BrahMos – as it develops into its many variants will be wonderful capability for India. However, we need to do more.
India needs to aim for Prompt Global Strike and Defence capability. To achieve that, we need a comprehensive and unambiguous plan and new paths on lines that BrahMos was developed.
Global Strikes Needs Prompt Global Defence Architecture
With the anti-satellite capability shown in March 2019, the Ballistic Missile Defence capability demonstrated earlier and with the launch of EMISAT (a satellite to detect enemy’s radars and electronic systems, and the extended range BrahMos firing from Su-30MKI, India is well on its way to develop key elements of a Prompt Global Defence Architecture (PGDA). However, we need to create a comprehensive plan ahead.
The prompt strike weapons (most likely will be the hypersonic weapons) in the hands of our adversaries and surface following issues or problems to be solved by both sides (the attackers and defenders)
- Differentiating between a strike weapon carrying a Nuclear versus a carrying a Conventional warhead,
- Overcoming the present missile (hypersonic) defenses already in place,
- Multiple ways and modes of launching these missiles,
- Accuracy of hypersonic weapons in attacking the target (a concern when conventional warhead is used),
- No present model for CPRS or CPGS for India, to define such a model and an architecture
- What are the choices for building a CPRS for India besides the BrahMos on Su-30MKI (already tested)
It will be useful for India to carry out a comprehensive and detailed study on the following questions and issues:–
Comparison of the Hypersonic Weapon capability of various nations in conventional usage.
Nations like US, Russia, China have already weaponized the Hypersonic technology and many other countries have started testing to build their own weapons. In such a stage, comparing the ability and effectiveness of these nations to strike, will help in planning defenses as required. This analysis can also help in creating a picture of possible attack points for a nation and help in creating a conventional prompt strike program in the future.
Analyzing and Optimizing India’s Conventional Prompt Regional Strike on both the fronts.
Building-in the deniability, a scenario of India being attacked from Pakistan using covertly provided Chinese hypersonic missiles is a definite scenario that we need to defend against and potentially plan for. We need studies to understand and build such scenarios and our potential defence against a joint and coordinated hypersonic attacks by both China and Pakistan.
Modeling an Empirical structure for Prompt Regional Strike by a nation.
Modeling an empirical notion of the strike plan helps us in understanding the possible striking areas and ways to make a nation unwilling to fight. This modelling also includes the time constraint along with stopping the possible defensive attacks of the hostile nation.
Comparing Prompt Regional Strike Models of various Nations.
Pooling a few nations that have a good strike plan and then comparing their strike plans in terms of damage infliction and target characteristics along with other factors like time, criticality and type of location, Specific means to achieve it, etc. This comparison can help in damage assessment for various nations. For example, how Iron-dome, Arrow and David Sling’s multi-layered missile defence systems with Trophy included for defence of a single tank – developed by Israel plays out against such strikes.
Damage Assessment and optimizing of the present prompt regional strike program of a nation.
A strike on a nation can be done to achieve many kinds of goals. Every nation is studied to find the crippling points. There are many factors such as the target characteristics, type of location and type of target, criticality of target, time and specific means to achieve the mission. The damage assessment can be done by understanding the possible types of weapons that can be used (to study the impact) and different targets in value and their strength to absorb the attacks.
Creating a defensive strategy and analyzing the requirements in identifying and neutralizing a hypersonic attack from anywhere on India.
Strategies must always be updated and with the present rise in missiles into hypersonic stages, it is important more than ever to safeguard the nation. Creating a defense strategy to identify and neutralize a hypersonic attack on India is a must. If there is a war to start, India may not be able to safeguard all of its territory but trying to defend itself from the attacks at the borders itself can help in achieving required security. This problem focusses on such aspect where we can identify the points of interest to cover the whole nation from a hypersonic attack which invariably includes all the other forms of traditional attacks.
Elements of Prompt defence/strike architecture
- Topography: Includes a major part of the understanding in the system with the issues of altitude and lay of land in focus. The attack and defence in mountain ranges differs with the kind of attack and defence in plateau regions and the same differs with being an Island, Forest and many more such comparable factors. The analysis in such a determinant may need: Latitude and Longitude, Target Radius, Altitude, Landform (Mountain, Plateau, etc. further divided based on climate), Nearest Sea or Ocean, Ecological Importance, Nearest River system.
- Weather: An important factor, weather becomes critical to choose strike option (s), this can impact in many ways – keeping the attack opaque, blinding the enemy from an incoming attack, etc.
- Resources for designing defence/strike options: Listing out the resources will be an important factor for such understanding. The list here would start from Manpower and Sensors and end at Tanks and Missiles along with a broad spectrum of details including factors like Range, Count, Yield (damage study), required time to deploy, workable time, etc. based on the type of equipment and quality of the soldiers.
- Extent of Neutralization: The goal for and on every target would be to neutralize it in one way or the other. Before deciding on the means to neutralize, we will need to assess the extent of neutralization required. Some targets can be neutralized using just the manpower while some need missiles too. So, understanding such analysis would be helpful. Some determinants would be Goal for the Target, Criticality required of the Target, Kind of Damage, Target Strength, etc.
- Duration: The amount of time taken for logistics to support, the amount of time taken for weapons to be made ready, for the attack to be completed, by the enemy nation to know and repel the attack, for them to prepare the resources, for them to destroy us, etc. there are a lot of time factors to be considered when creating an attack or defense plan.
- Mission Design – Means of Neutralizing: There are various ways to neutralize a target. Further these can be through different dimensions or their combination. Space, Air, Land, Sea Surface, Under Water, Cyber, WMD, City/Urban Warfare, Unmanned/Robotic/Remote Warfare, EM Pulse/Spectrum, Missiles (Cruise, Ballistic, Hypersonic), Semi – military warfare (Asymmetric, Hybrid-warfare using military hues and colors), Economic/Industrial Warfare, Ecological/Environmental Warfare and Mind/Psychological Warfare or their combination can a choice of attack or defense . The available resources and the plausible choice of dimension need to be matched to find the optimal and the final choice. While studying the choice of dimension and the weapon to be used, we must also make sure to estimate the losses. A match-making system for mission design is needed. Further, the key element of targeting would be deniability of involvement .
Given the advent of newer technologies – including hypersonic weapons, anti-satellite capabilities and algorithmic intelligence, the security architecture is undergoing a rapid transformation across the world. India needs a defence architecture on the lines of US prompt global strike albeit on a scale, structure and synthesis relevant for our context to deter our adversaries. We propose key elements of a framework to study and build prompt global/regional defence architecture for India. In order to create a framework, we must try to model out the determinants and their linkages in sufficient details. We hope this could be a starting point towards creation of such an architecture.
Dr. AS Pillai, the father of BrahMos, explained about the genesis of BrahMos in 1990s, in his book – “The Path Unexplored – success mantra of BrahMos”. He writes, “ There was no trail for us to follow. BrahMos was the first Joint Venture (JV) for a military system in India. The JV was also the first of its kind to design, develop, produce and market a futuristic supersonic missile through an inter-governmental agreement. To achieve our goals, we had to find our own path ”.
Indeed, we need to find our own path for Prompt Global Defence Architecture of India.
- Indian Defence Review. “IAF in the age of unmanned, hypersonic, intelligent, stealthy and CPGS world”, accessed 27th May 2022. https://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/iaf-in-the-age-of-unmanned-hyper-sonic-intelligent-stealthy-and-cpgs-world/
- Indian Defence Review. “BrahMos on Su-30MKI – Towards an Indian CPRS Capability.” Accessed May 27, 2022. https://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/brahmos-on-su30mki-towards-an-indian-cprs-capability/.
- Indian Defence Review. “DEADLY Targets of Multi-Dimensional Warfare.” Accessed May 27, 2022. https://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/deadly-targets-of-multi-dimensional-warfare/.
- “Prompt Global Strike.” In Wikipedia, May 27, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Prompt_Global_Strike&oldid=1058166021.
- Futurism. “US Military: Lets Shoot Down Hypersonic Missiles With Smaller Hypersonic Missiles.” Accessed May 27, 2022. https://futurism.com/the-byte/us-military-shoot-down-hypersonic-missiles.
- Indian Defence Review. “War as a Multi-Dimensional Whole: A Framework for India in a Repolarizing World.” Accessed May 27, 2022. https://www.indiandefencereview.com/news/war-as-a-multi-dimensional-whole-a-framework-for-india-in-a-repolarizing-world/.
- Pillai, AS, The Path Unexplored – success mantra of BrahMos, Pentagon press, India, 2014.