Impact of Technology on Warfare


Technology has always been used to produce improved tools of warfare. “Armies that could reach further, hit harder, and get there faster usually won, while the range-restricted, less well-armed, and slower armies lost. For this reason, a vast amount of human creative effort has been poured into extending the range, increasing the firepower, and accelerating the speed of weapons and armies.” (Toffler)

Systematic scientific study has made it possible to create new technologies and advancements for use in the military in the modern era. These have changed how combat is fought. Western nations ruled over other countries using their superior technological capabilities. Technology is undergoing an unheard-of upheaval in the current era, sometimes known as the post-modern or knowledge age. The military has transformed, thanks to this technology. Over the years, warfare has advanced from rudimentary conflicts between tribal civilizations to conflicts between agrarian-based societies, and then to conflicts between industrialized societies. From warfare with bows and arrows to rifles, artillery, tanks, aircraft, and missiles, mankind has advanced progressively.

Scientific and technological advances were slow and gradual in the 18th and 19th centuries were dramatic in the 20th century. The development of iron-clad ships in the 1860s, the machine gun in the 1890s, the manned aircraft and the tank in the 1920s-1930s, the aircraft carrier and radar in the 1930s-1940s, and nuclear weapons in the 1940s-1950s are some of the important signposts in the evolution of military technologies. Each of these developments had revolutionary effects on the conduct of warfare. The impact of advances in technology on the conduct of warfare can be characterized by several dominant trends, the name, quest for extension of the range of weapons, volume and accuracy of fire, system integration, the concentration of maximum firepower in smaller units and increasing transparency in the battlefield. In modern usage, a missile is a self-propelled precision-guided weapons system, as opposed to unguided self-propelled weapons, referred to as a rocket (although these too can also be guided).

Avionics are the electronic systems used on aircraft, artificial satellites, and spacecraft. Avionic systems include communications, navigation, the display and management of multiple systems, and the hundreds of systems that are fitted to aircraft to perform individual functions. Military aircraft have been designed either to deliver a weapon or to be the eyes and ears of other weapon systems. The vast array of sensors available to the military is used for whatever tactical means are required.  Airborne radar was one of the first tactical sensors. The benefit of the range is increased by height has resulted in a strong focus on airborne radar systems. Additionally, dipping sonar installed on a variety of military helicopters enables the helicopter to defend against surface or submarine threats to shipping assets.

Maritime support aircraft can drop active and passive sonar devices and these are also used to determine the location of hostile submarines. Electro-optic systems include devices such as the head-up display (HUD), forward-looking infrared (FLIR), infra-red search and track and other passive infrared devices (Passive infrared sensor). These are all used to provide imagery and information to the flight crew. This imagery is used for everything from search and rescue to navigational aids and target acquisition. Information about dangers or potential threats is frequently gathered using electronic support tools and defensive aids. They are capable of launching weapons (in certain cases automatically) to fend off attacks made directly at the aircraft. They are also used to identify threats and assess their severity. Technology has changed the traditional thought processes on military effectiveness. Increasingly, modern armed forces are endeavoring to obtain superiority over the enemy by qualitative means by deploying advanced technologies. The shift from “mass” and mobility to non-traditional methods of enhancing relative combat effectiveness is being achieved by integrating some evolving technologies.

We are being forced to embrace new warfighting strategies by advancements in imaging, remote sensing, night vision, sensors, precision-guided munitions, stealth technologies, and most importantly digital communications and computer networks. However, there hasn’t been any analysis of the current “silent” revolution in military affairs’ effects on our force structures, organizational features, doctrines, level of leadership, development of human resources, and logistics. This is especially true in the case of India. The 20th century saw the face of warfare being changed by mechanization, aviation and communication; the 21st century would see, with the help of evolving technologies, armed forces conducting knowledge-based warfare. In the Indian subcontinent, future war will be a hybrid of the industrial age and knowledge-based warfare.

As Van Creveld says in his book Technology and War, “The greatest victories that have been won in war do not depend upon a simple superiority of technology, but rather on a meshing of one side’s advantages with the other’s weakness to produce the greatest possible gap between the two.” The Vietnam War was one such example. To address the challenges of combat in the twenty-first century, we must thus comprehend the changes brought about by technology and adapt our doctrinal principles. Humans continue to be the most efficient methods for detecting relevance and integrating information, despite significant technological advancements. Technology will help us in many ways, especially when it comes to compensating for size decreases, but it won’t be able to resolve every issue related to combat. Both science and art are needed for the conduct of war. Strong leadership, competent troops, cohesive units, and efficient organization are a must.

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