India has set sight over high-tech warfare as state-owned military research & development agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has announced that it has launched five new laboratories known as Young Scientists laboratories, each focusing core areas of futuristic technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Quantum Technologies, Cognitive Technologies, Asymmetric Technologies and Smart Materials — object which can change shape, size and behavior upon external stimuli.
These five new defence labs under the DRDO, formally launched on Thursday by PM Narendra Modi, are located in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. These labs will be led by under-35 directors and young military scientists to drive India’s warfare technologies of the future.
Jadavpur University campus in Kolkata will have research lab of futuristic area of Asymmetric Technologies. While, the research in hot and critical area of Smart Materials and their applications will be based out of Hyderabad. Research in the area of Artificial Intelligence will be carried out at Bengaluru, while the all-important area of Quantum Technology will be based out of IIT Mumbai.
In the area of cognitive technologies research, IIT Madras will house the lab for the same.
To recall, in 2018 a govt. of India initiated task force led by Tata Sons Chairman N. Chandrasekaran handed over the report to the Indian defence minister for implementation of its recommendations on using AI for military superiority.
While AI and Quantum computing are familiar to tech enthusiasts, Asymmetric technolgies and smart materials are quite new and described in brief as below –
Asymmetric technologies, in our understanding, refers to technologies involved in war between enemy or entity that acts in a hostile manner and whose relative military power/strategy/ tactics differs significantly. Asymmetric warfare is a form of irregular warfare and the term is also frequently used to describe what is also called “guerrilla warfare”, “insurgency”, “counterinsurgency”, “rebellion”, “terrorism”, and “counter-terrorism”, essentially violent combat between a formal military and an informal, less equipped and supported, undermanned but resilient and motivated opponent.
Smart Materials are objects that can change shape or behaviors with hot water, pressure, chemical, light or heat. Essentially, these materials sense and react to environmental conditions or stimuli (e.g., mechanical, chemical, electrical, or magnetic signals). Smart materials are said to be beneficial for industries such as aerospace, medical, textile, construction, and electronics as it improve efficiency and save resources by responding to corrosion, pH changes, water content, temperature, mechanical forces, and much more.
These smart materials could even self-assemble when one touches them. When a stimulus is applied on such a smart object, it is possible to transform into a brand new shape as these materials are reacting to their external environment.
Cognitive Technologies, on other hand, extend the power of information technology to tasks traditionally performed by humans, such technology can mimic functions of the human brain through various means, including natural language processing, data mining and pattern recognition.
High-Tech Warfare Programs of US & China
While DRDO is India’s military research body, the analogous of same in the United States is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which has developed several futuristic technologies and warfare systems way beyond imaginations to countries in south-east Asia. While cognitive tech research are being done since 2002 by the US agency, asymmetric warfare technologies is said to be first introduced by DARPA in 1960s used for fighting Communist insurgents in Vietnam and Thailand.
DARPA is working on ‘Sensor plants’ which uses plants to gather intelligence information” through DARPA’s Advanced Plant Technologies (APT) program, which aims to control the physiology of plants in order to detect threats including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
DARPA is also said to be working on creating a ‘black box’ for brain, which is much like the black box used in airplanes. The microchip implanted in brain will record every moment and make it possible to obtain information one’s final moments.
The Chinese counterpart of DARPA is considered to be COSTIND (Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense), which aims to facilitate the transfer of technology between the military and civilian sectors and has played an important role in China’s space program.