Sunday, November 29, 2020, 11:10 (GMT+7)

Thursday, November 01, 2018, 06:47 (GMT+7)
On the development of weapons and equipment in the fourth industrial revolution

Under the impact of the 4th industrial revolution, major powers have been taking advantage of its core technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data to develop smart, high-precision weapons. This is a new move which could change forms and modes of operations and draw a lot of attention from the public.

A breakthrough in developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)

The application of AI and IoT has opened up a new era in developing military equipment without the human control. Notably, in recent years, the world has continuously witnessed the development of UAV. UAVs not only play the reconnaissance role as designed but are “smartized” and equipped with precision-guided weapons, thus becoming the effective reconnaissance and attack tools which have been continuously used in recent military operations. The latest invention has been X-47B stealth bomber – the first unmanned combat aerial vehicle by America. It is equipped with the most advanced stealth technologies in both aerodynamic design and material. X-47B is also equipped with the system of AI and capable of self-flying while its flight path is programmed and all its operations are supervised by a land command centre. Moreover, being installed with the modern electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensor and radar systems, this type of aircraft is capable of opening its lens to establish land maps and forwarding the target order to land firepower units. The biggest difference between X-47B and other unmanned aerial vehicles is that it is able to operate completely independently under compute programs without remote manned control.

X-47B stealth aircraft (photo: DARPA)

A part from the progress in developing unmanned reconnaissance, combat single aerial vehicles, there have been studies on the use of UAVs as a pack in operations. At Zhuhai Aviation Exhibition recently, China has left a strong impression on the prospect of developing this type of aircraft. At the Exhibition, tens of UAVs flew in formation created and controlled by a computer network and succeeded in hunting down and destroying the target together. This is a really new advance in applying AI to automation of command and control during operations. In response to the developments in UVAs and their advanced, effective features, the militaries of countries have made a lot of changes in the structure of their air forces to make it relevant to new types of warfare in the future. According to various information sources, the U.S. Department of Defence established an unmanned aircraft regiment to take the F-16 fighter regiment’s place while Singapore founded the UAV Command.

The increased use of military robots during operations

A robot is an automatic machine created by human beings and controlled by a certain program, performing one or many functions instead of men to liberate them from strenuous, dangerous, poisonous, difficult jobs. Nowadays, all over the world, robots become more and more popular with various models, types, and functions. According to types of operation, there are three types of robots, namely manned ones, completely automatic ones, and AI ones. In the military, robots are used in different services, corps and specialities on land, in the air, and in water and capable of performing the tasks of combat, reconnaissance, chemical defence, and transportation. Therefore, in recent years, robots play an increasingly important role in military operations. Experts believe that “robotization” is an ideal development trend that helps save soldiers’ life, create a series of advantages over the opponent, and form a new type of warfare – robot warfare. In this type of warfare, robots will be used instead of soldiers on the battlefield. In fact, in recent wars, combat robots have been used very commonly.

The militaries of the countries having advanced science and technology are in the vanguard of this field. The U.S. Military has managed to manufacture and apply battlefield robots, such as Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot (BEAR), BigDog combat robot, TALON robot. Israel has also employed a series of robots on the battlefield, especially the DOGO tactical combat robot equipped with a Glock 9mm pistol which has been rated as the best tactical combat robot in the world. In 2017, this country used the Roni combat robot in operations and equipped its infantry units with this type of special robot. Roni is equipped with modern reconnaissance and target-tracking devices and capable of moving across the complex, dangerous terrain.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Army has manufactured and initially introduced the Platform-M reconnaissance robot, Argo unmanned ground vehicle, Uran-6 mine-clearing robot, and Uran-9 robot tank, many of them have been put into the list of equipment of military units and used on the battlefields. Typically in the battle on December 25th 2015, Syrian Government’s Army with the support of Russian special forces and robots attacked and occupied a strategic height with the participation of 6 complexes of Platform-M, 4 complexes of Argo and other supporting means. Only after 20 minutes, under the attack of military robots, 70 IS militants were annihilated while the others fled chaotically and left weapons and equipment behind. Analysts believe that Moscow’s deployment of combat robots to the battlefield of Syria has marked a turning point in the world’s military history. Obviously, the appearance of robots on the battlefield will effect changes in the complexion of wars and force people to reconsider the whole existing armed forces, tactics and strategies.

Modernization of the equipment for command and control system

The C4ISR of countries’ militaries have been increasingly modernized with the increased capabilities to process the information and connect the computer networks. In this regard, computer networks have really become an integral part of automatic equipment for military command and weapon control. Computer networks are aimed at providing an accurate and complete picture of the battlefield and the opponent and allies’ location and synchronizing the operations of combat units. Thanks to the modernization of C4ISR, commanders could have many pieces of information at the same time to analyze the situation correctly and give the command quickly, opportunely. The duration for commanders to form the combat determination, deploy the forces and develop the combat posture is quicker than ever, which could be executed in hours or even minutes. The quickly and accurately processed information will help commanders keep a close watch on the opponent, maintain the pressure on the opponent and take actions before the opponent to gain victories.

With those enormous benefits, the U.S. Military is establishing an IoT-based command and control system including millions of sensors of all types and 70,000km of infrastructural network as well as the C2BMC (command, control, battlefield management and communications) program. They are connected with different parts of the Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS) to become the only system that is ready to deal with and fight against global threats. At service and corps levels, the U.S. Military has installed the 485L automatic tactical air command system, the OKIS automatic army command system, and the TACFAI automatic field artillery command system, etc.

Russia’s national defence command system consists of many command centres, namely the Centre for Strategic Nuclear Forces, the Centre for Combat Management and the Centre for the Management of the Armed Forces' Everyday Operations which are much more modern than and superior to the U.S. similar centres. The combat control command systems for services and corps are being modernized. Typical example is the Universal Combat Command System- 1 (Universal- 1) which is tasked with controlling the operations of joint forces, including air defence missile, radar, fighter aircraft, electronic warfare as well as managing 300 groups of air targets within a 3,200-km radius.

Asian countries have also paid due regard to providing equipment for automatic combat command system. India and Australia have both selected Israeli Elbit company as the supplier of C4IRS in their programs to modernize the army command system. Elbit company will provide military hardware for all components of the mechanized infantry force and allow this force to connect with other corps. Indonesia’s Army is actively cooperating with Nexter Group from France in establishing the combat command system for its army while Sagem company (France) is supplying the tactical command and control systems (C2) for Malaysia’s Armoured Corps.

In addition to developing those weapons and means, many countries are employing civil telecommunications infrastructure and terminal equipment in order to take advantage of the IoT in military operations, particularly in military communications and intelligence. Accordingly, the U.S. Military has enabled smart phones to connect with the Rifleman Radio program so that its soldiers could use applications, such as 3D maps, force tracking, etc. At the same time, it has continued to develop a new special version of the Android operating system with new functions designed for the military. Besides, the IoT has allowed the military intelligence operations to identify, monitor, track, and locate the opponent, even to steal the information and destroy the system, thereby inflicting heavy losses on the opponent. Typical example was the Stuxnet worm attack on Iran’s nuclear program which destroyed Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and slowed this country’s nuclear program for a couple of years.

The achievements in the 4th industrial revolution applied to the military operation are forming a computer-based battlefield where the weapons are far smarter, more automatic and precise, capable of attacking in a long range, and could change the modes of operations in the future wars. That has made the arms race between major powers more intense. Without any preventive measures, it will possibly lead to unpredictable threats to security and stability of countries, regions, and the whole world.

Sr. Col. Dang Dong Tien

General Technical Department

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