Russia-Ukraine conflict first true instance of hybrid warfare, has a lot of lessons: IAF Chief

He was delivering the keynote address at the All India Management Association’s National Leadership Conclave on “The Future of Air Warfare: Securing the Skies and Beyond”

Published: 12th April 2022 08:53 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2022 08:54 PM   |  A+A-

IAF Chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari

IAF Chief Vivek Ram Chaudhari (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The world is witnessing the first instance of 'hybrid warfare' in the real sense, which has a lot of lessons for India, said Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) VR Chaudhari on Tuesday.

“This is the first time we are witnessing the unfolding of truly hybrid warfare. The ongoing (Russia-Ukraine) conflict is a reflection of complete multi-domain operations that are taking place,” he said.

“We are witnessing the use of drones, hypersonic weapons, aircraft of all sizes and types and ground forces all working in unison against the backdrop of economic sanctions and diplomatic heft,” the Air Chief added while delivering the keynote address at the All India Management Association’s National Leadership Conclave on “The Future of Air Warfare: Securing the Skies and Beyond”.

“Future warfare is likely to be hybrid in nature and the spectrum of conflict will be spread across all domains spanning from conventional to sub-conventional, kinetic to non-kinetic and lethal to non-lethal, all under a nuclear overhang,” he said.

All this leads to “a need for us to develop capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict and focus on multi-domain operations. Similarly, our doctrines, equipment, training and tactics will have to be flexible and able to adapt rapidly to these new challenges.”

So, there is a lot to learn from this, the Air Chief pointed out. “Primarily what it amounts to is to be able to re-imagine, to reinvent, to be able to rededicate and retrain ourselves for future conflicts,” said the Air Chief.

“Traditionally, wars have been fought on land, at sea, in the air and to some extent, in space. In the past two decades, this spectrum has increased to encompass cyber and information domains,” he noted.

The first four domains are classically physical and the other two are virtual. The overarching effect of cyber and information on the conduct of conventional wars has created a new, hybrid and multi domain spectrum of conflict resulting in older tactics and strategies becoming passé.  "Therefore, there is a definite imperative to reimagine, reform, redesign and rebuild our traditional war fighting machinery and adapt to this new emerging paradigm," he said.

As we become more and more interconnected, a cyber-attack on our networks can cripple command and control structures, he said, noting that in the next war, the enemy might not be a country or an organisation. “We may never know the perpetrators of a Distributed Denial of Services attack and we will not know when and from where the attack will take place. In the future, we could be attacked on all fronts, ranging from economic strangulation to diplomatic isolation and military standoffs to information black outs in the form of attacks by Distributed Denial of Services. All this will happen well before the first bullet is fired or the first aircraft goes across the border,” he said.  

“Conflicts in the last few decades have clearly established without doubt, the pre-eminence of air power as the instrument of choice for almost all operational contingencies,” underlined Chaudhari.

The tactical advantage that ‘high ground’ offers is a must-achieve criteria even today. In this aspect, air power provides that high ground and ability to bypass the fielded forces to hit targets in great depths with speed and precision, he said.

Underlining the imperative of indigenisation, he said, “We are hugely cognizant of the fact that no nation can be truly sovereign without meeting its basic needs from indigenous sources,” adding that this applies greatly to the defence needs.

“We need to focus more on research and development with an aim to manufacture on our own rather than relying on minor indigenisation of foreign products,” the Air Chief said.


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