Category Archives: Emerging Technologies

Evolution and Role of Naval UAVs

(Published in special edition of Economic Times, India on 04 Dec 2017)

Earliest mention of a drone/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Naval context is found in 1917, when the US Navy commissioned the design of an ‘aerial torpedo’ for use against German U-boats. A contract was awarded to the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, and the airplane was named the Speed-Scout. It was designed to be launched from naval ships carrying a 1,000-lb. payload and to be stabilized by an autopilot. It suffered several failures before it achieved its first successful flight on 06 March 1918, making it the first flight of an UAV. On 15 April 1923, the Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) specially equipped F5L seaplane was controlled by radio signals up to a range of 10 miles from the transmitter. The NRL also reported that radio control of take-off and landing of aircraft was possible. Project Fox, equipped with a television camera, was developed by The Naval Aircraft Factory in 1941. It was controlled by TG-2 aircraft and successfully carried out torpedo attack on a destroyer in 1942.

McDonnell Aircraft developed a radio-controlled target drone TD2D-1 in 1942 for anti-aircraft and aerial gunnery practice of U.S. Navy. TD2D was gyro-stabilized, radio-controlled and could be recovered by parachute. The Ryan Firebee was a 23-feet long target drone, which could fly at over 700 miles per hour on a pre-programmed flight path. It could be recovered mid-air by a C-130 Hercules with a capture net, or parachute into the sea for recovery. A modified Firebee with cameras called a ‘Lightning Bug’ could fly over a target area and take aerial pictures, it carried out over 3,000 reconnaissance missions in Vietnam. The drones have been tested on carriers, and have flown in combat, the TDR-1s launched from the USS Sable in 1943, and the Firebees took off from the USS Ranger from 1969 to 1970.

The Gyrodyne model QH-50D was a remotely controlled UAV which was built and delivered to the U.S. Navy as the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH). The QH-50D was a rotary-winged, anti-submarine weapon carrier designed primarily to deliver two MK44 acoustic homing torpedoes or a Mk 17 Nuclear depth charge using the W-44 warhead and also had a provision for a ‘classified weapon’.

The maritime UAV serves in national security, paramilitary and wartime missions. It expands the user’s horizons by providing Over The Horizon Targeting (OTHT). In addition, it increases the scanning area, time over target and the mission flexibility. It also serves in real time battle damage assessment. During peacetime, it prevents the penetration of any sea borne hostile intruder, protects the country’s rights and interests in the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and supports in Search and Rescue operations. In war-time it assists in achieving naval superiority, helps in destruction of enemy naval forces, defends the coast lines, and supports ground operations (littoral warfare). The role of the Maritime UAV system is to provide unmanned, long endurance aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition. In addition, the UAV can create a comprehensive, real time, naval tactical picture for the ship’s commander and naval HQs.

A typical Maritime UAV System consists of at least three aircraft, with ground control system (GCS), Launch & Retrieval Station (LRS), Ground Data Terminal (GDT), Launch & Retrieval Data Terminal (LRDT), and mission oriented Payloads. A typical Payload consists of a Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) with multi-mode functions, an Electro-Optical sensor with day/night capabilities, and an optional ELINT package. The payload package provides the necessary data for detection, classification, and identification of surface vessels at sea. Having a line of sight data link package provides a system range of 250 km and an air data relay extends the patrolling distance to 350 km.

The launching of UAVs from warships presents less of a challenge than recovery. UAVs can be launched through a variety of catapult options, including rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) as used by the US Navy for embarked Pioneer UAV operations. The IN operates the Lakshya unmanned aerial target system that uses boosters to launch without any ground run. Recovery of UAVs is more problematic than their launch. Vertical landing UAVs can be recovered using manual remote piloting to a conventional vertical landing, or by automatic landing systems such as the US UAV common automatic recovery system (UCARS). Fixed wing UAVs are presently recovered by more extreme methods, such as by flying it into a recovery net, by stopping the motor and ditching it into the water by parachute for a manual recovery, or by mid-air recovery using a manned helicopter or aircraft.

The IN currently operates the Heron and the Searcher MK II UAVs manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. These are capable of beaming real time live pictures of maritime targets to Commands ashore, thus enhancing the joint defence capability by synergizing capabilities of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and local authorities. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has initiated a request to the US for procuring 22 multi-mission Guardian UAVs for the Indian Navy. A RFI has also been issued for 50 ‘Naval Ship-Borne Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (NSUAS) for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR), monitoring of Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC), Exclusive Economic Zone safety, anti-piracy, and anti-terrorism functions along with Search and Rescue (S&R) roles. The MoD, is also considering procurement of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs for use by the three defense services.

For the near future, the US Navy is progressing ahead with procurement of The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UAS (BAMS UAS), the Vertical Take-off and Landing UAV (VTUAV) Fire Scout MQ-8B unmanned helicopter, and The Small Tactical UAS (STUAS), RQ-21 Blackjack. The indigenous AURA and Rustom (& its variants) are being developed by DRDO for the Indian Armed Forces.

The question that the Indian Navy faces today is, whether it is ready to go for development of fully autonomous unmanned systems, which would be cable of engaging a target and inflicting lethal damage on their own? Is the Indian Navy willing to develop technologies that empower the vehicle with embedded artificial intelligence to make the final decision to launch weapons at the target independent of any human intervention? If yes, then there is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to:

– technologies and software formulations which would permit an unmanned vehicle to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic/magnetic/electromagnetic signatures, and identify the target on its own.

– technologies, which are more environmental friendly, for e.g. the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, and green electrical power including its storage for long endurance operations.

– a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fibre domain.

– Distributed manufacturing to enable efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories, and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components.

– cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

– exploring technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

– focusing on the technology developments in the commercial sector, especially in the software, and the artificial intelligence sectors. As it appears, the only option is to synergize with the commercial sector to ensure that UAVs become a force multiplier in the next decade.

Big Data Analytics in Indian Navy  


(Published IndraStra Global 16 Aug 2017)

“The single most effective thing you can do right now to improve the security of your computer is unplug it from the Internet. Pull out that Ethernet cable; throw the wireless router in the microwave. The vast, vast majority of infections that plague your machine will arrive via the Web[i].”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Omar El Akkad

Today standalone computers and devices can be injected by viruses using drones and aircraft to cripple a nation’s cyber capability. Air Gaps placed at critical points in cyber infrastructure does not provide protection against a cyber-attack anymore. US has been flying EC-130 H on daily missions to deny ISIS military leaders and fighters the ability to communicate and coordinate defensive actions by shutting down their cell phones, radios, IEDs and very likely their new weapon of choice, drones[ii].

Big Data management (Storage, Handling, Analysis, Transmission) is directly linked to its security. Big Data security involves, infrastructure security, data management, data privacy, and integrity & reactive security[iii]. The Government of India has appreciated the all-pervasive nature of the cyber space domain and has therefore structured a holistic approach to the issues of Cyber Security and Big Data.

Cyber Security

The Indian IT Act 2000 defines “Cyber Security” as means for protecting information, equipment, devices, computer, computer resource, communication devices and information stored therein from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction[iv].

The Government of India has recognised that Cyberspace is vulnerable to a wide variety of incidents, where in targets could be the infrastructure or underlying economic well-being of a nation state. A cyber related incident of national significance may take any form; an organized cyber-attack, an uncontrolled exploit such as computer virus or worms or any malicious software code, a national disaster with significant cyber consequences or other related incidents capable of causing extensive damage to the information infrastructure or key assets. Large-scale cyber incidents may overwhelm the government, public and private sector resources and services by disrupting functioning of critical information systems. Complications from disruptions of such a magnitude may threaten lives, economy and national security[v]. The Government of India released the National Cyber Security Policy 2013 with the Vision “To build a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and Government”. The stated Mission is “To protect information and information infrastructure in cyberspace, build capabilities to prevent and respond to cyber threats, reduce vulnerabilities and minimize damage from cyber incidents through a combination of institutional structures, people, processes, technology and cooperation”.

Some of the objectives of the policy are to; create a secure cyber ecosystem in the country, create an assurance framework for design of security policies, strengthen the Regulatory framework, enhance and create National and Sectoral level 24 x 7 mechanisms for obtaining strategic information regarding threats to ICT infrastructure, enhance the protection and resilience of Nation’s critical information infrastructure by operating a 24×7 National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) and mandating security practices, develop suitable indigenous security technologies through frontier technology research, improve visibility of the integrity of ICT products and services, create a workforce of 500,000 professionals skilled in cyber security in the next 5 years, create a culture of cyber security and privacy, develop effective public private partnerships, enhance global cooperation by promoting shared understanding[vi].

Important agencies dealing with cyberspace include- National Information Board (NIB) which is an apex agency with representatives from relevant Departments and agencies that form part of the critical minimum information infrastructure in the country. National Cyber Response Centre – Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) which monitors Indian cyberspace and coordinates alerts and warning of imminent attacks and detection of malicious attacks among public and private cyber users and organizations in the country. It maintains 24×7 operations centre and has working relations/collaborations and contacts with CERTs, across the globe. National Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIIPC) is a designated agency to protect the critical information infrastructure in the country.

Big Data Analytics

In India, Department of Science and Technology the under Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences has been tasked to develop Big Data Analytics, BDA eco system.[vii] DST has identified important areas for development of BDA eco system in India. Creation of the HR talent pool is the first requirement. This will require creation of industry academia partnership to groom the talent pool in universities as well as development of strong internal training curriculum to advance analytical depth. The Big Data Analytics programme has five steps: –

-to promote and foster big data science, technology and applications in the country and to develop core generic technologies, tools and algorithms for wider applications in Govt.

-to understand the present status of the industry in terms of market size, different players providing services across sectors, SWOT of industry, policy framework and present skill levels available.

-to carry out market landscape survey for assessing the future opportunities and demand for skill levels in next ten years.

– to bridge the skill level and policy framework gaps.

– to evolve a strategic road map and micro level action plan clearly defining roles of various stakeholders such as government, industry, academia and others with clear timelines and outcome for the next ten years.

National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) 2012 of DST is designed to promote data sharing and enable access to government owned data.

Big Data Analytics infrastructure development in India is being steered by the C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. State of the art hardware system and networking environment has already been created by the C-DAC at its various facilities. C-DAC’s research focus in cloud computing includes design and development of open source cloud middleware; virtualization and management tools; and end to end security solution for the cloud. A number of applications in C-DAC are being migrated to cloud computing technology. C-DAC regularly conducts Training on “Hadoop for Big Data Analytics” and “Analytics using Apache Spark” for various agencies including Defence.

Indian Navy-Big Data Analytics

The Big Data Analytics infrastructure for the Indian Navy operates under the holistic approach of the Government of India with respect to Big Data Analytics eco system and cyber security.

Indian Navy has a robust naval network with thousands of computers connected to it. This naval network ensures information availability/ processing, communication services, service facilitation platforms, multi-computing platforms, resources/information sharing, data warehousing, and so on. However, Cyber Security and Network Integrity is crucial to protect the naval network from data theft, denial of service, malicious viruses/ trojans attacks, single point failure, data & network integrity loss, and active/ passive monitoring.

Indian Navy has Naval Unified Domain NUD or Enterprise Intranet, which is back bone of Indian Navy. All communications, internal to enterprises, are through NUD only. It offers secure, isolated, fast and reliable connectivity across navy. NUD network operates only on controlled data (no unknown data from other applications is permitted) which can be easily segregated and analysed.

Vulnerabilities arise as personnel working on NUD may need to transfer data from internet to NUD and vice-versa, which may lead to security breaches of NUD. Further, physical guarding of NUD network lines against Men-in-the-Middle Attack is a complex task since Naval units are located at different geographical locations. There is also a possibility of attacks carried out by sophisticated software and hardware technologies such as via a mirror port or via a network tap to undertake passive monitoring, active monitoring, and certificates replications and so on.

The applicability of big data analytics in context of Indian Navy is very much in line with the developed forces in the world. There exists a requirement of efficient big data analytics in the fields of intelligence, operations, logistics, mobilization, medical, human resources, cyber security and counter insurgency/ counter terrorism for the Indian Navy. There is also the associated requirement to acquire predictive capability to anticipate specific incidents and suggest measures by analysing historical events.

However, due to nascent nature of big data analytics its awareness is limited to a small number of involved agencies in the Navy. The benefits of big data in operational scenario decision making while safe guarding accuracy and reliability have not yet been internalized. Big data projects even at pilot scales may not be available currently. In the present situation, decision makers are not clear about capability of big data, costs, benefits, applicability or the perils if any of not adopting big data.

Big data holds enormous potential in Naval Context to make the operations of Navy more efficient across the entire spectrum of its activity. The research and development necessary for the analysis of big data is not restricted to a single discipline, and requires an interdisciplinary approach. Computer scientists need to tackle issues pertaining to inferences, statisticians have to deal with algorithms, scalability and near real time decision making. Involvement of mathematicians, visualizers, social scientists, psychologists, domain experts and most important of all the final users, the Navy, is paramount for optimal utilization of big data analytics. The involvement and active participation of national agencies, private sector, public sector, and armed forces would ensure full exploitation of the potential of big data for the Indian Navy.

The need today is to start feasibility studies and research programs in select fields in order of desired priorities, followed by pilot studies and thereafter adapting COTS hardware and available big data analytic software suit

[i] Omar El Akkad. Nothing is hack-proof: The guide to safer computing. The Globe and Mail, 08 Apr, 2014. (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

[ii] Wetzel, G. The Little-Known Aircraft That Wages War On ISIS’ Communications. Jalopnik,31 Mar 2017. (Accessed 12 Aug 2017)

[iii] Big Data Working Group; Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). Expanded Top Ten Big Data Security and Privacy. April 2013.

Top_Ten_Big_Data_Security_and_Privacy_Challenges.pdf (accessed 10 Aug 2017).

[iv] Indian IT Act 2000 as amended in 2008. (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

[v] National Cyber Security Policy -2013 (Accessed 12 Aug 2017)

[vi] ibid.

[vii] Big Data Initiative.Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Government of India. (Accessed 10 Aug 2017)

Massive Ordnance Air Blast, MOAB – A Perspective

(Published in CASS Journal, Vol4, No.3. Jul-Sep 2017. ISSN 2347-9191)

On 13th April 2017 at 7:32 p.m. local time[1], U.S. Forces Afghanistan conducted a strike using a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, MOAB dropped from an U.S. aircraft on an ISIS (Khorasan) tunnel complex in Achin district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Some of the immediate reactions were: –

-Mr Ashraf Ghani, the president of Afghanistan, said that the strike was “designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)” and “precautions were taken to avoid civilian casualties”[2],

-Mr Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president condemned the attacks in a series of tweets saying “This is not the war on terror but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons”[3]

In January 2015, the ISIS had announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch, it was also the first time the ISIS had officially spread its wings outside the Arab world. In December 2015, analyst Harleen Gambhir of Institute for the Study of War, ISW had indicated that ISIS is likely to expand in Afghanistan- Pakistan region[4] as ISIS associate Wilayat Khorasan, controlling Nangarhar province, had commenced attacking Kabul and Jalalabad. It was estimated that ISIS influence is likely to increase further due to many factors such as, infighting among Taliban, vacuum due withdrawal of international forces and reduction in competition with al-Qaeda due to support of Khorasan.

Nangarhar Province is located in eastern Afghanistan, on the Afghanistan – Pakistan border. It is bordered by Kunar and Laghman provinces in the north, Pakistan in the east and south, and Kabul and Logar provinces in the west. It provides the easiest passage to Pakistan from Afghanistan. Topographical Features of Nangarhar include Spin Ghar and Safed Mountain Ranges along the southern border; belt of forests along southern mountain ranges and in Dara-I-Nur District in north; Khyber Pass in Mahmund Dara District in east; bare soil, and rocky outcrop throughout centre of the province. Achin, the target of the MOAB on 13 April 2017, is one of the districts in southern Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.

The ISIS (K) were using a tunnel and cave complex in Tora Bora area which was apparently created by Central Intelligence Agency, CIA for the Mujahideen in 1980 in their fight against the Soviets. Tora Bora has steep heights, mountains, valleys and caves. The Tora Bora CIA complex constitutes of miles of tunnels, bunkers and camps built with the financial support of CIA 35 miles south west of Jalalabad[5]. It is understood that the complex was built by the Saudi Binladen group and the young Osama bin Laden had played a big role in its construction. The complex is said to have its own ventilation and hydroelectric power supply system.  Subsequently Osama bin Laden had hidden in the same tunnel complex before escaping to Pakistan during attack on Tora Bora. The MOAB was dropped on the same mountain ridge in the Achin district of Nangarhar.[6]

Conventional/Incendiary/Fuel Air Explosive/Thermobaric Bombs

It is required to differentiate between conventional, incendiary, Fuel Air Explosive and Thermobaric bombs because MOAB is compared with different types of Bombs like the Russian 15, 650-pound Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP) also called the FOAB (father of all bombs), as well as the 30,000-pound GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).

Conventional Bombs. A conventional bomb is a metal casing filled with high explosives (HE). Conventional bombs are generally classified according to the ratio of explosive to total weight. They are mainly of three types namely general purpose or GP, penetration and cluster bombs (The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that has prohibited the use, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs, which scatters submunitions (“bomblets”) over an area). A GP bomb produces a combination of blast and fragmentation effects with weight of its explosive filling approximately equal to half of its total weight. In the fragmentation bomb the explosive filling is up to 20% of its total weight, with fragmentation cases making up the remaining weight. The damage is caused due to fragments travelling at high velocities. The penetration bombs have up to 25/30% of explosive filling and remaining is taken up by the body designed for penetration.  The kinetic energy of the bomb or the shaped charge or a combination of both achieve the penetration of the target.

Incendiary Explosives. Incendiaries cause damage by fire. They are used to burn supplies, equipment, and structures.

Fuel Air Explosives FAE. These disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel ignited by a detonator to affect an explosion. The wave front expands rapidly due to overpressure and flattens objects in the vicinity of the FAE cloud, and also causes heavy damage in the neighbouring area. A FAE bomb contains fuel and two independent explosive charges. After deployment, the first explosive charge is used to burst open the fuel container at a predetermined height and disperse the fuel. The fuel disperses and mixes with atmospheric oxygen and flows around the target area. The second charge is then made to detonate the cloud, which creates a massive blast wave. The blast wave results in extensive damage to the target especially in enclosed spaces.

Thermobaric weapons. Thermobaric weapons have been designed to overcome the short comings of conventional weapons when used against fortified structures/buildings. The blast wave generated by thermobaric weapons are not designed for penetration and it is effective in causing blast damage in a large radius. Fuels are chosen on the basis of the exothermicity of their oxidation, ranging from powdered metals, such as aluminium or magnesium, to organic materials, possibly with a self-contained partial oxidant. During detonation of a high explosive bomb, rapid formation of a blast wave, thermal radiation, break-up of the munition casing, and acceleration of the fragments takes place. In the case of conventional blast/fragmentation warheads, a large part of the energy is consumed by the breaking-up of the shell and acceleration of the fragments. Thermobaric weapons have thin casings and maximum energy is released in a couple of microseconds as a blast/shock wave. In the initial detonation only a small part of energy gets released, the products of detonation thereafter suck oxygen from the air and burn in what is termed as after-burning[7]. This increases the blast pressure wave as well as the fire envelope.

Guidance of Bombs

Air to surface bombs today have either laser guidance kits or Global Positioning System, GPS guidance kits. The laser guided bombs were found to be difficult to deploy in bad weather/visibility conditions or when the targets could not be safely illuminated by the designator, and this led to the preference for GPS guided munitions. Munitions with integrated Inertial Navigation System, INS coupled to a GPS receiver like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) of Boeing are all weather deployable. The GPS/INS coupled with a tail control system provide the guidance. The Aircraft provides the initializing position and velocity, the target coordinates are also fed/updated by the aircraft through a data link. With GPS, the bomb gives a circular error probable (CEP) of five meters and without the GPS (signal lost/not available/jammed) for flight times up to 100 seconds the CEP is 30 meters. Thus, the GPS/INS kits have enabled the bombs to have the following advantages[8]:

  • Deployable in all weather conditions.
  • Fire and forget capability, the aircraft can proceed to its next task after launch.
  • Enhanced Launch Acceptance Region or LAR because these kits enable the weapon to adjust the flight trajectory at the time of launch to hit the target.
  • GPS provides an accurate common time code for all systems.
  • Flight trajectory can be programmed to hit the target at desired angle of impact.

As a further improvement Laser JDAM is now operational which has an add on laser kit in addition to the GPS/INS to take care of manoeuvring targets and midcourse alterations. A new wing kit (extended range- ER) can also be added to extend the range of the bomb up to 38 nm.

The MOAB – ‘Mother of All Bombs’

The GBU-43/B (MOAB) is a large, powerful and accurately delivered conventional bomb. It has KMU-593/B GPS-guidance with fins and inertial gyro for pitch and roll control. The KMU-593/B kits have been further upgraded with SAASM (Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module) technology in the GPS receivers. In a further improvement, the KMU-xxx/C kits are additionally fitted with Anti-Jam technology. The MOAB is a satellite guided improved version of the 15000-pound BLU-82 Daisy Cutter bomb. It is 30 feet in length with a diameter of 40.5 inches. The warhead is a BLU 120-B aluminium casing weighing 3000 pounds with an explosive weight of 18,700 pounds. The warhead is designed for blast effect. It was designed to be delivered by a C-130 and originally used the explosive Tritonal, a mixture of 80% Tri nitro toluene, TNT and 20% aluminium powder. It was first tested in March 2003 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, when it produced a mushroom cloud that could be seen up to 20 miles away[9]. The current explosive filling is 18,700 pounds of H6. H6 is a type of HBX explosive composition, which is a cast able military explosive mixture composed of 44.0% RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), 29.5% TNT and 21.0% powdered aluminium by weight. The MOAB delivers a massive explosive blast (over pressure), with lesser fragmentation effects due to a thin-walled aluminium casing. MOAB is a good choice against caves and earthen tunnels since the pressure waves on entering the complex can severely injure personnel and collapse the structures. The MOAB provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves. It is not designed for deep penetration and is an area impact weapon.

The MOAB is cradle launched from C-130 Hercules or MC-130 Talon II aircraft by means of a drogue extraction parachute. [10] Thereafter, the MOAB is guided for approximately 3 nautical miles through a GPS system (with inertial gyros for pitch and roll control), JDAM actuators, and is stabilized by series of fixed wings and grid fins.  The MOAB does not use a retarding parachute, thus permitting the aircraft to fly at higher altitudes, and making it safer for US pilots.

Future Trends in Design and Development of Conventional Bombs

It is understood that nanotechnology is spearheading the development of highly potent explosives, however, not much information is available through open sources, much of it has to be gleaned from research papers and patents (for e.g. Patents like US20150210605 – Structure of energetic materials, US6955732 – Advanced thermobaric explosive compositions and WO2013119191A1 – Composition for a fuel and air explosion).

Essentially, Nano energetic materials (nEMs) perform better than conventional materials because of much larger surface area, which increases speed of reaction and larger energy release in much shorter time. Addition of Super thermites[11] (nano-aluminium based) have shown instantaneous increase in explosive power of existing compositions[12]. Further, use of nano-sized materials in explosives has significantly increased safety and insensitivity by as much as over 30% without affecting reactivity. It is predicted that nEMs would provide the same explosive power at mass up to two orders of magnitude less than the current explosive systems[13].

While Nanosizing of high explosives leads to increasing their explosive power[14] and decreasing their sensitivity to external forces[15], it also decreases its thermal stability. The shelf life of such explosives could therefore stand reduced; however, some patents reveal that this issue has also been resolved technically (e.g. patent US20120227613 Thermal enhanced blast warhead). In India, the work on explosives and propellants is being undertaken at High Energy Materials Laboratory, HEMRL, a Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO laboratory, and it is understood that the research in nEMs is progressing satisfactorily.

It can be envisaged that nEMs would replace the conventional explosives in the next decade. This would provide existing conventional weapons with explosive powers higher in magnitude by a factor of two and enhance the safety to external stimulation by at least 30%. In simple terms, a missile warhead having an explosive content of 200 kg of TNT equivalent would have an explosive power of 20,000 kg of TNT equivalent when substituted with nEMs material of same weight of 200 kg! This advancement could displace Tactical nukes from the battlefield.

Nanotechnology is permeating in all fields of design & manufacturing of weapons and ammunition. It is bringing unprecedented precision in weapon systems, robustness in triggering mechanisms and opening new frontiers in propellant and pyrotechnic functioning. In addition to explosive and propellants, Nanomaterials have ushered in innovative improvements in many characteristics of ammunition such as guidance, penetration capacity, embedded sensors for monitoring condition, embedded antennae for guidance and so on.

Russian Answer to MOAB

An Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power (ATBIP) was tested by Russia on 11 September 2007. It was said to be the most powerful conventional bomb in the world, with a 7-Ton explosive mixture resulting in a devastating effect equivalent to 44 tons of TNT[16]. It was nicknamed the Father of All Bombs (FOAB). It was hinted that the FOAB contained a liquid fuel, such as ethylene oxide, mixed with energetic nano-aluminium powder, which was dispersed by a high explosive booster. Some reports speculated that the liquid fuel was purified using nano-filters. What caught the imagination of defense experts was the fact that the Russian FOAB had less fuel than the MOAB, but was four times more powerful. It was also probably the first time that the nonprofessional learned of the lethal uses of nanotechnology.

India’s Biggest Conventional Bomb – SPICE

India has acquired the 2000 pound Israeli SPICE (Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective) bomb. It is the biggest bomb in the inventory of the Indian Airforce. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence System’s first precision guidance kit for dumb bombs was called the SPICE. SPICE kits claim a CEP (Circular error probable) of three metres. SPICE’s Automatic Target Acquisition capability works by comparing a real-time image received from the dual Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) and infrared seeker to a reference image stored in the weapon’s computer. The SPICE can be carried on Mirage 2000 as well as on a variant of SU-30 MK1 aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The SPICE-2000 is stated to have a stand-off range of 32.3nm (60km).

MOAB the New WMD?

‘In the more distant future, weapons systems based on new principles (beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, psychophysical and other technology) will be developed. All this will, in addition to nuclear weapons, provide entirely new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals. Such hi-tech weapons systems will be comparable in effect to nuclear weapons but will be more “acceptable” in terms of political and military ideology. In this sense, the strategic balance of nuclear forces will play a gradually diminishing role in deterring aggression and chaos.[17]

Vladimir Putin, 2012

There are differing definitions of weapons of mass destruction WMD, therefore it is better to adhere to the one adopted by the United Nations. The definition of WMD was arrived at by the United Nations Convention on Conventional Armament in its first resolution in 1948.The Commission advised the Security Council that “all armaments and armed forces, except atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction fall within its jurisdiction” and also stated that “weapons of mass destruction should be defined to include atomic explosive weapons, radioactive material weapons, lethal chemical and biological weapons, and any weapons developed in the future which have characteristics comparable in destructive effect to those of the atomic bomb or other weapons mentioned above”.[18] This definition provides the guidelines to distinguish between the conventional weapons and the WMDs.

The determining factors distinguishing the Conventional weapons from the WMD could be the terms Mass Causalities and Mass Destruction. However, mass casualties can also be inflicted by conventional weapons during extended periods of siege or carpet bombings. There is ambiguity in the sense that that event of occurrence of mass casualties could be a single event or a series of consecutive events. The number of casualties could in fact be higher in sustained usage of conventional weapons than in the case of a single use WMD. The other notable point is that there is no quantification of the term ‘Mass’, i.e. how many dead humans would qualify for an event to be termed as Mass casualty. The term mass destruction also suffers from similar dichotomy.  A barrage of conventional weapons can cause a larger scale physical destruction spread across tens of miles as compared to a single WMD in a single event, again, quantification as to what constitutes Mass Destruction has not been defined clearly.

The MOAB has been incorrectly compared to a nuclear bomb. It has less than 1000th[19] of the power of the atomic bomb ‘Little Boy’ dropped on Hiroshima because the MOAB blast was equivalent to 11 tons of TNT whereas the Hiroshima blast was close to 13000 tons equivalent of TNT.  The ‘Fat Man’ atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was a 20,000 tons equivalent of TNT. However, the blast radius of MOAB lies in the same one mile radius as the atomic bombs of WWII. Conventional bombs can never achieve the damage potential of the exponential rise of energy that ensues upon a nuclear bombs detonation. The most powerful of nuclear bombs today is the B83 bomb of the United States, it uses a fission process similar to that used in the atomic bombs, the initial energy is then used to ignite a fusion reaction in a secondary core of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. The nuclei of the hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium, and result in a chain reaction leading to a far more powerful explosion. The nuclear fission bomb B83, has a blast equivalent to 1,200,000 tons of TNT compared to 11 tons equivalent of TNT blast by the MOAB. The tactical nuclear weapons range from 10 tons to 100 kilotons. What unambiguously differentiates a conventional weapon from a WMD would be the latent effects of the deployment, which in case of atomic/nuclear weapons last across generations in case of humans and decades in case of remediation of the material. The UN definition of WMD covering atomic, radiological, chemical, biological, or any weapon producing similar effects appears to be sustainable, from this it can be inferred that MOAB/FOAB type of conventional bombs; which lie on the lowest limits of the destructive power of tactical nukes without the attendant latent effects; would not fall in the category of WMD.

An U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 Combat Talon transport aircraft dropped the MOAB out of the cargo ramp on 13th April 2017.The bomb detonated at 7.32 pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar[20].  The Guardian reported that “a local security official said they had requested a large strike because fighter jets and drones had failed to destroy the tunnel complex”. Also, Ismail Shinwari, the district governor of Achin, said, “the strike was closely coordinated with Afghan soldiers and special forces, and tribal elders had been informed to evacuate civilians.[21] He also told AFP that that at least 92 ISIL fighters were killed in the bombing.[22] It was confirmed later by the Afghan officials that foreign militants, including 13 Indians, were also killed in the bombing.[23] The Indians had joined ISIS and were fighting for caliphate.

The MOAB had proved itself in Global War on Terror.


[1] U.S. Bombs, Destroys Khorasan Group Stronghold in Afghanistan. U.S. Department of Defense. 13 April 2017. (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[2] D’Angelo, Bob. “Afghan official: 36 ISIS fighters killed by ‘MOAB’”. 14 April 2017. (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[3] “U.S. drops ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan, marking weapon’s first use”. CBS News. 13 April 2017. (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[4] Harleen Gambhir, ISIS in Afghanistan: ISW Research. 3 December 2015. (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[5] Weaver, Mary Anne. “Lost at Tora Bora”. The New York Times. 11 September 2005. (Accessed 25 May 2017).

[6] Robertson, Nic (2017-14-04) MOAB hit caves used by ISIS, drug smugglers and Osama bin Laden. CNN. (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[7] Dr Anna E Wildegger-Gaissmaier. Aspects of thermobaric weaponry. ADF Health Vol 4 April 2003. (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[8] Attariwala, Joetey. Dumb Bombs with Graduate Degrees, Armada International. 27April 2017. (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[9] Mizokami, Kyle. U.S. Air Force Drops the Largest Conventional Bomb Ever Used in Combat. 13Apr 2017. (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[10] GBU-43/B “Mother of All Bombs”, (Accessed 05 Jun 2017)

[11] Nano-Thermite or Super-Thermite is a metastable intermolecular composite (MICs) containing an oxidizer and a reducing agent, which are intimately mixed on the nanometer scale. This dramatically increases the reactivity relative to micrometer -sized powder thermite. MICs, including nano-thermitic materials, are a type of reactive materials investigated for military use, as well as for general applications involving propellants, explosives, and pyrotechnics.

[12] Gartner, John. “Military Reloads with Nanotech.” Technology Review, an MIT Enterprise, 21 January 2005. (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[13] Yang, Guangcheng, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

[14] Kaili Zhang, Carole Rossi, and G.A. Ardila Rodriguez. “Development of a Nano-Al/CuO Based Energetic Material on Silicon Substrate.” Applied Physics Letters No. 91, 14 September 2007.

[15] Guangcheng Yang, Fude Nie, Jinshan Li, Qiuxia Guo, and Zhiqiang Qiao. “Preparation and Characterization of Nano-NTO Explosive.” Journal of Energetic Materials, 25, 2007.

[16] Russia tests giant fuel-air bomb. BBC. 12 Sep 2007. / (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[17] Vladimir Putin, “Being Strong: National Security Guarantees for Russia,” Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 20, 2012, (Accessed 25 May 2017)

[18] Commission on Conventional Armaments (CCA), UN document S/C.3/32/Rev.1, August 1948, as quoted in UN, Office of Public Information, The United Nations and Disarmament, 1945–1965, UN Publication 67.I.8, 28.

[19] Tayag, Yasmin. How Does the “Mother of All Bombs” Compare to a Nuclear Bomb? 13 April 2017. (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)

[20] Ackerman, Spencer; Rasmussen, Sune Engel (14 April 2017). “36 Isis militants killed in US ‘mother of all bombs’ attack, Afghan ministry says”. The Guardian. (Accessed 28 May 2017)

[21] Rasmussen, Sune Engel. “‘It felt like the heavens were falling’: Afghans reel from MOAB impact”. The Guardian. 14 April 2017. (Accessed 25 May 2017).

[22] “IS death toll hits 90 from huge US bomb in Afghanistan”. Times Live. 15 April 2017. (Accessed 05 Jun 2017)

[23] “13 suspected Indian IS fighters killed as MOAB hit Afghanistan: Reports”. Hindustan Times. 18 April 2017. (Accessed 03 Jun 2017)


Green Energy Initiatives by Defence Forces

(Abridged version published in SP’s Military Year Book 2017)

“Unleashing war fighters from the tether of fuel and reducing our military installations’ dependence on a costly and potentially fragile power grid will not simply enhance the environment; it will significantly improve our mission effectiveness.”

Dorothy Robyn, former deputy undersecretary of defense, in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, May 20, 2010.[1]


Military fuel consumption studies have highlighted various issues afflicting an assured supply of fuel to forces during extended operations especially in regions far away from the country of origin. Fuel is procured from agencies near to the operational areas to reduce the logistic supply chain. This is however subject to prevailing prices and fluctuations from time to time. It makes it difficult to make budgetary provisions for this essential commodity. In addition to the cost of transportation, attacks on the convoys carrying fuel are also a common feature in areas like Afghanistan and Iraq, this leads to loss of essential fuel supplies as well as combat manpower.These problems have a cascading effect on mobility of heavy military equipment as well as battle command stations, so much so that the logistic chain has to be put in place prior to the move to ensure operability of the equipment.

NATO[2] has brought out that the fact that; its forces consumed up to 4 gallons for transporting each gallon of fuel to Afghanistan; about   3000 US soldiers were killed /wounded from 2003 to 2007 in attacks on fuel and water convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan; and that there is one casualty for every 24 fuel re-supply convoys to Afghanistan. In a military camp, about 60/70% of fuel is used to produce electricity to heat/cool water or air. Further, a conventional diesel generator is able to convert only one third of its input energy in to electricity with the remaining being lost as heat. The U.S. military had begun to reduce its dependence upon fossil fuels proactively by 2010. It commenced development, evaluation, and deployment of renewable energy sources to decrease its carbon footprint.

The US Secretary of Defense delivered the review of the Department of Defense (DOD) strategy and priorities to Congress on March 4,2014 vide the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review[3] (QDR).This included the affect of   rebalance to Asia upon force structure, weapons systems, platforms, and operations. The highlights were,  “Positioning additional forward-deployed naval forces to achieve faster response times at a lower recurring cost; Deploying new combinations of ships, aviation assets, and crisis response forces that allow for more flexible and tailored support to the regional Combatant Command; Developing concepts, posture and presence options, and supporting infrastructure to exploit the Department’s investment in advanced capabilities; and Pursuing access agreements that provide additional strategic and operational flexibility in case of crisis” .  It was evident that the shift would imply requirement of additional logistic arrangements in the fuel provisioning chain. It has been estimated that the Asia-Pacific shift would entail an eleven percent additional operational fuel demand on the US DOD.

The European Defence Agency, EDA, has launched the ‘Military Green’ initiative. It has been estab­lished by six countries namely, Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, and Luxembourg. The project visualizes access rights to rooftops and land in military premises being offered to the market for electricity production using photovoltaic technology. The electricity produced would supply the defense locations as well as feed the surplus green energy to the local grid.

NATO constituted a “Smart Energy Team” (SENT), which examined national and NATO documents and visited defense agencies to identify energy efficient solutions for incorporation into NATO’s standards and best practices. The team concluded that ‘Reducing fuel consumption in the military is an operational imperative. Smart Energy solutions cannot only save money when less fuel is used, but can also save soldier’s lives, and help improve the mobility, as well as the resilience and endurance of military forces’[4].

Thus, it can be seen that it became imperative for the major defense forces to give impetus to adoption of renewable energy sources in their routine as well as operational deployments.

Green Energy Generation Options to Defense Forces

Green Energy options that are available to defense forces depending upon their geographical locations include a combination of the following:

Solar Energy. Solar energy is being utilized by the forces to reduce load on traditional generators. Solar energy can be generated using both fixed and portable solar systems to provide a clean source of energy especially at remote locations. This also helps in reducing the number of costly and at times dangerous fuel re-supply missions. With the rapidly reducing costs of PV cells, the rates of solar power are highly competitive. Further, since the PV cells are much lighter they can be easily carried on the backpacks in battlefield.

Biomass. Developments in Biomass have resulted in corn-based ethanol and soybean or canola based biodiesel. Lately, however there is shift away from food crops for generating fuel towards use of lignocelluloses feed stocks and energy crops that can be grown on wastelands. The biomass to liquids (BTL) includes synthetic fuels derived thermo-chemically via biomass gasification and cellulosic ethanol produced biochemically. The production of Fischer-Tropsch liquids (FTL)[5] from biomass is considered advantageous over cellulosic ethanol.

Fuel Cells. Fuel cells are one of the most efficient techniques for power generation and an alternate to petroleum. They can function on a number of different fuel sources like biogas, hydrogen, or natural gas. They also provide scalable advantage from megawatts down to a watt, which enable meeting a large variety of applications for the forces. They can power transportation systems on land and sea, provide power in remote areas, act as power backups, assist in distributed power, and so on. The byproducts of fuel cells are water and heat since they directly convert chemical energy in hydrogen to electricity. They are also highly efficient with conversion in the range of ~60%, which is nearly twice that of conventional sources.

Waste to Energy. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) can be converted to energy in three ways, namely, pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion. These processes are differentiated by the ratio of oxygen supplied to the thermal process divided by oxygen required for complete combustion. It has been observed that a localized approach to generating energy from waste is beneficial as compared to a large facility located miles away. This helps in reducing the overall carbon footprint as well as facilities that do not look out of place.

Hydropower. Investments in small hydropower systems reduce the exposure to fuels considerably. Intelligently sited and planned systems assure clean and reliable energy over the years.

Marine Renewable Energy. A large source of renewable energy is presented by the oceans, in form of wind driven waves on the coast, ocean currents, ebbing and flowing tidal currents through inlets and estuaries, river currents, offshore wind energy and ocean thermal systems. All of these can be utilized for power generation by the forces.

Geothermal Power. It provides a number of advantages like, it is non-interruptible, it is cleaner, it is an established technology, and is abundant. This is a highly suitable energy source for land-based establishments that have access to it.

Initiatives by Defence Forces

“Today’s war fighters require more energy than at any time in the past and that requirement is not likely to decline,” he explained. “During World War II, supporting one Soldier on the battlefield took one gallon of fuel per day. Today, we use over 22 gallons per day, per Soldier.”

General Martin E. Dempsey

The US Department of Defense (DOD) published its 2011 Operational Energy Strategy, which, laid down the overall guidelines for armed forces to pursue in respect of energy. The US Military has set up the goals of reduction in energy consumption, enhancing energy efficiency across platforms, enhancing usage of renewable/ alternative energy supplies and assuring energy sufficiency. To meet the desired goals, DOD has to look at deploying clean low carbon technologies at its establishments as well as increased renewable energy generation through solar, waste to energy, wind power, geothermal and other sources. In addition the DOD has to comply with a number of energy policies and executive orders that govern the DOD, these include:

-The National Energy Conservation Policy Act, 1978. It lays the foundation for energy management by US agencies.

– The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It laid down requirements and authorizations for:

-Metering of suitable federal buildings by the beginning of fiscal 2012.

– Energy-efficient product procurement.

-Use of energy saving performance contracts through fiscal 2016.

-Federal building standards that exceed by at least 30 percent industry standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

-Renewable electricity consumption for federal agencies to increase to at least 3 percent of facility electricity consumption for fiscal 2007-09; 5 percent for fiscal 2010-12; and 7.5 percent thereafter.

-Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It amended the National Energy Conservation Policy Act to require agencies to improve energy intensity. It expanded authority to facilitate use of energy saving performance contracts.

-National Defense Authorization Act 2007. It codified US DOD’s goal of securing 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025.

In addition to the above, executive orders issued by the president of the United States that are applicable to US DOD energy efforts include:

-Executive Order 13423, Jan 24, 2007, requires federal agencies to, reduce energy intensity 3 percent annually, and ensure that at least half the renewable energy requirement established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 comes from new energy sources.

-Executive Order 13514, Oct. 5, 2009, requires federal agencies to, establish a senior sustainability officer, and submit an annual Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan to the Council on Environmental Quality between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2021. Further, it is to be ensured that new federal buildings designed in 2020 or later are ‘net zero for energy’ by 2030.

The US Army has decided to have five installations meet net-zero energy goals by 2020 and have 25 establishments achieve net-zero energy by 2030. To cut fossil fuel Army is increasingly deploying hybrid and electric vehicles.

The US Navy has set the goals of energy efficient acquisitions, sailing the Great Green fleet by 2016, reducing the non-tactical petroleum use by 50 % by 2015, producing 50% of shore based energy from alternate sources, making 50 % installations net-zero by 2020, and lastly, ensuring that by 2020, 50% of its total energy requirements would be met from alternate energy sources.

The Great Green Fleet Initiative of the US Navy. The Great Green Fleet is a demonstrator of the strategic and tactical viability of bio fuels. A strike group has embarked on a yearlong deployment in West Pacific in January 2016. The strike group (JCSSG) consists of USS John C. Stennis with Carrier Air Wing (CVW-9) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay and guided missile destroyers Chung-Hoon, Stockdale, and William P. Lawrence. CVW-9 consists of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133; Fleet Logistics Combat Support Squadron (VRC) 30, Detachment 4 and Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 151, 97, 41 and 14[6]. The JCSSG is using alternate fuel (10 percent beef tallow and 90 percent marine diesel) and incorporating energy conservation measures. The Great Green Fleet initiative also includes use of energy efficient systems and operating procedures like changing of lights to solid-state lighting, temperature control initiative, installation of stern flaps to reduce drag etc.

The US Air Force has decided to reduce overall energy demands, increase energy supply through alternate/ renewable energy sources, and meet the “End State Goals” of DOD by 2030. These include, that bases meet Air Force energy security criteria while optimizing the mix of on‐base and off‐base generation, that aircraft fly on alternative fuel blends, that Forward Operating Bases be capable of operating on renewable energy & optimizing energy utilization. It is also testing different “Hydro treated Renewable Jet” (HRJ) fuels which comprise of bio-fuels and jet fuels in order to have 50% of its aviation fuel from alternative blends by 2016. In addition, the US Air Force is seeking to have better energy efficiency engines for its aircraft in future.

In July this year, the US Army and Air Force have come together to change all their sources of electricity to clean and renewable energy. As per Air Force News Service “The Army and Air Force have identified energy resilience as a critical objective, advancing the capability for their systems… to respond to… unexpected disruptions,” …”Now, both offices will share support staff, business processes, and best practices.”[7]

Indian Armed Forces

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian Defence Forces and associated establishments the Government of India has initiated considerable efforts under phase-II/III of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission JNNSM. It includes setting up over 300 MW of Grid-Connected Solar PV Power Projects by Defence Establishments under Ministry of Defence and Para Military Forces with Viability Gap Funding under JNNSM. As per the annual report of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) for the year 2014-2015[8], some of the salient features of the scheme include:

-A capacity of 300 MW to be set up in various Establishments of Ministry of Defence with the minimum size of the project to be one MW. The defence establishments would identify locations for developing solar projects, anywhere in the country including border areas from time to time. The projects under this Scheme will mandatorily use solar cells/modules, which are made in India. The Defence organizations/Establishments will be free to own the power projects i.e. get an Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) contractor to build the project for them or get a developer who makes the investment and supplies power at a fixed tariff of Rs.5.50 per unit for 25 years. The MoD or the Defence Organization would be free to follow their own procurement systems or develop detailed guidelines or procedures for tendering.

-Inter-Ministerial group has recommended National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) Support of Rs. 750 cr.

Indian Army’s quest for green fuels has led to research into algal biomass, which is considered to be one of the best emerging sources of sustainable energy. The algal biomass can be conveniently cultivated in a matter of days at military detachments and used to produce bio-fuel for use in military vehicles. Nine DRDO labs are currently carrying out research on microalgae for extraction of bio fuels[9].

Indian Navy has completed two years of its Green Initiatives Program on World Environment Day in 2016. Navy has undertaken a large number of green measures to reduce its overall carbon footprint. An Energy and Environment Cell[10] at Naval Headquarters has been created to monitor the implementation of the green energy programs. The Navy has initiated efforts to go green in ship designs as well as its operations. It also carries out mass awareness drives in its dockyards, and shore establishments to sensitize the personnel to energy conservation.

The Navy has set a target of 21 MW Solar PV installation[11],  in line with the National Mission of Mega Watt to Giga Watt towards achieving 100 GW Solar PV installations by 2022. Navy has also pledged 1.5 per cent of its Works budget towards Renewable Energy generation. Navy is exploring the feasibility of exploiting Ocean Thermal Energy and Wave Energy as sources of green energy.

Moving Towards Smart Energy

In almost all developing and developed countries, electric industry is moving away from a centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is more consumer-interactive and less centralized. Smart Grid is a term for a functional system, which utilizes modern communication technologies with monitoring & control systems to make the electric grid more efficient. A more advanced grid utilizes information technology for processing data and allows utilities to perform grid operations. Smart grid systems also help consumers to use their energy needs in a better way[12]. In India for instance, the transmission losses are one of the highest in the world, in addition India grapples with unpredictable energy sources feeding the grid[13], it is therefore necessary to have a grid that is highly adaptive, in other words, a smart grid.

Some features of smart grid include[14]:

-Advanced Metering Infrastructure, AMI, it utilizes smart meters, communications networks for transmitting meter data, and management systems for receiving, storing, and processing the data.

-Grid modernization by deploying sensors, communications, and control technologies for efficient grid operations. Smart distribution technologies to help locate and identify defects, and carry out effective monitoring for the equipment.

– Transmission system modernization using digital equipment for monitoring and controlling operations throughout the transmission grid. It uses Synchrophasor technology, with phasor measurement units (PMUs) for measuring instantaneous voltage, current, and frequency.

– Virtual power plants, which allow discrete energy resources (DERs) to feed the electricity grid constantly and reliably.

-Micro grids, which are clusters of local DERs and loads connected in such a way that an operation is possible within the grid or in an independent mode.

The smart grid however, comes with its own challenges in terms of bandwidth and cyber security. Each application of the smart grid requires a combination of communication technologies for handling its own bandwidth and latency[15] needs. Currently, secure interoperable networks are being designed which would provide adequate cyber security.

The defense forces have taken a proactive approach to meet their energy requirements of the future with emphasis upon green energy initiatives and sensitivity to the conservation of the natural environment. The aspects of national security and energy security of the nation have also been carefully blended in the quest for going green. However, as the defense forces are also interdependent upon the civil power sources, the grids being designed would have to be smart enough to cater to distributed energy sources with two way power flows, smart management & generation of energy, cyber protection, band width management, and handling of variable power generated from renewable sources.

[1] House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Readiness (statement of Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense) (March 29, 2012), (Accessed 21 Jul 2016).

[2] (Accessed 23 Jul 2016)

[3] (Accessed 29 Jul 2016)


[5] James T. Bartis &Lawrence Van Bibber, Alternative Fuels for Military Applications, 2011, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica.

[6] (Accessed 19 Jul 2016)

[7] (Accessed 24 Jul 2016).





[12] US department of Energy, 2014 Smart Grid System Report, Report to Congress, August 2014.

[13] Navneet Gupta and Apurav Jain, Smart Grids in India, Renewable Energy,  – Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, August 2011.

[14] 12 ibid.

[15] Network latency is an expression of how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to another.

74. Weaponised Unmanned Vehicles in the Indian Navy: Technology Outlook

(Published IndraStra Global   May 22, 2016 )

In the Navy unmanned vehicles constitute four types of vehicles which operate in aerial, surface-land, surface-sea and underwater environments. Even though more glamorous terms like ‘autonomous vehicles’ are used to describe them, in reality, all these vehicles fall in the category of remotely controlled/piloted robotic vehicles. However, it is also true that in most of these categories, higher and higher degree of autonomous functioning can be built-in with the available technology.

The question that arises before the Indian Navy is whether it is ready to go for development of autonomous unmanned systems, which would be cable of engaging a target and inflicting lethal damage on their own? Is the Indian Navy willing to develop technologies that empower the vehicle with embedded artificial intelligence to make the final decision to launch weapons at the target independent of any human intervention?

It may be worthwhile to look at some innovative technologies, which are going to have a profound effect upon weaponised unmanned vehicles of tomorrow.

Cutting-Edge Artificial Intelligence (AI):

Whereas artificial intelligence would enable an unmanned vehicle to perceive and respond to its changing environment, the cutting edge AI would enable the unmanned vehicle to learn automatically by assimilating large volumes of environmental and tactical information. There is a need for the Indian Navy to look in to technologies and software formulations which  would permit an unmanned vehicle, for example, to launch itself, proceed to learn acoustic, magnetic or electromagnetic signatures and identify the target on its own (as distinct from current weapons like mines, torpedoes and missiles which have a tested and tried inbuilt code). The need to pursue technologies that would enable it to go a step further by taking a decision to launch its weapons could be looked at  in future.

Profound/ Deep Learning in respect of Unmanned Vehicles:

There is a definite need to look into Profound or / Deep learning technological issues since for most of the areas of their operations, unmanned vehicles would be required to accumulate vast amounts of data/ intelligence inputs from the surroundings, process it and upload it to systems for decision making by humans. Fundamentally, advanced algorithms need to be developed for unmanned vehicles through which the vehicle on its own can differentiate changes from the normal that need to be highlighted for predicting a future course of events by the analysts. Since Unmanned underwater vehicles would operational for periods extending over months at a time,one area of importance could be to make the vehicle unlearn (specific areas it has self-written the codes for), since it occupies memory space or it may no longer remain relevant.

Green Technologies for Unmanned Vehicles:

As the Unmanned systems race to achieve higher and higher levels of autonomous operations, there is a need to look into technologies, which would make unmanned vehicles more environmental friendly, like the use of green plastics of the poly hexahydrotriazines or PHTs category, which provide the same strength but are biodegradable. Similar advances need to be explored for providing the unmanned vehicles with green electrical power and its storage for long endurance operations.  Neuromorphic Technology.  Neuromorphic chips are designed to process information by mimicking human brain’s architecture resulting in massive computing and processing power. These combine data storage and data processing components in same interconnected modules thus providing power as well as energy efficiency.

Communications Pathways:

Satellites are not the only pathway for reliable communications, be it for data, voice, or command & control. There is a requirement for a resilient architecture that can act as a redundant pathway to atmospheric communications (including underwater) through electromagnetic domains including digital communications utilizing fiber domain. Fiber carries far larger bandwidth than what can be carried through the satellite systems. Multiple pathways would provide greater safety and protection to the cyber networks. Technologies need to be developed, to make the network physically resilient to deal with High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP), and to make the network react by itself to tampering by external actors.

Additive Manufacturing Technology:

Distributed manufacturing enables efficient use of resources, with less wasted capacity in centralized factories. It also reduces the amount of capital required to build the first prototypes and products. Further, it limits the overall environmental impact of manufacturing since digital information is transferred over the internet with local sourcing of raw materials. However, Additive manufacturing poses a potentially disruptive challenge to conventional processes and supply chains. Its nascent applications in aerospace sectors need to be developed for the unmanned systems across the Naval unmanned requirement. There is a need to examine and develop 3D printing of circuit boards and other integrated electronic components. Currently, Nano scale component integration into 3D printing is a formidable challenge for this technology. Taking a step further, adaptive-additive technologies (4D printing) would be ushering in products that would be responsive to the natural environment (like temperature and humidity) around them.

Test and evaluations of Unmanned Systems:

Test and evaluation of collaborative (Humans and robotic) systems is a big technological leap that needs to be addressed at the earliest. As of now, there is no software, which can test a collaborative system both physically, and intellectually, once an unmanned system has been tasked to learn on its own, it should have the capability to convey the extent of its learning as it progresses in its knowledge acquisition process. Navy needs to delve into cognitive testing aspects of software for unmanned vehicles today to fruitfully operate autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

Disruptive Unmanned Warfare:

Autonomous vehicles have ushered in a paradigm shift from the few big, expensive, and lethal weapons to large numbers of small, cheap, and smart unmanned systems capable of swarming the adversary. The unmanned vehicles today can carry significant amounts of weapons utilizing new designs of weapons with nano materials. The Navy needs to explore technologies for developing new types of weapons for use in the autonomous vehicles.

Finally, the Indian Navy has to focus in the coming years on the technology developments in the commercial sector which have outpaced the developments in the military; especially in the software; and the artificial intelligence sector. It has to seek ways and means to synergize the commercial sector developments such that it can become a force multiplier ushering in the next RMA.


Hybrid warfare-The Naval Dimension

(Published IndraStra Global 01 Jan 2017,

 It is so damn complex. If you ever think you have the solution to this, you’re wrong, and you’re dangerous. You have to keep listening and thinking and being critical and self-critical.

Colonel H.R. McMaster, 2006

In his monograph, Strategic Implications of Hybrid War: A Theory of Victory[1],Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lasica posits that hybrid force actors attempt to combine internal tactical success and information effects regarding enemy mistakes through the deliberate exploitation of the cognitive and moral domains. In this manner, he describes hybrid warfare simultaneously as a strategy and a tactic because of the blending of conventional, unconventional, criminal, cyber and terrorist means & methods. A hybrid force is thus able to compress the levels of war and thereby accelerate tempo at both the strategic and tactical levels in a method faster than a more conventional actor is able to do. In this theoretical model, the hybrid actor will always gain a perceived strategic advantage over the conventional actor regardless of tactical results. David Sadowski and Jeff Becker, in their article “Beyond the “Hybrid Threat: Asserting the Essential Unity of Warfare,[2]” assert, that the idea of simply seeing hybrid warfare as a combination of threat categories or capabilities fails to appreciate the complexity of the hybrid approach to warfare. Rather, they argue that the essential aspect of hybrid warfare is the underlying unity of cognitive and material approaches in generating effects. Such a unity of cognitive and material domains allows for flexibility in a strategic context in which social “rules” can be redefined in an iterative process to the hybrid’s advantage in terms of legality and military norms.

Majors Mculloh and  Johnson in their monograph ‘Hybrid warfare’[3] have said that hybrid war may be best summarized as a form of warfare in which one of the combatants bases its optimized force structure on the combination of all available resources—both conventional and unconventional—in a unique cultural context to produce specific, synergistic effects against a conventionally-based opponent.

 Don’t ever forget what you’re built to do. We are built to solve military problems with violence.

– A Former Brigade Commander in Op Iraqi Freedom

Therefore, it will not be wrong to say that Hybrid warfare in naval context is a violent conflict utilizing a complex and adaptive organization of regular and irregular forces, means, and behavior across a predominantly maritime domain among others to achieve a synergistic effect, which seeks to exhaust a superior military force.

Alternatively, put simply, it is naval irregular warfare plus cyber war and any other component that emerges in future. CIA has succinctly brought out the contrasting dimensions of Modern versus Irregular warfare in the following table:

Contrasting Dimensions of War[4]
Modern Irregular
Organized Informal
Advanced technology At-hand technology
Logistics-dependent Logistics-independent
National direction Local direction
Coherent doctrine Ad hoc doctrine
Decisive battle Raids and skirmishes
Soldier Warrior
Allies Accomplices
Segregation Integration

Littoral areas and cities in vicinity of the coast could be important sites of future conflict, and both have characteristics that make them more complex than the high seas, and hinterland. Adversaries will increasingly exploit these complex environments to degrade technological advantages of regular forces. Given the close proximity of many cities to the coast as well as abundance of unmanned coastal areas, maritime hybrid is a distinct possibility requiring active involvement of the Navy and the Coast guard. In case of a maritime hybrid war the normal components of the Navy would continue to play an important part in the littorals and in open seas for interdiction of adversary’s irregular assets like floating armories and mercenary flotillas.

Maritime forces are often utilized primarily in support of ground operations, but it is seen that; in environments with a maritime component; maritime operations tend to have a noticeable comparative advantage over land-based operations in terms of mobility, freedom of maneuver, and the ability to impose a smaller or less visible footprint on land. The maritime forces could easily choke supplies through the sea route to reach adversary, protect own maritime trade and fishing in the area, provide logistic and fire support to forces on land from the sea, close escape routes and so on. One important point is that vital external maritime support can be conveniently obtained from friendly nations at sea for ISR, communications and fighting cyber war. The supporting ships could be operating as close as just 12 miles off the coast or hundreds of mile in open seas without violating any regulations.

Now it would be appropriate to look at a few of the salient features of 26 Nov 2008 Mumbai attack as relevant to subject at hand. The Mumbai attack has been analyzed in great depth by various agencies (for e.g. Rand’s ‘Characterizing and Exploring the Implications of Maritime Irregular Warfare’[5] and ‘The Lessons of Mumbai[6]’) and individuals, therefore an attempt is being made here to highlight the main findings of some of these studies. In addition to the meticulous planning, reconnaissance, likely pre-positioning of weapons & ammunition, the major innovation on the part of the terrorists was the real-time exploitation of the international media. Each of the terrorists carried a BlackBerry smart phone to monitor CNN and BBC Internet coverage of the attack in real time. They then immediately adjusted their tactics to increase the amount of media coverage that the attacks would receive. It is believed that the major efforts made by the terrorists to kill U.S. and British civilians were part of the plan to garner more international press coverage.

The case of the LeT attacks in Mumbai illustrates the advantages that could accrue to an adversary from a maritime approach to a target. A maritime approach allows operatives to avoid border crossings and airport security, it offers opportunities to hijack a local vessel so that attackers can blend in with the normal local coastal traffic, and offers terrorist teams extra time for pre-attack planning as well as extra time for rest just before the attack commences. Finally, a maritime insertion allows terrorists to select very precise landing sites and infiltration routes.

The case of the LeT attacks in Mumbai also illustrates the disadvantages that can accrue to a terrorist enemy from a maritime approach to a target. First, once a full blown, large-scale assault has started, it can be very difficult to extricate the operatives. Second, the transport of large explosives aboard fishing vessels and trawlers is risky; thus, maritime terrorist strikes might be limited to relying on small arms to do their damage. Third, some kind of reconnaissance cell would have to be sent to the target city well in advance of the attack, providing an opportunity for a skilled intelligence agency to mount surveillance on the reconnaissance cell and break up the plot before the assault team could embark. Moreover, a maritime approach does not allow the terrorist team to disperse until it lands ashore. Even if the operatives approach in two or three different small boats, the interception of just one of the boats could drastically reduce the team’s numbers and effectiveness.

The fact remains that despite low technological instrumentation, a non state/state sponsored actor coming from open sea, could carry out effective surveillance & reconnaissance regarding the characteristics of targets at land/sea that could be attacked in future. Maritime Hybrid War may graduate to pose bigger economic threat than a military one. Furthermore, these economic costs could be imposed with relatively minor investments from the adversary.

What is worrisome is that now the Hybrid threat can emerge from anywhere in the vast oceans; be it floating armories, mercenary flotillas, or innocuous vessels carrying legitimate cargo with an embedded cyber war-waging cell. The maritime hybrid threat has to be interdicted using Naval and marine assets preferably before it reaches the shores and synergizes with other elements into a full-scale hybrid war. Even though the Indian Government has strived to put in place a very robust MDA there are intelligence gaps, which remain among the various agencies involved which could lead to slipping in of threatening elements physically or otherwise.

“The categories of warfare are blurring and do not fit into neat, tidy boxes. We can expect to see more tools and tactics of destruction — from the sophisticated to the simple — being employed simultaneously in hybrid and more complex forms of warfare.”

Professor Colin Gray

Cyber War

A word about the maritime dimension of cyber war would be proper at this stage. In recent years, there has been considerable discussion of the phenomenon of cyber warfare, its methods, and its ramifications. In essence there are three objectives that can be achieved by cyber-offensive activities: espionage (infiltrating the target’s information storage systems and stealing information), denial of service attacks (preventing Internet usage), and sabotage (infiltrating systems reliant on Internet connections and causing functional damage via malevolent programs). The media largely focuses on the use of computer programs as weapons in the cyber domain, but an attack on Internet infrastructure especially the submarine optical fiber cables is no less an option for terrorists, and often more devastating and effective. In fact, thousands of miles of more than 200 international submarine cable systems carry an estimated 99% of all the world’s trans-oceanic internet and data traffic. Widespread disruption to undersea communications networks could sabotage in excess of $10 trillion in daily international financial transactions, as stated by Michael Sechrist in a 2012 paper ‘New Threats, Old Technology Vulnerabilities in Undersea Communications Cable Network Management Systems[7]’ published by the Harvard Kennedy School. It is pertinent to note that satellites carry just about 5% of global communication traffic.

Even partial damage has extensive consequences because of the resultant jamming of traffic on the limited remaining connection. It is true that the diplomatic and military effects of having Internet communication with world at-large cut off would not be significant, but the direct and indirect economic consequences could be extremely expensive to our economy, especially with the transfer of much data to online cloud services that are actually placed abroad.

What bigger Hybrid threat can be posed at sea than the cutting off the subsea internet cables at time, place, and depths of one’s choosing or cutting off undersea facilities like VLF communication nodes and hydrophones? Would it not be an example of extreme denial of service weapon? Incidentally, such capabilities do exist with some nations today.

Two other aspects of hybrid war, which merit immediate attention of the maritime forces, are onslaught of sensors and swarm warfare.


One very important aspect of the Hybrid warfare is transparency in every field because f utilization of various types of sensors. This ubiquitous sensing revolution promises enhanced awareness of physical, social, and cyber environments by combining three technological trends: the proliferation of ever cheaper and more capable sensors into virtually every device and context; large data aggregation and ready access to it using vast cloud-based archives; and cross-spectral data fusion & sense-making algorithms running on increasingly powerful processors. All of these trends are accelerating, at exponential rates. For instance, as brought by Capt John Litherland, USN (ret), in his paper ‘Fighting in the Open: The Impact of Ubiquitous Sensors on the Future Maritime Battle space’[8]:

-The worldwide total number of sensors has increased tremendously and will pass the one trillion mark, or more than 100 sensors for every person on earth.

– Mass production of electronics has led to significant enhancements in Sensing capabilities. Every smart phone today has a complete inertial, electronic and satellite navigation system comprising just a minor component of its price. Incidentally, a smart phone today hosts of many  of the sensors such as, accelerometer, temperature, gravity, gyroscope, light, linear acceleration, magnetic field, orientation, pressure, proximity, relative humidity, rotation vector and temperature[9].

-The worldwide digital data generation rate now exceeds one ZB (1021 bytes) per year and global storage exceeds 10 ZB.

-The ability to fuse and make sense of unstructured data from disparate sensors and incommensurable formats is being addressed by use of advances in processing capability and data handling algorithms.

-The advent of sensors has however, made the battle space transparent. Today, the warfare has to adapt to this transparency and let go traditional concepts of concealment and camouflage. Stealth technologies are unable to cope up with concealing signatures of the multitude of sensors being used across various domains, be it in the air, on the surface or under water. Navies today can no longer spring a surprise on the adversary because it is not feasible to operate blind in a battlefield littered with multi-spectral sensors, dispersed spatially, and operating in broadband.

The Indian Navy (IN) has to prepare for this aspect of hybrid warfare. The Indian Navy could utilize some of the concepts out lined by Litherland in his paper quoted above[10] :

– Dispersal – IN forces must disperse over as much of the maritime battle space as possible.

– Deception – IN must strategize on targeting the adversary’s sensor complex across multiple spectra with noise, false targets, and cyber attacks.

– Range – IN must gainfully implement Net Work Centric warfare to bestow ‘crippling effects’ at large distances when dispersed.

– Speed – together with range, the speed at which kinetic and non-kinetic effects can be imposed on the adversary will also be a critical factor in Naval war.

Unless the Indian Navy starts preparing now to fight in the Age of Sensors, it risks becoming vulnerable in the event of a hybrid war.


Seminal work has been done on Swarm warfare by Prof. John Arquilla  and David Ronfeldt in their various writings (Swarming and Future of Conflict[11], Countering and exploiting Swarms[12], etc.) the present section derives from their thought processes. Swarm warfare has become the dominant doctrinal concept of certain navies like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, which has about fifty missile and torpedo boats, along with other light coastal craft, all of which train to employ ‘ESBA’ i.e. like a swarm of bees tactics. The IRGC Navy also has several bases on small islands in the Persian Gulf, from which they can “swarm by fire” with the Chinese missiles in their inventory. China’s PLA Navy regularly practices swarm tactics with its missile, torpedo, and gunboats.

For the Indian Navy, comprised as it is of a number of high-value vessels, swarms pose a considerable and rising threat. Swarm attacks are likely not only from small boats, but also from aircraft, submarines, and drones. At present, the author is unaware of any fitting response by the Indian Navy focused on the use of counter-swarms of drones, and robots. The Indian Navy should also consider responses; as suggested by Prof  Prof. John Arquilla[13];  by designing swarms of much smaller craft like large numbers of jet-ski-sized drones or autonomous weapons whose goal would be to seek out and destroy incoming swarms with rockets, or by ramming and self-detonating. Small and swift Weapons could pose a far superior swarming threat to hybrid adversaries. IN could also think of small undersea swarming systems which are already on the design board to meet demands of clearing minefields, engaging enemy submarines, and carrying out ISR missions. Similarly, small aerial swarm weapon systems could prove exceptionally useful in dealing with air defense of carrier strike groups.


So ‘ere’s to you fuzzy-wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan; You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first class fightin’ man. 

Rudyard Kipling

Starting with the fundamental definition of Hybrid war in maritime context as “Naval irregular warfare plus cyber war and any other component that emerges in future”, the implications of cyber, sensors, and swarm warfare have been discussed in this article. However, new types of hybrid threats would keep surfacing and the IN has to be ready for them when called upon to counter them.

Hybrid war, being inherently nebulous and dynamic in nature, calls for constantly adapting naval doctrines and technologies to meet the emerging maritime hybrid threats.

(Based upon a talk ‘Maritime and Air Dimensions of Hybrid War’ delivered by the author during ‘National Seminar: Hybrid Warfare’ on 02 Nov 2016 under aegis of Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)













[13] ibid

Military Applications of Blockchain Technology

(Published 23 Nov 2016, CLAWS)

“Blockchain protocols are a new class of protocols that are extremely resilient to attack ‒ they gain that resiliency by virtue of being decentralized,”

Professor Emin Gun Sirer, Cornell University

Blockchain technology is fundamentally a mutually trustable storage facility for information of a transaction between multiple users. It is a decentralized and secure way to record, share, store, and redistribute information. There is no central authority controlling the Blockchain, it is run, monitored, and owned by everyone. Anyone can download it free and run it or develop it for new applications/types of transactions, just like an open source code. It enables verification of the transactions at any time without impinging upon privacy of the involved parties. Blockchain technology has the capability to become a disruptive technology during the current decade itself.

“A Blockchain is a magic computer that anyone can upload programs to and leave the programs to self-execute, where the current and all previous states of every pro­gram are always publicly visible, and which carries a very strong crypto-economically secured guarantee that programs running on the chain will continue to execute in exactly the way that the Blockchain protocol specifies.”

 Vitalik Buterin of Ethereum

Two main pillars of Blockchain technology are the ‘distributed consensus’ and ‘anonymity’[i]. It has applications in both the financial and the non-financial fields. In the non-financial sector major companies like IBM, Amazon, Samsung etc. are exploring innovative ways in which to use the Blockchain technology. The near term possibilities include putting ‘proof of existence’ of health data, legal papers, registry certificates (birth, marriage, death), digital trail of assets etc in the Blockchain.

IBM and Samsung have developed a system called ADEPT[ii] (Autonomous Decentralized Peer To Peer Telemetry) that uses design concepts of Bitcoin to construct a distributed network of Internet of Things. The ADEPT utilises three protocols-BitTorrent (file sharing), Ethereum (Smart Contracts) and TeleHash (Peer-To-Peer Messaging).

In the financial sectors, big banks find Blockchain to be a secure and reliable technology and are looking into a host of applications. R3, a financial technology firm is creating a framework for financial applications[iii] using Blockchain technology for a consortium of 15 leading banks. R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform was used by the banks to design and use self-executing transaction agreements. Two prototypes were created using distributed ledger technology for smart contracts. The consortium included Barclays, BBVA, BNP Paribas, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Danske Bank, ING Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, Natixis, Nordea, Scotiabank, UBS, UniCredit, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

Military Applications

The NATO Communications and Information Agency is currently evaluating for proposals in areas of application of Blockchain technology to military logistics, procurement and finance, Internet of Things, and other applications of interest to military. The proposals have been submitted as part of the 2016 Innovation Challenge[iv] aimed at accelerating transformational, state-of-the-art technology solutions in support of NATO C4ISR and cyber capability requirements.

US DoD had raised a critical need for a secure messaging and transaction platform accessible via web browser or standalone native application. DARPA has therefore sought proposals vide SBIR 20162[v] to “ Create a secure messaging and transaction platform that separates the message creation, from the transfer (transport) and reception of the message using a decentralized messaging backbone to allow anyone anywhere the ability to send a secure message or conduct other transactions across multiple channels traceable in a decentralized ledger.”

“Whenever weapons are employed … it tends to be a place where data integrity, in general, is incredibly important,” …“So nuclear command and control, satellite command and control, information integrity is very important.”[vi]

Timothy Booher,  Blockchain program manager, DARPA

Critical Weapon Systems. DARPA has awarded a $1.8 mn contract[vii] to Galois for their Blockchain application Guardtime Keyless Signature Infrastructure KSI, to Verify Integrity Monitoring System for its potential to build a form of unhackable code for an enhanced security in critical weapon systems. KSI can detect advanced persistent threats (APTs) which work to remain hidden in networks. Galois works in the area of formal verification, which is a technique that provides mathematical assurances that a system works only as intended in all cases.


Blockchain is a promising technology. However, as is the case with all new technologies, following is relevant:

-users would have to get  used to the fact that under Blockchain technologies electronic transactions are safe, secure and complete.

-since it is in its nascent stage, scaling up presents issues which need to be resolved.

-legal frame work has to be modeled to include Blockchain technology.

-Migration of systems from existing centralized databases and systems could be tedious and expensive.