Armed forces want officers to be hi-tech warriors after B Tech degrees

NEW DELHI: Cyborgs like “Terminators”, or even “Ironman” for that matter, may still figure only in the realm of fiction or reel life. But with modern day warfare becoming more and more technology-intensive, the Indian armed forces want to be prepared for battles of the future.

So, with the aim to induct “high-tech” warriors for digitised and network-centric battlefields in the years ahead, the 1.5 million strong armed forces are now slowly but steadily making it mandatory for its new officers to be engineering graduates.

With long-range unmanned combat drones akin to fighter jets, directed-energy weapons like lasers and high-powered microwaves, complex ballistic missile defences, hypersonic missiles, cyber-warfare and the like increasingly becoming the norm, the forces desperately need “tech-savvy” officers at all levels.

First, it was the Navy that kicked off the B Tech programme for its cadets who join the tri-Service National Defence Academy (NDA) in Kadakwasla (Pune) after Class XII. And now, the IAF has also made it “compulsory” for all its cadets at the NDA, while the Army has left it as “optional” for now, say officials.

B Tech in applied electronics and engineering was launched for naval cadets at the NDA from the June 2016 course onwards. It began for IAF cadets from January 2017, while the one for the Army cadets is planned to commence from the coming December course onwards.

Around 350-400 cadets join the NDA after clearing the UPSC exam and SSB (Services Selection Board) interviews every six months for the three-year course. “Cadets, apart from undergoing military training and learning leadership skills, used to complete their BSc degree in the three years at NDA till now,” said a senior officer.

“Now, they will do three years of the B Tech programme at NDA, without impacting their core military training, and do the fourth year at their respective Army, Navy and IAF academies,” he added.

The Navy was the first service to ensure all its new officers were armed with B Tech degrees, or at least an MSc (applied electronics) degree, because of the unprecedented expansion in warship technology, with state-of-the-art weapon and sensor systems coming into play, as was first reported by TOI.

The force has now also taken to short-listing candidates for its direct 10+2 cadet-entry scheme for the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala (Kerala) on the basis of the performances in the Joint Entrance Exam (Main).

The IAF, too, is looking into the future now. “While flying skills are very important, technical skills will give the fighter pilots the edge they need to vanquish rivals. Fourth and fifth-generation fighter jets are, in any case, very complex flying machines,” said an officer.

 With cyberspace and space also emerging as the new frontiers of warfare, apart from the traditional ones of land, sea and air, the armed forces are also trying to build dedicated cadres of information technology experts. Cyber-weapons, after all, can cripple a country’s strategic networks and energy grids, banking and communication, and even sabotage its nuclear programme.

Source: Times Of India

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