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THE GLOBAL REVOLUTION IN MILITARY AFFAIRS AND COMBAT EFFECTIVENESS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS FOR THE NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Weapons technology has progressed within the last century. Munitions can now be delivered with unprecedented precision; surveillance and reconnaissance systems can provide amazingly detailed information about hostile forces, structures and locations. A combination of data analysis and distribution systems can allow this information to be rapidly exploited. Most military analysts agree that the advances in military technology require a fundamental reappraisal and revision of operational concepts to ensure that full advantage is exploited. This combination of technological advances and revisions in operational concepts represents a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).1
RMA is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies. This leads to dramatic changes in military doctrine, operational and organisational concepts. It will fundamentally alter the character and conduct of military operations.2 Such revolutions have occurred many times in history for a variety of reasons. The most obvious cause is the technological thrust which started with the industrial age. The invention of gun powder, the steam engine, submarine, internal combustion engine, aeroplane, aircraft carrier and the atom bomb are some of the most obvious innovations which led to changes in the conduct of modern warfare.
Some of these technological advances originated in the civil sector. Other forms of RMA were brought about by social military revolutions such as the development of railways, which enabled military forces to be moved and supplied over great distances.4 RMA has changed the spectrum of warfare in today’s dynamic battle space. The effect has been demonstrated in recent wars after WW II. The Gulf war was characterised by digital battle fields with state-of-the-art Precision Guided Missiles (PGMs), cruise missiles and an exceptional display of air power among others.
Advances in technology have created a global environment with relatively unrestricted flow of information. Thus there is now a gradual shift from the centre of gravity of traditional methods of force and means of combat towards non-traditional methods, including information. The ability to access the right information at the right time has made tremendous impact on command and control. Nowadays, information communications technology (ICT) tools are becoming real weapons, not just in a metaphoric sense but in the direct sense as well.5 The drivers of the current RMA are the PGMs, sensors, fibre optics and the miniaturisation of microchips, global positioning systems (GPS), satellite technologies and simulators. These are all products of ICT and components of network-centric warfare (NCW). Therefore, the appropriateness of information could make a difference in the outcome of a war.6
The pace of technological advancement is unprecedented. In the past, technological advancement was either contingent on or catalyzed by military needs, but today, technological innovations seem to dictate the ways and means of war fighting.7 Developing countries therefore, need to cope with this wave of change and its challenges. Developing countries like Egypt, Brazil and South Africa have some advantages. They possess an appreciable level of technology and a strong defence industrial base which can match some of the challenges. This is due to the adaptation of technology available to their peculiar environments. Nigeria, in view of her low defence industrial base, needs to examine the options available. Modern technology is having an overwhelming influence on the world and one is either part of it or prey to it.8 This is pertinent if Nigeria must become relevant in the global RMA in order to be effective in modern warfare.
The next few decades could pose both political and military challenges to Nigeria.10 These challenges are occasioned by the quest to have a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, regional power posture and Nigeria’s frontline role in the cooperation and integration of Africa. The unavoidable characteristics of the environment in which the Nigerian Armed Forces could fight in the future dictate that her forces should be structured to face such challenges. Since globalization has united the world into one village, the employment of the Nigerian Armed Forces will not be limited to the West African arena alone. Today, internal conflicts within one state are easily made international by global media coverage and many nations are quickly drawn into them.11
The situation in the Nigerian Armed Forces is that there has been scanty and uncoordinated acquisition of modern platforms, weapons systems and equipment. Consequently, some of those in the inventory are either becoming or are already obsolete. Others have become degraded by long usage and poor maintenance. Furthermore, strategies and processes for upgrading them are not clearly defined due to lack of defined policies from the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The situation is further compounded by the competition for resources by other sectors of the economy in addition to the defence sector.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In the Nigerian Armed Forces today, the development of technology facilities is at a rudimentary state. Thus, were the Nigerian military to witness for example, an information warfare attack on its ICT facilities it would face severe challenges. Equally worrisome is the dearth of modern platforms, weapons systems, equipment and the absence of appropriate policies to address the problem. The situation is further compounded by the paucity of funds and a low level of national technological and industrial base.
The Nigerian Armed Forces since its inception starting with the Nigerian Army (NA) in 1883 has participated in both internal and external operations in the fulfilment of its constitutional roles. However, the degraded and obsolete status of the fighting equipment in its inventory has affected its fighting capability. In view of the role of the Nigerian Armed Forces to achieve the objectives of the National Defence Policy, it would be important to discover how the Nigerian Armed Forces could keep pace with trends in global RMA. It would also be important to learn how the RMA can enhance combat effectiveness. This is what generated the researcher’s interest in the study. It is against this background, that the study seeks to answer the following questions:
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