Kazakhstan introduces new means to forge modern 'digital military'

By Aydar Ashimov


Officers of the Astana regional command participate in distance learning in Nur-Sultan on June 10. [Ministry of Defence]

NUR-SULTAN -- The Kazakh military is working towards digitalisation by introducing online services and automated command and control systems.

Online education modules and case studies designed for the military are undergoing testing, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on June 10.

The first such online lesson took place at the Astana regional command, which includes military units serving in Akmola, Karaganda, Kostanay and North Kazakhstan provinces.

Col. Mereke Kuchekbayev, an army commander, conducted an online lesson with officers.


A slide from the online training on leadership development for officers of the Astana regional command can be seen in Nur-Sultan on June 10. [Ministry of Defence]


Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (left) discusses the modernisation of the Kazakh military with Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev in Nur-Sultan on May 25. [Ministry of Defence]

"The training modules are an innovation in training Kazakh troops. They are presented as lectures, presentations and practical exercises separately for the three categories of service members: officers, contract soldiers and conscripts," the Defence Ministry said.

In addition to military training, the system includes modules on military service safety, financial literacy, military ethics, and leadership, as well as special modules for the different service branches that account for the branches' distinctive traits, it added.

The training modules include illustrated case studies, in which participants analyse different situations that happened in real life, said the ministry. Each case study has sections aimed at developing the critical and logical thinking and management skills of the troops.

A digital military

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev during a meeting on May 25 instructed Defence Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev to "study the possibilities of military personnel obtaining additional knowledge and skills during compulsory service".

On June 3, a discussion in Nur-Sultan on computerising the armed forces took place. It involved presidential adviser Bagdat Musin, the Defence Ministry leadership, the chiefs of the service branches and the commanding officers of regional commands.

"Having started the movement to digitally modernise the military, we have already achieved certain positive results, gained experience in introducing digital technologies, and are creating the required personnel and hardware capacity," Yermekbayev said at the meeting.

"Commanders' interest and adequate funding" are necessary for the successful computerisation of the military, he said.

The military in Kazakhstan is undergoing digitalisation in three areas: participation in the implementation of the state programme "Digital Kazakhstan"; the provision of services through the e-government portal; and automation of command and control systems and the implementation of military information systems, according to the Defence Ministry.

An automated command and control system is already operating in the Kazakh air force. It uses computer systems to display the situation in the air, monitor weapon readiness, allocate targets and solve navigation problems.

This year, the Ministry of Defence is deploying a special purpose geographic information system (GIS) platform that will bring together digital cartographic data, aerospace data, infrastructure information and information about sites vulnerable to terrorism.

The armed forces are computerising themselves in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry.

Many services already have become available electronically. Recruits, officers, conscripts and contract soldiers now may obtain general ID cards, certificates of service completion and service IDs online.

Improving security

"The Kazakh military is striving to be state of the art and combat ready. Digital technologies are entering our lives, and now our personnel are taking online classes, the e-government portal is providing services, and military personnel are learning modern technologies and the basics of digital security," said Arman Bashimov, a contract soldier from Turkistan Province.

"Digitalisation requires considerable financial investment and time," said Nur-Sultan political scientist Bolatbek Isayev.

"Still, since last year, the military is actively integrating automated command and control systems and supplying the troops with modern hardware," said Isayev.

The Kazakh armed forces declared this year to be the "year of safety", he said.

"The explosion of munitions at military depots in Arys was an alarm bell," he said, referring to a blast that killed two people and left 165 injured in June 2019. "I think the use of computerised monitoring systems will increase safety at military facilities."

"It is especially important to pay attention to this in view of the potential terrorist threat," Isayev added.

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Why are ammunition depots located (have been located) in dangerous, vulnerable territories? Is there nowhere else for them?