Network-Centricity for the Indian Military
The evolution of a joint structure will necessitate specifying a doctrine and addressing specific issues of sensor architecture, weapon architectures, interoperability levels and command and control structure. A phased implementation as well as war-gaming
The evolution of a joint structure will necessitate specifying a doctrine and addressing specific issues of sensor architecture, weapon architectures, interoperability levels and command and control structure.
TECHNOLOGY AND WARFARE HAVE all along had a symbiotic relationship. This also relates to network-centric warfare (NCW), albeit some mistakenly think it is purely a technological issue. NCW is only an aid and not the end in itself; a manifestation to synergise resources and bring them to bear concentrated onto the enemy. NCW is not technology alone but encompasses the gamut of emerging military response to the information age. Tenets of NCW comprise a robustly-networked force that improves information sharing, enhancing the quality of information and shared situational awareness, enabling collaboration and self-synchronisation, and enhancing sustainability and speed of command, and finally, all of these, dramatically increasing mission effectiveness. Technology, therefore, will have to be matched with a requisite vision, doctrine and structures to implement on ground. Logically, NCW would also impact the hierarchal organisational structure that we have got used to in military organisations. Shaping an organisation to meet new challenges is tough. Even with visionary leadership and motivated people, unexpected problems and even crisis can erupt. The challenge to the defence forces is thus immense and we would have to address these head on.
Typically, in the platform-centric force, shooters do not inherently own sensors and decision-makers do not inherently own shooters; platform owns weapon systems and weapons have their organic sensors. Therefore, in this type of traditional approach to warfighting, there is always disconnect between the shooter, sensors and the decision-maker. Conversely, in NCW, the decision-makers, sensors and shooters work collaboratively in response to the dynamics of the battlespace to achieve the commander’s mission. The most visible part of NCW is the focus on intelligence-based warfare, which occurs when intelligence is fed directly into operations rather than used as an input for overall command and control. As sensors grow more acute and reliable, as they proliferate in type and number and as they become capable of feeding fire control systems in real time and near real time, the task of developing, maintaining and exploiting systems that sense the battlefield assess its composition and send the results to shooters, assumes greater importance.
NCW focuses on the combat power that can be generated from the effective linking of maximum warfighting entities. It is the ability of geographically dispersed forces to create a high level of shared awareness that can be exploited for effective and efficient execution of operations. NCW has the potential to merge the tactical, operational and strategic levels of military hierarchy leading to the cohesive employment of disparate inter-services resources.
NCW implies a change in the pace of warfare. This paradigm involves shrinking of the decision-cycle which would exert additional pressures on almost all other components of the war machine, whether operational or administrative; the buzz words being self synchronisation, information dominance, information superiority, shared awareness, increased operational tempo, reduction of the observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) loop and the like.
With respect to command and control setup in the military (encompassing command and control (C2) framework, C2 process, info management, IT and telecommunications), data bearers, information bearers and the knowledge bearers will require restructuring. Establishment, maintenance and availability of the network infrastructure, backbone communication network, seamless interaction and security will be important. Establishment, maintenance and updating of data centres will be a critical component. Specific structures for handling issues of data integrity and confidentiality with clear-cut accountability and responsibility are major challenges. Change management will be critical with respect to knowledge bearers which is the domain of commanders.
The experience of the corporate has resulted in reduced levels of management, workers empowered to take decisions and few differences in responsibility due to the need for speed, lesser need for communication and control function of middle managers and the impact of globalisation. However, in the military, strategy and planning proceeds in a linear top down manner through development and then to implementation and a flat organisation that fundamentally changes the present structural paradigm. This may not be easily palatable to the traditional military. For the military, the changes as mentioned above in the corporate sector, translates into dynamic liaisons adaptively forming from operational assets without the overarching presence of higher HQ. Myriad questions like levels of autonomy, levels, amount of information to be fed, security and the like will continue to be raised.
Integration of sensors in the battlefield requires definition of the sensor architecture as it will have a bearing on hardware procurement as also the command and control structures. The definition of the architecture is essential to address issues of data fusion, especially if systems of the three services are to be integrated. Operational interoperability as also procedural issues for exchange and control of information will require addressing in case of a collaborative architecture. There would be many such practical problems that need to be looked into. The organisational structure to manage the sensor grid will have to be evolved, based on the sensor architecture that is adopted and addressing issues of command and control of these sensors. Similar issues will emerge while integrating the weapon grid. A viable option for interface between sensor and shooter platform would have to be found from a fast and responsive decision-support system. Interface yet segregate operational tactical and strategic level will pose major challenges during restructuring. The level of interoperability across the services and even within a service too needs to be defined.
Net-centricity in the Indian military has mushroomed bottom upwards. Lack of an NCW philosophy/doctrine has resulted in an ambiguous NCW architecture, which has still not been defined. Though we have doctrines for command, control, communications, computers, information, intelligence (C4I2) and information warfare (IW), these two spheres are components of NCW and do not constitute NCW by themselves. NCW must also encompass policies, strategy, concepts, military organisations and adjustments. To transform the Indian military into a NCW-capable force, we need a NCW philosophy/doctrine as the start point. Concepts of individual services should flow from a joint doctrine. This will facilitate development of coherent tri-service networked architecture. Non-integration of Headquarters Integrated Defence Services (HQ IDS) with Ministry of Defence (MoD), limited authority/operational responsibility with HQ IDS and void of a CDS have all contributed towards this.
At present, networks of the three services are not interoperable. Neither voice nor data networks nor our radio communications are interoperable to the desired degree. Each service develops networks on its own and starts thinking of interoperability at a much later stage. The defence communications network (DCN) is coming up but little progress has been made for achieving services handshake. Common standards and protocols for the three services have not been evolved. Finalising and adoption of standards and protocols, mutually compatible database structures, development/deployment of interfaces between systems using disparate platforms and commonality of hardware are challenges which need to be overcome. No single unifying secrecy algorithm for the three services has been developed. Bringing the standards and protocols of the three services on the same plane is a gigantic task that can only be solved through outsourcing, given the levels of expertise available within the services. This process is way behind and there is absence of knowledge management. In our context, this collaborative working needs to be looked at closely, not only across the services but also within each service. The command and control structures will have to cater to this collaborative working. A network-enabled environment for Indian military would be available down to operational level in a few years time. However, it is the change in mindsets and absorption of technology that is likely to take up most of the time.
To transform the Indian military into a NCW-enabled force, the essential steps would be: to evolve a network-centric operational concept to achieve a mission; define the level of interoperability across the services and within the services that is feasible/desired; define the type of architecture that is appropriate for the sensor and weapon grids; evolve a tri-service doctrine for NCW; define command and control structures designed for the network-centric environment; restructure a brigade sized
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