ISR: The Es­sen­tial Force-Mul­ti­plier

We are in a state of per­pet­ual con­flict, which has be­come a global phe­nom­e­non with many na­tions en­gaged in asym­met­ric wars. The new war par­a­digm de­mands in­te­grated and net­worked de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tems with space, land, sur­face and sub-sur­face sen­sors wi


IN­TEL­LI­GENCE, SUR­VEIL­LANCE AND RE­CON­NAIS­SANCE (ISR) is the co­or­di­nated and in­te­grated ac­qui­si­tion, pro­cess­ing and pro­vi­sion of timely, ac­cu­rate, rel­e­vant, co­her­ent and as­sured in­for­ma­tion and in­tel­li­gence to sup­port com­man­der’s con­duct of ac­tiv­i­ties. Land, sea, air and space plat­forms have crit­i­cal ISR roles in sup­port­ing op­er­a­tions in gen­eral. ISR en­com­passes mul­ti­ple ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the plan­ning and op­er­a­tion of sys­tems that col­lect process and dis­sem­i­nate data in sup­port of cur­rent and fu­ture mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. By mass­ing ISR as­sets, al­low­ing a pe­riod of im­mer­sion, de­velop-

ing lay­er­ing and cross cue­ing of sen­sors, an im­proved clar­ity and depth of knowl­edge can be es­tab­lished.


The sources of in­tel­li­gence are mul­ti­fac­eted that en­com­pass hu­man in­tel­li­gence ( HUMIINT), tech­ni­cal in­tel­li­gence (TECHINT), sig­nal in­tel­li­gence (SIG­INT), open source in­tel­li­gence (OSINT), etc—all cu­mu­lat­ing into all source in­tel­li­gence. The ad­van­tages of HUMINT at the strate­gic, op­er­a­tional and tac­ti­cal lev­els are not very well un­der­stood. It is well known that when I.K. Gu­jral was the Prime Min­is­ter, the gov­ern­ment had banned de­ploy­ment of HUMINT sources trans-bor­der. Iron­i­cally, suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments did not re­verse this de­ci­sion and so HUMINT has been mori­bund in In­dia ever since giv­ing au­to­matic ad­van­tage to our ad­ver­saries. Even the De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency (DIA), which has a man­date to op­er­ate trans-bor­der hu­man sources is de­nied per­mis­sion to do so and is di­rected to rely solely on TECHINT.

Re­liance on TECHINT alone is wholly in­ad­e­quate. The Amer­i­cans re­alised this and the US Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency (CIA) was taken com­pletely by sur­prise when the Pokhran II tests hap­pened. That is the rea­son their Spe­cial Forces and prox­ies have been op­er­at­ing in Iran for the past eight years. We are un­wisely spend­ing crores of ru­pees on TECHINT while spend­ing rel­a­tively noth­ing on HUMINT. This is the rea­son we are un­able to strate­gise and cope with ir­reg­u­lar and asym­met­ric threats—both na­tional and transna­tional.

At the na­tional level, the Multi Agency Cen­tre (MAC), the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Grid (NATGRID) and the Na­tional Counter Ter­ror­ism Cen­tre (NCTC) are ef­forts to syn­er­gise in­tel­li­gence even though NCTC has not earned con­sen­sus be­cause of gen­uine fears by states of the Cen­tre mis­us­ing its pow­ers. In mil­i­tary terms, ac­qui­si­tion of in­tel­li­gence or in­for­ma­tion will de­pend on a plethora of sen­sors in­clud­ing HUMINT, pro­cess­ing it speed­ily and dis­sem­i­nat­ing it in real time or near real time at re­quired lev­els.

Sur­veil­lance and Re­con­nais­sance

Sur­veil­lance is the mon­i­tor­ing of the ac­tiv­i­ties and the chang­ing in­for­ma­tion on ground. It is es­sen­tial in terms of own re­sponse par­tic­u­larly in view of tele­scoped time frames needed for de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Sur­veil­lance has many ap­pli­ca­tions from the op­er­a­tional and strate­gic to the tac­ti­cal level. To­day, com­put­ers, tele­phones, cam­eras, so­cial net­work anal­y­sis, bio­met­rics, aerial means, satel­lites, hu­mans, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of cre­den­tials, global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem (GPS) and a host of other de­vices are all be­ing used for sur­veil­lance.

Re­con­nais­sance is the mil­i­tary term for ex­plor­ing be­yond the area oc­cu­pied by friendly forces to gain vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about enemy forces or fea­tures of the en­vi­ron­ment for later anal­y­sis and/or dis­sem­i­na­tion.

In the mil­i­tary, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (SR) en­com­passes binoc­u­lars, long-range de­vices like spo­to­scopes, night vi­sion de­vices, weapon sights, HHTIs, radars of all types, un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) and mi­cro air ve­hi­cles (MAVs), aerial, sur­face and sub-sur­face plat­forms and satel­lites. The Army is mov­ing to­wards bet­ter sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion equip­ment.

Why ISR?

In­for­ma­tion is col­lected on the bat­tle­field through sys­tem­atic ob­ser­va­tion by de­ployed sol­diers and a va­ri­ety of elec­tronic sen­sors. Sur­veil­lance, tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and re­con­nais­sance are meth­ods of ob­tain­ing this in­for­ma­tion. This is im­por­tant as it recog­nises the im­por­tance of tak­ing the in­for­ma­tion from all of the sen­sors and pro­cess­ing it into use­ful knowl­edge. The in­tel­li­gence data pro­vided by th­ese ISR sys­tems can take many forms, in­clud­ing op­ti­cal, radar, in­frared im­ages or elec­tronic sig­nals. Ef­fec­tive ISR data can pro­vide early warn­ing of enemy threats as well as en­able mil­i­tary forces to in­crease ef­fec­tive­ness, co­or­di­na­tion, and lethal­ity, and the de­mand for ISR ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sup­port on­go­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions has in­creased.


We are in a state of per­pet­ual con­flict, which has be­come a global phe­nom­e­non with many na­tions en­gaged in asym­met­ric wars. The new war par­a­digm de­mands in­te­grated and net­worked de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tems with space, land, sur­face and sub­sur­face sen­sors with state-of-the-art weapons and equip­ment whose po­ten­tial re­quires op­ti­mum util­i­sa­tion and syn­ergy to in­flict max­i­mum dam­age on the enemy. The key to suc­cess will lie in at­tain­ing higher lev­els of net-cen­tric­ity; ef­fec­tive com­mand and con­trol across the force; an ac­cel­er­ated de­ci­sion­ac­tion cy­cle; and an abil­ity to con­duct syn­er­gised op­er­a­tions si­mul­ta­ne­ously within the de­fence and se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment. Com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, in­tel­li­gence, in­for­ma­tion, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4I2SR) sys­tems act as im­por­tant force mul­ti­pli­ers for com­man­ders at all lev­els. We need C4I2SR to cre­ate pos­i­tive asym­met­ri­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties and com­pre­hen­sive com­pet­i­tive edge over ad­ver­saries.

Mil­i­tary Scene

The In­dian mil­i­tary is ex­pected to in­duct radars worth over $8.5 bil­lion in the next decade. Var­i­ous in­dige­nous de­vel­op­men­tal projects for radars and as­so­ci­ated equip­ment as well as in­ter­na­tional ac­qui­si­tions are tak­ing place. In­dige­nous projects in­clude de­vel­op­ment of ac­tive elec­tron­i­cally scanned ar­ray (AESA) radar to be fit­ted on the pro­posed LCA MK II as well as a unique ‘Through Wall Imaging Radar’, both be­ing de­vel­oped by the Elec­tron­ics and Radar De­vel­op­ment Es­tab­lish­ment (LRDE), Ben­galuru. In­dia has ini­ti­ated in­te­gra­tion of the in­dige­nously­built air­borne early warn­ing and con­trol (AEW&C) sys­tem with the Brazil­ian Em­braer EMB-145 air­craft which In­dia is ac­quir­ing. The EMB-145I air­craft has been mod­i­fied to carry the In­dian-made ac­tive ar­ray an­tenna unit (AAAU) mounted atop the plane’s fuse­lage. In ad­di­tion, new gen­er­a­tion of mul­ti­func­tion radars which can be in­te­grated with any weapon sys­tem to pro­vide sur­veil­lance, early warn­ing, in­ter­cep­tion guid­ance and raid as­sess­ment are also be­ing de­vel­oped. Th­ese in­clude a medium-power radar (Aru­dra), a low-level trans­portable 150-kilo­me­tre radar and a syn­thetic aper­ture radar. Th­ese radars will be broad so that they can be in­te­grated into any weapons sys­tem.

DRDO is also de­vel­op­ing 3D radar sys­tems: the Cen­tral Ac­qui­si­tion Radar (CAR) for use with Akash SAMs; “Ro­hini” radar is the In­dian Air Force (IAF) vari­ant and the “Re­vathi” is for the In­dian Navy. A third vari­ant, known as the 3D tac­ti­cal con­trol radar for the In­dian Army is also be­ing man­u­fac­tured. The US de­fence and aero­space ma­jor Raytheon is also talk­ing to the IAF re­gard­ing air­borne sur­veil­lance and re­con-

nais­sance radars that would be used along In­dia’s bor­ders. Raytheon has re­ceived two re­quests for in­for­ma­tion (RFIs) from the IAF but In­dia has not de­cided whether to go for an AESA sys­tem or a me­chan­i­cally scanned ar­range­ment. Mean­while, the In­dian Navy has is­sued a RFI for 3D radars to en­hance the sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­ity of war­ships. The 3D radars will be de­ployed on ships more than 3,000 tonnes to pro­vide 360-de­gree sur­veil­lance to de­tect air­craft, he­li­copters and in­com­ing anti-ship mis­siles.

No new radars and UAVs have been in­ducted by the In­dian Army. The move to iden­tify and in­duct MAVs, that have al­ready emerged as ver­i­ta­ble force mul­ti­pli­ers in other ar­mies, has not pro­gressed much pre­dom­i­nantly since the In­fantry has been fo­cused more on the Fu­tur­is­tic In­fantry Sol­dier As a Sys­tem (F-IN­SAS). Mean­while, the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) is de­sign­ing a range of MAVs (Black Kite, Golden Hawk and Pushpak al­ready de­vel­oped). There are in­dige­nous prod­ucts in the mar­ket like the ‘Ne­tra’ by Idea Forge, a spi­der-like MAV suited for all types of op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism and counter-in­sur­gency, and the MAV with an in­frared sen­sor de­vel­oped by the Aurora In­te­grated Sys­tem.

With re­spect to C4I2SR, the mil­i­tary has yet to evolve a NCW doc­trine which should have been the start point to de­velop the NCW ar­chi­tec­ture. Non-merger of HQ In­te­grated De­fence Staff (IDS) into the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD), lack of op­er­a­tional au­thor­ity of for­mer and void of a Chief of De­fence Staff (CDS) have con­trib­uted to this. Nei­ther voice or data net­works nor ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the ser­vices are in­ter­op­er­a­ble to the de­sired de­gree. Ra­dio sets dif­fer in their fre­quency bands, wave forms and se­crecy al­go­rithms. Net­works of the three ser­vices do not talk to each other. Com­mon stan­dards and pro­to­cols, mu­tu­ally com­pat­i­ble data­base struc­tures, de­vel­op­ment/de­ploy­ment of in­ter­faces be­tween sys­tems us­ing dis­parate plat­forms and com­mon­al­ity of hard­ware have not com­menced. Ser­vices can­not ex­change in­di­vid­ual UAV pic­tures and Air Force pic­ture does not come di­rectly into Army’s Op­er­a­tions Rooms. No com­mon se­crecy al­go­rithm has been de­vel­oped. Re­quire­ment of a mil­i­tary satel­lite was first pro­jected by the Navy and later by the Army and Air Force. Ad­e­quate band­width is at pre­mium. Mil­i­tary’s project, de­fence com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work (DCN), strate­gi­cally con­nect­ing the Corps Head­quar­ters of the Army and equiv­a­lents of sis­ter ser­vices, Strate­gic Forces Com­mand and HQ IDS, has been awarded to HCL In­fos­ys­tems in early 2013 for de­vel­op­ment over two years. How­ever, the project does not in­clude de­vel­op­ment of req­ui­site soft­ware; im­ply­ing that the ser­vices and HQ IDS re­quire de­vel­op­ing soft­ware in­di­vid­u­ally with at­ten­dant in­ter­op­er­abil­ity prob­lems.

While the gov­ern­ment has failed to ap­point a CDS, the ser­vices have failed to es­tab­lish In­te­grated The­atre Com­mands and In­te­grated Func­tional Com­mands. Void of an En­ter­prise GIS is glar­ing. Mil­i­tary sur­vey prod­ucts are pri­mar­ily Google-based maps that hardly mea­sure up to mil­i­tary re­quire­ments; 30 years be­hind meet­ing rou­tine map­ping re­quire­ments and large-scale map­ping vi­tal for op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion sys­tems (OIS) not done at all. De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency is the cen­tral re­pos­i­tory for all in­tel­li­gence in­puts per­tain­ing to the three ser­vices but we are yet to in­te­grate the as­pects of to­pog­ra­phy with DIA. Within the ex­ist­ing setup, ad­e­quate re­sources in terms of re­mote sens­ing, ELINT pay­loads and car­tog­ra­phy are not avail­able to pro­duce high qual­ity fused data. A de­fence spatial data in­fra­struc­ture (DSDI) is per­haps decades away.

The Army’s pri­mary fo­cal points for NCW are the tac­ti­cal com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion (Tac C3I) sys­tem and the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem (TCS) aside from the man­age­ment in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (MIS) and GIS. Tac C3I sys­tem pro­vid­ing up­ward con­nec­tiv­ity up to Corps HQ level com­prises the ar­tillery com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem (ACCCS), air de­fence con­trol and re­port­ing sys­tem (ADC&RS), bat­tle­field sur­veil­lance sys­tem (BSS), bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) and the com­mand in­for­ma­tion de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tem (CIDSS), lat­ter in­te­grat­ing all. Tac C3I will also in­te­grate the elec­tronic war­fare sys­tem (EWS) and elec­tronic in­tel­li­gence sys­tem (ELINT) but this is dis­tant in the ab­sence of com­mon stan­dards, struc­tures, ex­change for­mats and pro­to­cols. Up­ward con­nec­tiv­ity from Corps HQ to Army HQ level is to be pro­vided through the army strate­gic op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion sys­tem (ASTROIDS) sanc­tioned in 1995 with In­sti­tute of Sys­tem Stud­ies and Anal­y­sis (ISSA), DRDO, as the de­vel­op­ment agency, but has been re­cently fore­closed lack­ing req­ui­site soft­ware and faulty se­cu­rity over­lay. RFI for a fresh project is un­der prepa­ra­tion.

Field­ing of the CIDSS pan-Army will likely take another seven-eight years. Be­ing the hub of the Tac C3I, this will de­lay any mea­sure of net-cen­tric ca­pa­bil­ity in the Army. De­vel­op­ment of the BSS too has been un­duly de­layed since it is linked with the ap­pli­ca­tion of the CIDSS un­der de­vel­op­ment. Con­tract for the ADC&RS was signed with BEL in March 2008 but the test bed is yet to ma­te­ri­alise. Ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est (EoI) in re­spect of Army’s bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem is likely to be is­sued shortly.

The TCS, ap­proved by suc­ces­sive De­fence Min­is­ters in past should have been fielded in 2000. Cur­rently, the Bharat Elec­tron­ics Ltd (BEL) and a con­sor­tium of L&T, Tata Power SED and HCL In­fosys Ltd have re­port­edly been se­lected by the gov­ern­ment. Both se­lected par­ties will make the pro­to­type sys­tems and the best bid­der will then ex­e­cute the whole project. The Army also needs to fo­cus on the hu­man re­sources re­quire­ments for NCW. Aside from ex­am­in­ing need for an IT cadre, niche ar­eas like in cy­ber se­cu­rity and soft­ware de­vel­op­ment need long tenures that are lack­ing to­day.

Need for Ef­fi­cient C4I2SR Sys­tem

While the Army, Navy and Air Force are en­hanc­ing re­spec­tive ISR ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in terms of mil­i­tary’s NCW ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we have not pro­gressed much be­yond tak­ing spo­radic ini­tial steps. Tri-Ser­vice syn­ergy is largely lack­ing. The Navy and Air Force have pro­gressed with re­gard to in­tra-ser­vice NCW ca­pa­bil­i­ties but the Army will take another decade-and-a-half to two decades to build re­quired ca­pac­ity. What we need is an ef­fi­cient C4I2SR sys­tem.


Elec­tronic war­fare jam­mer

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