‘The profession of arms is a ‘calling’, rather than being just a job’
Communications and electronic surveillance provide critical support in handling of counter-insurgency and terrorist operations. Lt General Nitin Kohli, Signal Officer-in-Chief and Colonel Commandant, Indian Army, in an interview with SP’s Land Forces, gav
SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): Can you define the role and give out the charter of duties of the Corps of Signals?
Lt General Nitin Kohli (SO-in-C): The Corps of Signals as “Information Warriors” are responsible for providing telecommunication and information connectivity to the Indian Army. It has also been charged with the responsibility of providing substantive communication support to the Indian Air Force and Navy. The Corps, based on these requirements, is the key enabler of the transformation process of Indian Army towards net-centricity. SP’s: The challenge today is to achieve successful integration of sensors, shooters and the decision-makers, thereby enabling a dynamic, reliable and secure operational decision loop. How far have we achieved this capability? Where we are as far as network-centricity is concerned?
It seems that the Air Force and the Navy are far ahead in this field. May we have your observations and comments on this vital issue?
SO-in-C: Net-centricity in functioning of the Indian Army is the ultimate goal given by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). This is to be achieved in three stages. We have already completed the stages of “networking” and “net enabling” the Indian Army. Various applications to achieve the desired
net-centricity in functioning are under development. These will facilitate availability of the networks at both the sensor and shooter end in real time. SP’s: Will the Indian Army’s present communications allow it the flexibility required for future operational settings both conventional and fourth-generation wars? SO-in-C: I am confident that the Corps of Signals is ready to meet all the challenges of a conventional or futuristic war.
SP’s: What is your vision for the Corps of Signals?
SO-in-C: The vision of the Corps of Signals is to attain and maintain information ascendancy by developing a robust and secure information infrastructure to cater to the network-centric warfare in the digitised battlefield of future times.
SP’s: Software defined radio ( SDR) is receiving enormous recognition and generating widespread interest in the telecommunication industry and in the military. What is your view on it?
SO-in-C: SDR is one of the best technological advancements in the field of electronics and IT which will be adequately harnessed by the armed forces in the near future. It offers a host of benefits such as standard architecture for a wide range of communication products, uniform communication across various users, significant cost reduction, over the air downloads of features and services, advanced networking capabilities, etc. SDR development is an extremely complex process.
‘Interoperability between the three services has always been high on the agenda of all commanders’
The proposed SDR will also have the requisite waveforms to integrate with the existing legacy systems.
SP’s: Can you give out the mobile and offensive communication needs of the Army and how are these being met?
SO-in-C: Tactical battlefield, characterised by high mobility, is intense and dynamic in nature. Current and futuristic needs require robust, reliable, flexible, scalable, secure, seamless and highly available communications at the tactical level.
At present the requirement of mobile and offensive communication is being met by combat net radio (CNR) and army radio engineered network (AREN). Fibre network has also reached the forward edge of our operational locations to handle the high bandwidth communication needs of the field formations. SP’s: What are the developments envisaged in combat net radio? SO-in-C: Combat net radio is the cutting edge communication in tactical battle area. The Corps of Signals is always thinking ahead of ways to usher in state-of-the-art communication technologies to empower the soldier. Our focus is to bring about a paradigm shift in exploiting radio technologies with versatile features.
SP’s: How is the interoperability being ensured between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and other concerned civil agencies, in the absence of integrated development of communications?
SO-in-C: Interoperability between the three services has always been high on the agenda of all commanders. This has been given due importance through an important strategic network which will connect important tri services locations across India to provide common fabric for communication and information requirements. This project is under implementation and its completion would form the bedrock of interoperability between the three services.
SP’s: With both China and Pakistan being so active in the field of cyber warfare what steps are being taken to ensure cyber security in the Army’s communication networks?
SO-in-C: In the cyber domain, threats are continuously evolving and the race between security system designers and those who want to exploit weaknesses is ever prevalent. The only viable option is to plug the weaknesses by being proactive. We are constantly evaluating our security threats and plugging the loopholes on almost daily basis. Organisations with requisite resources are in place with well-defined charter and standard operating procedures (SOPs). The triad of “people, processes and technologies” is being effectively implemented to achieve the desired end towards securing our networks.
SP’s: What are your roles in low intensity conflict like terrorism and insurgencies?
SO-in-C: Communications and electronic surveillance provide critical support in handling of counter-insurgency and terrorist operations. These roles have been addressed by the Corps of Signals in the areas where low-intensity conflict and counter-insurgency operations are being prosecuted.
We have established an Army owned pilot mobile cellular system which has proved to be a great force multiplier in providing real time information to our ground teams operating in inaccessible areas during the conduct of counter-insurgency operations.
Close electronic warfare support is being provided to Special Forces in low-intensity conflict in all the sectors. Electronic warfare system supporting LIC have been tailormade for the specific nature of the conflict with the aim to giving intimate electronic warfare coverage. SP’s: What are the developments for dominating electromagnetic spectrum in future wars? Are we acquiring state-of-the-art equipment in the field of electronic warfare? Are our systems capable of conducting static and mobile operations? SO-in-C: Capability is being acquired to dominate ever wider range or the electromagnetic spectrum over greater stretches