‘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

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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

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