A Case for De­vel­op­ing Con­cept Driven Plat­forms

Armies who de­sign weapons to suit their op­er­a­tional con­cepts and ter­rain are what may be termed as con­cept driven armies

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Ma­jor Gen­eral R.P. Bhad­ran (Retd)

Armies who de­sign weapons to suit their op­er­a­tional con­cepts and ter­rain are what may be termed as con­cept driven armies.

HIS­TOR­I­CALLY, DE­VEL­OP­ING COUN­TRIES, DE­PEN­DANT on im­ported weapons, have been seek­ing af­ford­able tech­nolo­gies and adapt­ing their tac­ti­cal con­cepts to best lever­age the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the weapon. This has been, and con­tin­ues to be, the prac­tice uni­ver­sally, in­clud­ing in In­dia. Clas­si­cal ex­am­ple of such in­stances are the con­ver­sion of the In­dian Ar­moured Corps from the vin­tage T-55 tanks to the rel­a­tively so­phis­ti­cated T-72s and sub­se­quently to the T-90s. Armies of such na­tions can be termed as tech­nol­ogy driven armies, i.e. they adapt their op­er­a­tional con­cepts to the tech­no­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties of their weapons.

Con­cept Driven Plat­forms

De­vel­oped na­tions, on the other hand, have been de­sign­ing weapons to suit their op­er­a­tional con­cepts and ter­rain. The UDES se­ries of tank de­stroy­ers de­vel­oped by Swe­den, T se­ries of tanks by Rus­sia, etc, ex­em­plify this ap­proach. Swe­den has bor­ders which are thickly forested and so they re­quire a highly ma­noeu­vrable plat­form that can me­an­der past the dense tree lines. The erst­while USSR, on the other hand, had the con­cept of mass em­ploy­ment of tanks in bat­tle and as such ac­cu­racy of weapon of in­di­vid­ual tanks was not cru­cial – sur­viv­abil­ity, to a rea­son­able de­gree, was as­sured through mo­bil­ity and low sil­hou­ette. Armies of this kind are what may be termed as con­cept driven armies.

‘Make’ Cat­e­gory in DPP

Nearly a decade ago, the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia ush­ered in the ‘ Make’ cat­e­gory of ac­qui­si­tions in the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP). Over a pe­riod of time, the ‘Make’ pro­ce­dure (Chap­ter 3 of DPP) has un­der­gone nu­mer­ous changes and re­fine­ments in the hands of ex­pert com­mit­tees. The spirit be­hind the ‘Make’ pro­ce­dure is to cus­tom de­velop mil­i­tary hard­ware to suit the con­cepts of the In­dian armed forces (as ar­tic­u­lated through a Ser­vices Qual­i­ta­tive Re­quire­ment). Keep­ing in mind the level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion of mil­i­tary sys­tems, in­dus­try is al­lowed to have con­sid­er­able im­port con­tent in th­ese sys­tems – up to 70 per cent; at least in the ini­tial pro­to­types. The stress there­fore is not on in­dige­nous tech­nol­ogy per se, but on putting all th­ese tech­nolo­gies to­gether to meet the as­pi­ra­tions of the armed forces.

While there have been no tak­ers yet in the Navy and the Air Force for projects un­der the ‘Make’ cat­e­gory, the Army has been proac­tive in this re­spect. The Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tem (TCS) and the Battlefield Man­age­ment Sys­tem (BMS) projects are al­ready in the anvil with the par­tic­i­pat­ing in­dus­try con­sor­tiums. A few months ago, the Army went fur­ther and is­sued the ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est (EOI) for de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of a fu­tur­is­tic infantry com­bat ve­hi­cle—the maiden ven­ture of the armed forces to ac­quire a weapon plat­form un­der the ‘Make’ cat­e­gory. Ear­lier it had pub­lished a re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for a fu­ture ready com­bat ve­hi­cle (FRCV). If the in­dus­try is suc­cess­ful in giv­ing shape to ei­ther, if not both, it will be a turn­ing point in the coun­try’s ef­forts to at­tain self-reliance in mil­i­tary hard­ware.

How to Con­vey the User Re­quire­ments to the In­dus­try

Un­for­tu­nately, nei­ther the EOI nor the RFI nor for that mat­ter the Pre­lim­i­nary Ser­vices Qual­i­ta­tive Re­quire­ments (PSQR) man­age to con­vey the re­quire­ments in a com­pre­hen­sive man­ner to the unini­ti­ated in­dus­try body. The true as­pi­ra­tions of the ser­vices are buried be­neath a ver­bose ar­tic­u­la­tion of ‘Op­er­a­tional Re­quire­ments’ the im­port of which the in­dus­try has no idea. Ham­strung thus, the in­dus­try fo­cuses solely on the ‘Tech­ni­cal Char­ac­ter­is­tics’ where the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of in­di­vid­ual sys­tems are de­scribed. ‘Em­pow­ered’ with this lat­ter in­puts alone, the in­dus­try goes about on a hunt­ing ex­pe­di­tion to seek out suit­able for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tors who can of­fer sys­tems which match the tech­ni­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics. This leads to a col­lec­tion of dis­parate sys­tems which are oner­ously in­te­grated with the at­ten­dant re­li­a­bil­ity and fidelity is­sues; yet fail­ing to meet the user as­pi­ra­tions. User as­pi­ra­tions are not met through in­te­gra­tion of dis­parate sys­tems, but through adap­ta­tion of ap­pli­ca­ble tech­nolo­gies to meet the op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments of the armed forces.

For ex­am­ple, in this era of au­ton­o­mous, con­nected cars, would it be ex­pe­di­ent to in­cor­po­rate semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing in our com­bat plat­forms as a fea­ture and there­after even con­nect th­ese plat­forms though the BMS? Here we are look­ing at adapt­ing avail­able tech­nol­ogy rather than in­te­grat­ing sys­tems. The pos­i­tive fallout of such a fa­cil­ity is in en­hanc­ing crew en­durance dur­ing sus­tained com­bat. Sim­i­larly, could we have in­de­pen­dent con­trols for the gun and mis­sile of the FICV, with the fa­cil­ity for the gun­ner and com­man­der to en­gage tar­gets in­de­pen­dent of each other? If im­ple­mented, the fire­power com­po­nent of the FICV would be en­hanced sig­nif­i­cantly.

Vi­a­bil­ity of Us­ing Newer Ma­te­ri­als

We could also ex­am­ine the vi­a­bil­ity of us­ing newer ma­te­ri­als which are find­ing ap­pli­ca­tion as ar­mour in many other fields, like graphene. Ex­per­i­ments show that the abil­ity of graphene to dis­perse the ki­netic en­ergy of a pro­jec­tile is far su­pe­rior to fi­breep­oxy ma­te­ri­als. Con­trolled lay­er­ing of graphene sheets could lead to light­weight, en­ergy-ab­sorb­ing ma­te­ri­als.

The po­ten­tial of avail­able tech­nolo­gies for adap­ta­tion as above can be re­alised only through in­ti­mate in­ter­ac­tion with the user com­mu­nity to know their mind. There­fore, in or­der to take for­ward the ‘Make’ projects as a vi­able and sus­tain­able ven­ture, both par­ties — the armed forces and the in­dus­try — have to reach out to each other, be­yond the for­mal podi­ums, and understand each other’s as­pi­ra­tions, con­cerns and con­straints. In­dus­try must strive to com­pre­hend the true im­port of the con­tents of the ‘op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments’ ar­tic­u­lated in the PSQR and EOI rather than ig­nor­ing this sec­tion al­to­gether just be­cause it didn’t make sense on first read­ing. For ex­am­ple, a state­ment like “72 hours of con­tin­u­ous day and night op­er­a­tion” in the con­text of a weapon plat­form leads to much more than pro­vid­ing a good night sight and large quan­ti­ties of fuel to in­crease the en­durance. The state­ment has de­sign im­pli­ca­tions on er­gonomics, au­to­mo­tive sys­tems, task shar­ing fea­tures for crew mem­bers, level of au­to­ma­tion in each sys­tem, etc.

Strive for a Bal­anced Sys­tem Con­fig­u­ra­tion

The armed forces on their part would do well to fo­cus on the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents of a bal­anced sys­tem con­fig­u­ra­tion than an ideal sys­tem in­cor­po­rat­ing the best in each of the in­di­vid­ual sub­sys­tems. Tak­ing the ex­am­ple of the com­bat plat­form it­self, the chal­lenge, as all would agree, is in ar­riv­ing at a bal­anced de­sign with op­ti­mum fire­power, pro­tec­tion and mo­bil­ity. So far, the weigh­tage for each has been a mat­ter of in­di­vid­ual’s per­cep­tion rather than a sci­en­tific as­sess­ment. How­ever, to­day, we could have com­put­erised an­a­lyt­i­cal war-gam­ing mod­els to sim­u­late com­bat sit­u­a­tions and ar­rive at far more ob­jec­tive as­sess­ment of the rel­a­tive im­por­tance of th­ese car­di­nal fac­tors. What is more, th­ese val­ues could be iden­ti­fied separately for dif­fer­ent ter­rain con­di­tions and threat as­sess­ment. In fact, a soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tion of this type will help us de­fine the con­tours of the FRCV; whether it is vi­able, and if so, how many man­i­fes­ta­tions it may as­sume to meet the end-user re­quire­ment. Sim­i­lar an­a­lyt­ics could be un­der­taken for other sys­tems and weapons as well.

In con­clu­sion, it must be noted that cap­i­tal projects of the na­ture un­der­taken un­der the ‘Make’ cat­e­gory have long ges­ta­tion. Look­ing at sub­sys­tems in iso­la­tion would be a mis­take one should con­sciously avoid. It would be ad­vis­able to look at tech­nol­ogy trends and an­a­lyse those trends to iden­tify the take­aways for the sys­tems un­der de­vel­op­ment rather than buy­ing off the sys­tem it­self.

Ex­per­i­ments show that the abil­ity of graphene to dis­perse the ki­netic en­ergy of a pro­jec­tile is far su­pe­rior to fi­bre-epoxy ma­te­ri­als. Con­trolled lay­er­ing of graphene sheets could lead to light­weight, en­er­gyab­sorb­ing ma­te­ri­als.

(Top) In­dian Army’s T-90 Bhishma tank and (above) T-72 equipped with full width mine plough

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.