Fore­clo­sure of Army’s Bat­tle­field Man­age­ment Sys­tem

In sim­ple terms the BMS in­te­grates re­sources bring­ing them to the right place, at the right time, with right lethal­ity to pro­vide real time, ap­pro­pri­ate, com­mon com­pre­hen­sive tac­ti­cal pic­ture; to link the sol­dier to the bat­tal­ion/com­bat group com­man­der le

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - LT GEN­ERAL P.C. KATOCH (RETD)

In sim­ple terms the BMS in­te­grates re­sources bring­ing them to the right place, at the right time, with right lethal­ity to pro­vide real time, ap­pro­pri­ate, com­mon com­pre­hen­sive tac­ti­cal pic­ture. Lt Gen­eral P.C. Katoch (Retd)

AS PER NEWS RE­PORTS of early De­cem­ber 2017, the MoD and the Army were look­ing at clos­ing down the Bat­tle­field Man­age­ment Sys­tem ( BMS), de­spite its pro­to­types be­ing de­vel­oped by two In­dian con­sor­tiums. Later re­ports in­di­cated the Army had or­dered fore­clo­sure of the BMS project. In-house re­ports also con­firm Army has scrapped the projects due to high costs. Post es­tab­lish­ment of the Direc­torate Gen­eral of In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem ( DGIS) in 2004, Army’s Tac­ti­cal Com­mand, Con­trol, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion ( Tac C3I) sys­tem was taken up, of which the BMS was one com­po­nent, other com­po­nents be­ing the Ar­tillery Com­mand, Con­trol and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sys­tem (ACCS), Air De­fence Con­trol and Re­port­ing Sys­tem (ADC&RS) and Bat­tle­field Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem (BSS). Of these op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion sys­tems (OIS), only the ACCCS has been fielded in the Army to-date. All com­po­nents of the Tac C3I, in­clud­ing BMS, are be in­te­grated through the Com­mand In­for­ma­tion and De­ci­sion Sup­port Sys­tem ( CIDSS), also be­ing de­vel­oped by the DGIS. The Tac C3I will also in­te­grate Army’s Elec­tronic War­fare Sys­tem (EWS) and Elec­tronic In­tel­li­gence Sys­tem (ELINT) op­er­at­ing un­der Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions and Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­torates re­spec­tively.

The Tac C3I is to pro­vide state-of-theart C4I2 con­nec­tiv­ity within the Army at Corps HQ and be­low lev­els. The BMS is to en­able faster de­ci­sion process by com­man­ders at all ech­e­lons, bet­ter de­ci­sion with re­li­able op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in real time and have the abil­ity to quickly close the sen­sor to shooter loop by in­te­grat­ing all sur­veil­lance means to fa­cil­i­tate en­gage­ment; through an au­to­mated de­ci­sion sup­port and com­mand and con­trol sys­tem, ex­ploit­ing tech­nol­ogy for mis­sion ac­com­plish­ment in the tac­ti­cal bat­tle area (TBA) by rapid ac­qui­si­tion, pro­cess­ing and trans­fer of in­for­ma­tion, en­hanced sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, ca­pa­bil­ity to re­act to in­for­ma­tion, sharpen abil­ity to syn­chro­nize and di­rect fire, plus es­tab­lish and main­tain to­tal sur­veil­lance re­sources. In sim­ple terms the BMS in­te­grates re­sources bring­ing them to the right place, at the right time, with right lethal­ity to pro­vide real time, ap­pro­pri­ate, com­mon com­pre­hen­sive tac­ti­cal pic­ture; to link the sol­dier to the bat­tal­ion/com­bat group com­man­der level for sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and de­ci­sion sup­port. The BMS was to com­prise a tac­ti­cal hand-held com­puter with in­di­vid­ual warfighter and tac­ti­cal com­put­ers at Bat­tle Group HQ and com­bat ve­hi­cles, en­abling gen­er­a­tion of com­mon op­er­a­tional pic­ture by in­te­grat­ing in­puts from all rel­e­vant sources through in­te­grated use of a high data rate ge­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS) and GPS.

The BMS ap­proach paper floated in early 2000s en­vis­aged devel­op­ment, tri­als and GS eval­u­a­tion in pe­riod 2008-2009, fol­lowed by its field­ing into the Army dur­ing 2013-2017. But the MoD-Army red-tape and DRDO in­ter­ven­tion to grab ev­ery project took over. Only by end 2011 De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil ap­proved the BMS as a ‘Make In­dia’ project, fol­lowed by In­te­grated Project Man­age­ment Study, Ex­pres­sion of In­ter­est (EoI) pre­pared with in­dus­try em­pan­el­ment pend­ing with MoD, lat­ter ex­pected to be is­sued to the in­dus­try by Au­gust-Septem­ber 2013. At that time it was en­vis­aged to short­list two De­vel­op­ing Agen­cies (DA) by about March 2014. Sub­se­quently, de­sign phase was ex­pected to com­mence by July 2014, lim­ited pro­to­type tested in lab­o­ra­tory by end De­cem­ber 2015 and fi­nally, pro­to­types de­vel­oped and fielded for user eval­u­a­tion by De­cem­ber 2016 (in­stead of ear­lier sched­ule of 2012). The cas­cad­ing ef­fect by then had al­ready de­layed com­ple­tion of Phase 2 (Equip­ping) from ini­tial plan of 2017 to 2021 and Phase 3 (Change Man­age­ment and Up-gra­da­tion of Sys­tem) from 2022 to 2025 as per then sta­tus. This de­layed sched­ule too was con­sid­ered pos­si­ble only if there were no fur­ther hur­dles.

How­ever, de­spite the EoI hav­ing been pre­pared by end 2011, it was fi­nally is­sued only in Fe­bru­ary 2015, to 14 do­mes­tic com­pa­nies, in which only two con­sor­tiums, Tata Power SED-L&T, and BEL-Rolta In­dia, qual­i­fied the bids. Then in Fe­bru­ary 2016, MoD sig­naled these two con­sor­tia to de­velop BMS pro­to­type that could even­tu­ally gen­er­ate about

₹ 40,000-50,000 crore worth of pro­cure­ment for 600 sets of BMS for the Army. These two con­sor­tia were asked to reg­is­ter “spe­cial pur­pose com­pa­nies” for this project (with free­dom to choose over­seas part­ners), with each DA sep­a­rately de­vel­op­ing a work­ing BMS. Each BMS pro­to­type was to have four vari­ants: one, for the in­fantry bat­tal­ion group; two, for com­bat group (ar­mour); three, for com­bat group (mech­a­nized in­fantry), and; four, for Spe­cial Forces. Tech­nolo­gies to be in­cluded in each pro­to­type in­clude a ge­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS), multi-sen­sor data fu­sion sys­tem, rugged com­put­ing de­vices, and soft­ware de­fined ra­dio-based com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem for sol­diers.

As per me­dia, the sanc­tioned cost of Project BMS in 2007 was ₹ 350 crore per DA, but presently MoD is still bar­gain­ing for the DAs to slash devel­op­ment costs from the quoted ₹ 2,500 crore. Spec­u­la­tions in me­dia cen­tres on Army find­ing it dif­fi­cult to bal­ance be­tween its im­me­di­ate weapon re­quire­ments and force mul­ti­pli­ers like the BMS in run up to De­fence Bud­get 2018 since at to­day’s prices, the BMS for the en­tire Army to be fielded by 2025, is to cost up­wards of ₹ 50,000 crore. In ad­di­tion, devel­op­ment cost by two DAs un­der high-pri­or­ity ‘Make’ cat­e­gory of ₹ 5,000 crore is to be com­pen­sated by Army pay­ing back ₹ 1,000 crore over five years out of its own al­lo­ca­tion. There is also a view be­ing floated that op­ti­mal use of BMS is in two tac­ti­cal war sce­nar­ios which are no longer rel­e­vant – own forces op­er­at­ing in for­eign lands, and deep ingress in en­emy ar­eas.

How­ever, deeper anal­y­sis is re­quired why a high-pri­or­ity ‘Make’ cat­e­gory project like the BMS has ended in fore­clo­sure. First, with rapid tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment, you can­not have the same ar­chaic pro­ce­dures and poli­cies for in­for­ma­tion sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ca­tions – with all the hype about “ease of busi­ness”, the present sys­tem with re­spect to in­for­ma­tion sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ca­tions amounts to “dis­ease of busi­ness”. Sec­ond, over re­liance in gov­ern­men­tal de­fen­cein­dus­trial com­plex is an­other ma­jor rea­son for the de­lay. In the in­stant case, BEL has been fac­ing the same prob­lems as

it had in de­vel­op­ing the ACCCS — bulk im­ported hard­ware and tech­nol­ogy but lim­ited in­dige­nous ca­pac­ity in ap­pli­ca­tions, de­sign and soft­ware cus­tomiza­tion. Yet, the MoD-DRDO duo com­bine wanted BEL in the project, caus­ing de­lib­er­ate de­lays in pro­gress­ing the case. In­ci­den­tally, the ACCCS fielded in the Army though bear­ing the BEL stamp is more than 85 per cent El­bit of Is­rael. ACCCS was a ‘Buy and Make’ project for which the Com­mer­cially Avail­able Off The Shelf (COTS) ap­proach was fol­lowed with tac­ti­cal com­put­ers pro­cured from El­bit, Is­rael for the test bed with pro­vi­sion of Trans­fer of Tech­nol­ogy (ToT), and other hard­ware ob­tained by BEL com­mer­cially from in­dige­nous sources or man­u­fac­tured by them.

Had we opened the pri­vate sec­tor to the BMS project early, like done with Tata Power SED-L&T now, the BMS field­ing could have been on its way by now. Third, not only are In­dia’s in­vest­ments in R&D abysmal, it has failed to es­tab­lish sep­a­rate R&D fund, and has failed in cre­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment for pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ing in de­fence R&D. In the in­stant case, it is crim­i­nal to want the Army to dish out

1,000 crore as devel­op­ment costs, with both the cur­rent and pre­ced­ing de­fence bud­get ‘neg­a­tive’ in ac­tual terms. If the govern­ment prom­ises 80 per cent devel­op­ment cost of a project to the DAs, it must find R&D funds from else­where or cater for ad­di­tional funds for the same, over and above al­lo­ca­tions to the Army. Fourth, an­nual de­fence al­lo­ca­tions are slashed by the Fi­nance Min­istry ar­bi­trar­ily with­out dis­cussing op­er­a­tional im­per­a­tives. Sixth, In­dia lacks a sys­tem like in the US where pre-bud­get pre­sen­ta­tions are made to Se­nate Armed Forces Com­mit­tee by the Mil­i­tary stat­ing what present op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity is, what funds are needed and given that al­lo­ca­tion, what the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity will then be. It is the Se­nate Armed Forces Com­mit­tee that rec­om­mends the de­fence bud­get to the Congress, not the De­part­ment of De­fence. In con­trast, there is lit­tle di­a­logue in such op­er­a­tional mat­ters with MoD holis­ti­cally other than mov­ing in­di­vid­ual cases on file. Sev­enth, the Army has taken the course of least re­sis­tance by sim­ply scrap­ping the project, pos­si­bly on a hint from MoD.

There is no deny­ing that the BMS is an op­er­a­tional ne­ces­sity which was re­quired yes­ter­day, and ac­cord­ingly rated “high pri­or­ity” project. The con­tention that “op­ti­mal use of BMS is in two tac­ti­cal war sce­nar­ios which are no longer rel­e­vant – own forces op­er­at­ing in for­eign lands, and deep ingress in en­emy ar­eas” is naïve. Not only con­flict sit­u­a­tions, the BMS is very much needed to ef­fec­tively deal with sub-con­ven­tional con­flict sit­u­a­tions astride bor­ders, in ad­di­tion to counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions within the coun­try. In case of lat­ter, the BMS should be looked at for the cut­ting edge of the en­tire se­cu­rity sec­tor, not the Army alone. The men­tion of the two war sce­nar­ios not rel­e­vant to In­dia any more is also grossly de­featist. No such pre­dic­tion can be made with cer­tain­ity in say 2025 and be­yond. Be­sides, NCW ca­pa­bil­i­ties can­not be ac­quired overnight. It will be ironic that while there is so much hype about op­ti­miza­tion of tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­ti­za­tion, a project like the BMS is be­ing scrapped with­out even ex­am­in­ing se­lec­tive field­ing in pro­gres­sive man­ner. If we can in­vest 1,00,000 crore for a bul­let train on a 508 km Ahmed­abad-Mum­bai track, with the over­all In­dian Rail­way net­work (fourth largest in the world) be­ing 1,15,000 km, can’t the fi­nances of few thou­sand crores be found for the BMS on ‘pro­gres­sive’ ba­sis? The De­fence Min­is­ter needs to ur­gently in­ter­vene for: one, stop fore­clo­sure of the BMS and get go­ing with this high pri­or­ity op­er­a­tional re­quire­ment; two, re­view progress of other com­po­nents of the Tac C3I that could well suf­fer sim­i­lar fate; and, three, es­tab­lish sep­a­rate pro­cure­ment process for in­for­ma­tion sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in keep­ing with rapid tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments vis-à-vis field­ing and re­quire­ment of up­grades.

Not only con­flict sit­u­a­tions, the BMS is very much needed to ef­fec­tively deal with sub­con­ven­tional con­flict sit­u­a­tions astride bor­ders, in ad­di­tion to coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions within the coun­try

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DRDO

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