Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tems

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch]

Why a Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tem (TCS) for the In­dian Army ap­proved in prin­ci­ple by two suc­ces­sive De­fence Min­is­ters years back was de­layed by a decade plus and made for­ward move­ment only re­cently will re­main a mys­tery. Af­ter ev­ery ap­proval by a De­fence Min­is­ter, the case was sim­ply shut and a fresh file opened. Heads would have rolled in an­other coun­try but in the ca­coph­ony that is In­dia, ev­ery­thing is doable.

The project was orig­i­nally sched­uled to com­mence in year 2000 (chris­tened TCS 2000) but never saw the light of the day. Later, this was given the name TCS 2010 but has really started mov­ing for­ward only from year 2009. The In­dian Army ac­tu­ally re­quired a TCS more than two decades back with its re­quire­ment in­creas­ing ex­po­nen­tially to ac­com­mo­date ex­ist­ing and fu­ture war-fight­ing con­cepts that en­com­pass mo­bil­ity, fast paced ma­noeu­vres and rapid dis­per­sion aside from In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance and Re­con­nais­sance (ISR), bat­tle­field trans­parency, ex­change of in­for­ma­tion, speedy tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and the re­quire­ment to make quick de­ci­sions.

A flex­i­ble threat re­ac­tion de­mands very mo­bile units which may be spread over a large ge­o­graph­i­cal area. If the forces are to op­er­ate un­der a cen­tralised man­age­ment and at the same time re­tain their mo­bil­ity, heavy de­mands are put on the com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem. Th­ese de­mands will be in the form of se­cu­rity, sur­viv­abil­ity, and pro­tec­tion against elec­tronic war­fare. A TCS is used within/in di­rect sup­port of tac­ti­cal forces.

Since fu­ture mil­i­tary tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works must be highly mo­bile, sur­viv­able and re­con­fig­urable, TCS for the In­dian Army must be de­signed to meet chang­ing tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions and vary­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, pro­vide se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions (voice, data and video) ef­fec­tively link­ing mo­bile users of all tac­ti­cal units in field.

TCS is a sys­tem that is meant for of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions, con­fig­ured as a mo­bile sys­tem that can leapfrog in sync with rapidly ad­vanc­ing strike op­er­a­tions – cov­er­ing of­fen­sive el­e­ments of both the ‘strike’ and ‘pivot’ corps. Im­por­tant re­quire­ments for the ra­dio sys­tem are: ESM and ECM re­sis­tance; in­te­grated voice and data to the user; per­for­mance match­ing pro­jected user de­mand (like er­ror de­tec­tion/ correction, qual­ity, de­lays); ef­fec­tive use of trans­mis­sion medium; in­ter­op­er­abil­ity; flex­i­bil­ity in de­ploy­ment; sur­viv­abil­ity; pro­vi­sion of user mo­bil­ity (carry op­tions, easy ac­cess etc).

The over­all net­work con­cept in the tac­ti­cal bat­tle area (TBA) is pri­mar­ily di­vided into two main lev­els – static com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mo­bile. The static com­mu­ni­ca­tion part is be­ing catered for by the In­dian Army go­ing full steam with a new op­ti­cal fi­bre ca­ble (OFC) net­work, es­pe­cially since the mil­i­tary was made to sur­ren­der 3G spec­trum in big way. Ab­sence of TCS and patchy avail­abil­ity of OFC in TBA has also been ad­versely af­fect­ing tri­als and field­ing of op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion sys­tems even though we have had a full-fledged corps for un­der­tak­ing field tri­als. The TCS when fielded with req­ui­site mo­bile ter­mi­nals net­work, will ful­fill a long-stand­ing crit­i­cal op­er­a­tional void of the In­dian Army.

With TCS for the In­dian Army first an­nounced in 2009, ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est (EOI) was sent out to num­ber of domestic IT busi­nesses seek­ing a con­sor­tium to de­velop an in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem. Present es­ti­mated cost of the TCS of about ` 10,000 crore (ap­prox­i­mately $1.8 bil­lion) may go up con­sid­er­ably go­ing by past ex­pe­ri­ence. The sys­tem is to be a ro­bust, snoop-proof, mo­bile, cel­lu­lar net­work for the In­dian Army’s voice and data com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing bat­tle, al­low­ing in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ca­tion, from bat­tle­field to com­mand head­quar­ters and in­clude ev­ery­thing from cel­lu­lar tele­phones to equip­ment sen­sors.

The jinx of name­sake pri­vate sec­tor par­tic­i­pa­tion in de­fence sec­tor and that too ma­jor­ity ‘through’ The De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) and PSUs ap­pears to have been bro­ken in the case of the TCS that was clas­si­fied as a ‘make’ project. In the case of the TCS too there were strong pres­sures to award the con­tract out­right to the Bharat Elec­tron­ics Lim­ited (BEL) but bet­ter sense even­tu­ally pre­vailed and In­dian Army’s sus­tained rec­om­men­da­tions to treat the DRDO, PSUs and pri­vate sec­tor as level play­ing field were hon­oured.

Some me­dia re­ports that there was in­tense de­bate among In­dian Army of­fi­cials about go­ing pub­lic with the devel­op­ment of the sys­tem be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns and it is the In­dian Army who wanted BEL to head the project with­out go­ing to ten­der were mis­lead­ing and mis­chievous. In­dian Army’s stand all along has been for open­ing up in­dige­nous pri­vate in­dus­try to the de­fence sec­tor in or­der to get the best state-of-the-art prod­ucts but erst­while government de­ci­sions have had other con­sid­er­a­tions. The In­dian Army, in fact, has been want­ing the switch from ‘best price’ to ‘best tech­nol­ogy’ for a long time but has evoked no government re­sponse. By seek­ing domestic de­sign and man­u­fac­ture of the sys­tem, the government is seek­ing to bet­ter in­te­grate and im­prove the com­pet­i­tive­ness of the pri­vate in­dige­nous IT sec­tor into de­fence pro­duc­tion.

Few de­tails of the EOI were re­leased be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns but it stated that “the con­tri­bu­tion of the In­dian in­dus­try in ac­quir­ing and de­vel­op­ing tech­nolo­gies in crit­i­cal ar­eas shall be a key cri­te­rion in as­sess­ment of var­i­ous pro­pos­als.”

The doc­u­ments were sent to five pri­vate com­pa­nies and three PSUs. Th­ese five pri­vate com­pa­nies are Tata Power’s Strate­gic Elec­tron­ics Di­vi­sion, HCL In­fos­ys­tems, Wipro Tech­nolo­gies, Rolta In­dia and L&T. Tech Mahin­dra, an­other ma­jor player in in­dige­nous IT sec­tor, failed to qual­ify as an In­dian com­pany be­cause of for­eign hold­ings higher than 26 per cent. Ex­pec­ta­tions are that in­dige­nous com­po­nents of the TCS will be at least to the tune of 80 per cent. Sens­ing the threat from PSUs, three pri­vate com­pa­nies who were given sep­a­rate in­vi­ta­tions to bid – Larsen & Toubro; Tata Power (Strate­gic Elec­tron­ics Di­vi­sion); and HCL joined forces (distri­bu­tion of stakes in the con­sor­tium be­ing L&T, 56.67 per cent; Tata Power (SED), 33.33 per cent; and HCL 10 per cent) to bid to­gether. The TCS con­tract is In­dia’s first “make” con­tract with con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial out­lay.

That means, in ac­cor­dance with the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pol­icy (DPP), the government would se­lect and fund two ven­dors, who will each build a pro­to­type of the high-tech TCS sys­tem. The government will then se­lect the win­ner, who will be awarded the con­tract to build seven TCS for seven corps of the In­dian Army. The two de­vel­op­ers se­lected by MoD are BEL and the con­sor­tium com­pris­ing L&T, Tata Power (SED) and HCL. The TCS will be a fully mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions grid, which can be moved any­where dur­ing war pro­vid­ing an army corps a back­bone net­work on which to com­mu­ni­cate and trans­fer large vol­umes of data.

The ex­changes and switches will be in­stalled in high-mo­bil­ity ve­hi­cles, large data like video stream­ing will be pos­si­ble and se­cu­rity and ECM mea­sures will be in­cor­po­rated. The de­vel­op­ers have re­port­edly submitted a de­tailed project report (DPR) defin­ing ev­ery sys­tem, sub-sys­tem, and ca­pa­bil­ity of the TCS. Devel­op­ment cost of the pro­to­type is likely to around ` 300 crore of which the government would fund 80 per cent. This is a big op­por­tu­nity for the in­dige­nous pri­vate in­dus­try to prove their met­tle and come up with state-of-theart pro­to­type. If they fail, it would have ram­i­fi­ca­tions for them on other projects like the BMS (bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem) that may have an even­tual fi­nan­cial out­lay that is 8-10 times the TCS by the time it is fully fielded. SP

In­te­grated Net­work Plat­form

Net­work Con­nect Cen­tre

Rolta Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Net­work Ar­chi­tec­ture Trans­mis­sion; (above) Net­work Op­er­a­tion Cen­tre

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