[ By Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch ]
In the wake of speedy technological advancements, command, control, communications, computers, information and intelligence (C4I2) systems provide sterling opportunities for the defence and security establishment acting as important force multiplier for commanders at all levels. The technological challenge involves in making C4I2 systems interoperable, survivable, inexpensive, reliable, and maintainable on the battlefield. With such system, our forces will have that necessary edge to emerge winners in future conflict situations. Add surveillance and reconnaissance (SR) to C4I2 and you have the acronym C4I2SR implying a group of functionalities and applications of a defence system that integrates multiple command including troops, tanks, weapon platforms, aircraft, surveillance stations and the highest level of tactical and strategic information available to back up military decisions and actions.
We need C4I2SR to create positive asymmetrical capabilities and comprehensive competitive edge over adversaries plus transforming its current perception and thinking. Technology provides numerous options to build automated C4I2 systems for effective leadership in the modern battlefield. Success in combat depends greatly upon fused, tailored intelligence which is communicated securely and rapidly. Speed is a critical component. The critical elements of sensor grids and engagement grids are hosted by a high-quality information backplane. These are supported by value-adding command and control processes many of which need to be automated to achieve speed. This in essence personifies the essential characteristics of a C4I2 system.
An important related issue is the increased role of information warfare (IW) due to the exceptional growth in technology over the past few decades. IW therefore attempts to influence the first three activities of the observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) loop by disrupting enemy’s observation and surveillance systems, corrupting enemy’s orientation and misguiding his perception, finally inducing him to arrive at a wrong decision. This aspect of IW has significant implications for any C4I2 architecture. Information integrity, information assurance and information superiority therefore are key factors. SR transcends space, air, surface and subsurface means. Satellite and space surveillance apart, smaller and smarter unmanned aircraft are transforming spying and surveillance.
The nature of air power and the notion of air superiority in Iraq and AfPak Region was transformed by massive deployments of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are drastically cheaper than fighter jets. The data they gather can then be sent instantly via wireless and satellite links to an operations room halfway around the world and to the hand-held devices of soldiers. C4I2SR enables operators to manipulate battlefield weapons including armed UAVs from control rooms. C4I2SR is the critical path to transformation but depends on how well it can be secured and its reliability. Security, robustness and interoperability will be key factors. The ability to protect our information, systems, programmes, people and facilities in a risk management environment directly impacts our ability to successfully prosecute the military mission. The C4I2SR system must be robust with sufficient connectivity and bandwidth. Access to adequate radio frequency spectrum for data transport like satellite links, wireless networks, and mobile communications systems would be essential for the system to operate effectively. Interoperability is a key parameter in all military operational and systems architectures. Ab initio joint and combined systems, achieved through engineering in interoperability attributes from the start, will provide the needed capabilities.
Our ability to integrate across a number of dimensions will determine how successful we are in bringing all of the available information and all of our available assets to bear in any given situation or circumstance. These dimensions include time, echelons, functions, geography, agencies and coalitions. There is a need to assemble “systems of systems” (SoS) (with co-evolved organisations, doctrines, processes, and information flows) that will enable this integration to occur. We need information superiority, decision superiority, dominant manoeuvre, precision engagement, focused logistics and full dimensional protection, C4I2SR having a direct bearing on the first four. When looking for technological solutions in respect of C4I2SR, we should examine the requirements of collection, exploitation, storage, retrieval, distribution, collaborative environments, presentation, information operations and information assurance, and the technologies that help extract knowledge and understanding from data and information. Our focus should address connectivity, technical interoperability, semantic interoperability, integrated processes, integrated protection and networked battle-space enablers.
We should understand that the potential value of the defence force is the sum of the potential value of its entities, which in turn is heavily dependent on the nature C4I2SR that connects them. The ultimate goal of the C4I2SR transformation must be to transform into NCW capabilities; the development of a force that provides the commander with the capability to dominate across the spectrum of operations within the context of future security environment.