Com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the BMS


[ By Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch ]

The bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) sought by the Army will per­form a va­ri­ety of op­er­a­tional sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and de­ci­sion sup­port func­tions at a bat­tal­ion and com­bat group level. The low­est level to which the sys­tem will be con­nected is in­di­vid­ual sol­dier and in­di­vid­ual com­bat plat­form and the high­est level will be the Bat­tal­ion and Reg­i­ment Com­man­der in­te­grat­ing to the tac­ti­cal com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­for­ma­tion (Tac C3I) sys­tem through the com­mand in­for­ma­tion and de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tem (CIDSS), en­abling a com­mon op­er­a­tional pic­ture, in­te­grat­ing all sources through in­te­grated use of the ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS) and global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem (GPS), will be a highly mo­bile and with high data rate.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions should not in­ter­fere with the legacy com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment and should eas­ily be retro­fit­ted into com­bat plat­form. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions should op­ti­mally utilise the band­width avail­able for mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­volv­ing voice, data, im­ageries and video stream­ing. It should be scal­able to en­sure its avail­abil­ity to all el­e­ments and range from be­ing man-por­ta­ble to be­ing fit­ted in com­bat ve­hi­cles.

When pit­ted against the fu­ture re­quire­ments, the legacy com­mu­ni­ca­tion de­vices are phys­i­cally in­com­pat­i­ble, fol­low dif­fer­ent link pro­to­cols which have is­sues of ad­dress­ing, reacha­bil­ity and qual­ity of ser­vice (QoS). The legacy of ex­ist­ing com­bat net ra­dios (CNRs) with fixed fre­quency (ana­log), are ca­pa­ble of lim­ited com­mu­ni­ca­tion and data rates be­sides the re­quire­ment of a mo­dem for data trans­mis­sion. They are not se­cure and have no data en­cryp­tion fa­cil­ity. In ef­fect the present fam­ily of ra­dio sets do not meet the re­quire­ments of a net-cen­tric war­fare (NCW) ca­pa­ble force that would fa­cil­i­tate trans­mis­sion of voice, video and data si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

For a BMS to be suc­cess­ful there is a need for a re­li­able, ro­bust, re­silient and ef­fi­cient com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem that as­sures that the net­work is al­ways func­tional. Net-cen­tric­ity war­rants a par­a­digm shift from voice-cen­tric to data-cen­tric sys­tems and net­works even­tu­ally en­abling NCW ca­pa­bil­i­ties. For BMS com­mu­ni­ca­tions the In­dian Army would be look­ing for long ranges, high band­width data trans­mis­sion (live stream­ing), fa­cil­i­tat­ing mes­sag­ing in­clud­ing voice mail, quickly de­ploy­able, self-con­fig­ur­ing and self-heal­ing net­works, easy to cus­tomise, rolling cov­er­age and in­ter­op­er­abil­ity. The fo­cus will have to be on change in net­work topol­ogy, non line of sight com­mu­ni­ca­tions, spec­trum man­age­ment, net­work man­age­ment sys­tems, QoS (in­clud­ing la­tency, as­sured de­liv­ery, jit­ter), se­cu­rity of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, net­works and stor­age, ro­bust­ness and au­then­ti­ca­tion. De­ploy­ment of new tech­nolo­gies like soft­ware de­fined ra­dios (SDRs) that can also com­mu­ni­cate with CNRs to off­set growth in de­mand for spec­trum needs se­ri­ous thought. Com­pres­sion tech­nolo­gies for pas­sage of in­for­ma­tion must be cap­i­talised. Test bed for the BMS should be at full scale, down to the in­di­vid­ual sol­dier. It is pru­dent to do this and then think of elim­i­nat­ing a par­tic­u­lar piece of equip­ment than adopt­ing the re­verse ap­proach.

There is a need to re­view the com­mu­ni­ca­tion phi­los­o­phy of the Army. While legacy ra­dios have their lim­i­ta­tions, the change man­age­ment to­wards field­ing of lat­est tech­nol­ogy like SDRs and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­fra­struc­ture will need to be fine-tuned. Ap­pli­ca­tions will need to be stan­dard­ised and adapt­able to any com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem in­clud­ing com­mer­cial off the shelf (COTS) prod­ucts. Band­width re­quire­ments for the BMS need to be viewed keep­ing in mind the in­cre­men­tal re­quire­ments that would be re­quired pro­gres­sively over the years.

A con­ser­va­tive ap­proach by the Army at this stage, which is likely due to the lim­i­ta­tions of legacy com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment, could limit ex­ploita­tion of fu­ture tech­nol­ogy. As an in­di­ca­tor, the US Army catered for one GB band­width for a com­bat team in year 2010 and plans in­cre­men­tal up­grades.

Gov­ern­ment needs to ex­am­ine al­lot­ment of a ded­i­cated de­fence band from the spec­trum to meet the band­width re­quire­ment of the Ser­vices and keep­ing in mind threats to na­tional se­cu­rity. This will also ad­e­quately ad­dress the com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­quire­ments of the BMS. Ro­bust se­cu­rity al­go­rithms must be speed­ily de­vel­oped to en­sure se­cu­rity of both stored data as well as trans­mit­ted in­for­ma­tion. The pri­vate sec­tor must be fully in­te­grated into de­vel­op­ment of the BMS. There is also ur­gent need to for­mu­late a sep­a­rate De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) for op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems.

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