Ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem


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

Rapid ad­vance­ments in ge­o­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (GIS) and global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem (GPS) have made it pos­si­ble to cor­re­late and use di­verse map in­for­ma­tion at the click of a mouse. The in­te­gra­tion of all ef­forts per­tain­ing to geospa­tial data and in­tel­li­gence be­tween the three ser­vices is a nec­es­sary step to­wards field­ing a fully func­tional C4I2 Sys­tem, which would be an in­te­gral part of our com­bat ca­pac­ity build­ing in the years ahead. No au­to­mated bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) can be fully ex­ploited un­less qual­ity data is pro­vided to it as in­put. Our ef­forts to en­able pro­duc­tion of geospa­tial in­tel­li­gence would meet most of the data re­quire­ments of both C4I2 as well as Tac C3I sys­tems of the mil­i­tary. The ca­pa­bil­ity of any ap­pli­ca­tion based on a GIS is lim­ited to the quan­tity and qual­ity of data pro­vided as the in­put.

A digi­tised car­tog­ra­phy map needs a huge amount of at­tribute data be­fore it can be­come suit­able as GIS in­put. While gen­er­ally this data has been as­sumed to per­tain to ter­rain fea­tures only, a true GIS ready map should log­i­cally cover the com­plete spec­trum of data re­quired by var­i­ous dis­ci­plines of geode­tic sci­ence. This def­i­nitely calls for in­puts even from agen­cies other than those deal­ing with to­po­graphic sur­vey.

The ef­fect of cer­tain type of mu­ni­tions like in­cen­di­ary, chem­i­cal or bi­o­log­i­cal can­not be cal­cu­lated purely by use of stan­dard two di­men­sional mod­els. Th­ese area weapons used by the enemy in the tac­ti­cal bat­tle area (TBA) re­quire de­tailed knowl­edge of ter­rain, for ex­am­ple, in terms of type of forests, con­di­tion of shrubs, un­der­growth and me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions. For an op­er­a­tional in­for­ma­tion sys­tem (OIS) like an au­to­mated BMS, geospa­tial data is a vi­tal el­e­ment of in­for­ma­tion. Geospa­tial data plays a cru­cial role in main­tain­ing the up­dated sit­u­a­tional pic­ture in terms of ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion of el­e­ments of own and enemy forces be­tween all users in the bat­tle­field at all times. At the same time, to­day’s dy­namic bat­tle­field hav­ing di­verse users calls for ex­change of po­si­tional in­for­ma­tion be­tween sys­tems us­ing dif­fer­ent scales of maps, im­agery from dif­fer­ent air­borne sen­sors, dif­fer­ent map pro­jec­tions and the like.

Ad­di­tion­ally, mod­ern-day pre­ci­sion weapons and mu­ni­tions need much more ac­cu­racy for pin­point tar­get­ing in all types of maps, in­clud­ing small and medium scaled ones, than re­quired for ma­jor­ity erst­while ma­jor­ity area weapons. It is, there­fore, es­sen­tial that the pre­cise lo­ca­tion of own and enemy forces/tar­gets down to in­di­vid­ual sol­dier/weapon plat­form are con­stantly main­tained. Ad­di­tion­ally, whether we con­sider a sit­u­a­tion of counter-in­sur­gency, dis­as­ter man­age­ment or com­mu­nal ri­ots, the dis­parate in­for­ma­tion held by dif­fer­ent agen­cies has to be fused to form an in­tel­li­gence pic­ture be­fore op­er­a­tions can be planned to op­ti­mise suc­cess.

At the apex level of NCW, the first pre­req­ui­site would be the fu­sion of in­puts from the three ser­vices per­tain­ing to the de­fence part of the na­tional se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus. While the ser­vices may not be able to in­flu­ence smoother flow of in­for­ma­tion from other arms of the gov­ern­ment (till the po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy en­forces it), there is a need to com­mence the in­te­gra­tion of in­for­ma­tion be­long­ing to the three ser­vices un­der the aegis of HQ IDS, also en­sur­ing in­te­gra­tion of topo­graph­i­cal data.

In the ab­sence of a ded­i­cated de­fence space pro­gramme, the mil­i­tary is de­pen­dent on the NRSA and com­mer­cial satel­lite based im­agery for some of the IMIMNT re­quire­ments. There is a need to em­ploy other al­ter­nate sen­sors to meet de­fence re­quire­ments not only per­tain­ing to im­agery, but also per­tain­ing to data re­quired for car­tog­ra­phy. This calls for a well co­or­di­nated sur­veil­lance ef­fort by air­borne sen­sors of the three ser­vices. Sim­i­larly, the HUMINT and ELINT data needs to be fused with IMINT and the topo­graph­i­cal data. Mil­i­tary sur­vey needs a large amount of data to pre­pare ac­cu­rate maps of ar­eas across the IB/LC/LAC. Un­less all the avail­able as­sets are tasked ac­cord­ing to the over­all vi­sion for geospa­tial in­tel­li­gence, agen­cies and or­gan­i­sa­tions will con­tinue to op­er­ate in iso­la­tion and re­quired geospa­tial data will re­main in crit­i­cal short sup­ply. At na­tional level the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NTRO) and the Na­tional Spatial Data In­fra­struc­ture (NSDI) have come up but NSDI deals with only ‘some’ as­pects per­tain­ing to cre­ation of meta­data from avail­able geospa­tial data and does not cater for in­puts from the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity or for that mat­ter the de­fence ser­vices, which is a ma­jor flaw. In the mil­i­tary, the De­fence In­tel­li­gence Agency (DIA) within HQ IDS is the cen­tral re­pos­i­tory for all in­tel­li­gence in­puts of mil­i­tary in­clud­ing IMINT and ELINT but as­pects of to­pog­ra­phy are yet to be in­te­grated with DIA. Also, ad­e­quate re­sources in terms of re­mote sens­ing, ELINT pay­loads and car­tog­ra­phy are not avail­able to pro­duce high qual­ity fused data. The bot­tom line is that In­dian mil­i­tary to­day needs an en­ter­prise GIS post-haste.

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