Digitisation of battlefield
[ By Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch ]
Network-centric warfare (NCW) relates to behaviour, both human and organisational. Most important is to develop a “network culture” for application in military operations to ensure success. NCW focuses on the combat power that can be generated from the effective linking of maximum war-fighting entities. It is the ability of geographically dispersed forces to create a high level of shared awareness that can be exploited for effective and efficient execution of operations to successfully achieve the intent of the commander. Transparent to geography, mission and size of the force it has the potential to merge tactical, operational and strategic levels of military hierarchy leading to cohesive employment of disparate resources.
NCW is not technology alone but encompasses the gamut of emerging military response to the information age. An NCW capable force is robustly networked with improved information sharing, situational awareness, collaboration, self-synchronisation, sustainability, speed of command and mission effectiveness. The network fighter must simultaneously focus on the physical, information and cognitive domains. For exploiting science and technology and to apply a technology oriented framework, NCW needs a surveillance grid that rapidly generates battle-space awareness and self-synchronisation, an information grid that provides the back plane for computing and communication, a command grid that includes knowledge-based artificial intelligence and software applications, and an engagement grid that exploits the awareness and translates it into increased combat potential.
Net-centricity in the Indian military has mushroomed bottom upwards. Lack of an NCW philosophy/doctrine has resulted in a disjointed architecture. Though we have doctrines for C4I2 and information warfare (IW) these two are only components of NCW. Policies, strategy, concepts, military organisations and adjustments should also form part of NCW. For transformation into an NCW capable force, we need a NCW philosophy/doctrine as the start point. Concepts of individual services should flow from a joint doctrine. This will facilitate a coherent tri-service networked architecture.
Prominent reasons for this void include late establishment of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS), non-seamless integration of HQ IDS with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), lack of operational responsibility/authority with HQ IDS and glaring void of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Lack of a top down approach has adversely affected establishment of robust net-centricity. To ensure effective transformation from platform- centric capabilities to the network-centricity, a phased shift in existing technology of the three services and horizontal fusion amongst them at laid down hierarchical structure is necessary.
A cultural change is warranted through aptitude-based selection procedures to influence values, attitudes and beliefs of future military leaders. Development of human resource (HR) is vigorously required. The man behind the machine will continue to be the nerve centre. Information age warriors must have a thorough understanding of system capabilities and the ability, initiative and innovativeness to employ capabilities for best effects. Capability to deal with lethality and accuracy of new technologies and adaptability and flexibility to cope with change are required. Although development of automated operational information system (OIS), management information system (MIS) and GIS is currently under way in the services, managing the actual transition is a major challenge which involves both the technological as well as psychological aspects of change. A project like implementation of NCW is a multidisciplinary process. It is, therefore, imperative that some of the critical issues are addressed at the inception stage. These include evolution of an enterprise architecture, integration and interoperability, communications, bandwidth and latency, new technologies like software defined radios (SDRs), robustness of transmission, message and signal routing, sensor exploitation, management of data-bases, information security, information overload, integrated logistics, dangers of micro management, commercial influences, strategic initiatives and time for implementation. We urgently need to gear up in cyber warfare. For effective implementation of the transformation process, certain imperatives at the national level are required. First, the political hierarchy should ensure that all security related organisations must work in synergy on various aspects leading to the implementation of net-centricity for achieving the common goal of national security. Second, a joint force networked for NCW must be established and all our future accretions designed as ‘netready’ and interoperable with due emphasis on indigenous research and self-reliance to ensure security and redundancy in our systems. We must develop NCW related concepts and also requisite capabilities through models and simulations. Third, realistic and quantifiable goals should be set, developing an implementation plan to achieve these and measuring the progress made. An immediate goal must be the availability of a networked joint force as a test bed that can experiment with the concepts and capabilities of NCW. Fourth, we should exploit our expertise in information technology to create an interface between the defence forces and industry with profitable payoffs for both to foster self-reliance.
For transformation into an NCW capable force, we need a NCW doctrine as the start point. Concepts of individual services should flow from a joint doctrine. This will facilitate a coherent tri-service networked architecture.