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.

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