Indian Army’s TCS programme
The Tactical Communication System (TCS) of the Indian Army has been in the news in recent times in terms of Tata Consultancy Services having assisted the Indian Army replace its legacy messaging system with an automated messaging system; a messaging system that relays secured information from one user to another, using the concept of mobile nodes which can be deployed in far-flung locations including in disaster relief situations with highly secure system having multiple levels of security incorporating FORTIORA suite of security products. This is just a small part of upgrading networked communications, which form the backbone of an effective command and control system though some modern frequency hopping radio sets with integral encryption have been introduced into service in recent years.
In 1996, the existing Plan Army Radio Engineering Network (AREN) system, earlier designed as the backbone of Army’s communication that was designed to roll forward, came up for urgent review having become outdated. The TCS was born out of a realisation that AREN had to be replaced and an upgrade would not be sufficient, as was envisaged earlier especially since legacy radio systems were not designed to connect to broad-reaching IP-based networks. Interestingly in 2005, when Pakistan purchased RF5800H-MP Harris radios at a cost of $76 million, they already had state-of-the-art TCS equipment.
As the alternative to the surrendered 3G spectrum by the Military, the new optical fibre cable (OFC) network being laid will provide modern landline communications in peace stations and to limited extent in the tactical battle area (TBA). However, the critical void is in supporting the tactical command, control, communications and information (Tac C3I) system coming up in the Army, particularly in the battlefield management system (BMS), battlefield surveillance system (BSS) and the command information and decision support system (CIDSS), besides others, all of which require wide-band data capabilities to facilitate real-time transmission of images and battlefield video while on the move all the way down to the cutting edge including infantry battalions, armoured and artillery regiments. The Indian Army has a complete Corps nominated as test bed but none of the operational information systems (OIS) under development and already fielded could be tested as required at full Corps level. This was because of lack of the TCS. The TCS had been approved thrice by Defence Ministers in the past and should have been fielded in the Army in year 2000 but every time the whole case was worked afresh after closing the previous case file – an extreme in red tape-ism and lackadaisical approach to vital issues. Truncated test bed for information systems result in avoidable problems coming up at fielding and equipping stage that could have been corrected in the test bed stage itself. Concurrent are avoidable additional costs accruing through required immediately post fielding these systems.
Tactical Control Radar Reporter