Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sys­tem Fu­tur­is­tic Digi­tised Battlefield

The Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sys­tem is a revo­lu­tion in com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy and is a quan­tum jump above the tech­nol­ogy cur­rently in use. It will be the In­dian Army’s fu­tur­is­tic back­bone for a digi­tised battlefield com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work.

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In mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sys­tem (TCS) is gen­er­ally em­ployed within, or in direct sup­port of, tac­ti­cal forces. It is de­signed to meet the re­quire­ments of chang­ing tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tions and vary­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions, and pro­vides se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions, such as voice, data and video, among mo­bile/static users to fa­cil­i­tate com­mand and con­trol within, and in sup­port of tac­ti­cal forces. It usu­ally re­quires short in­stal­la­tion times, in or­der to meet the re­quire­ments of fre­quent re­lo­ca­tion.

To­day the net­work-cen­tric war­fare (NCW) has come of age and this ca­pa­bil­ity is be­ing es­tab­lished in all mod­ern armed forces of the world as it fa­cil­i­tates sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, col­lab­o­ra­tive plan­ning and self-syn­chro­ni­sa­tion thus en­hanc­ing over­all com­bat power and speed of oper­a­tions. The In­dian Army’s de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tems are at var­i­ous stages of de­vel­op­ment and some have al­ready been fielded.

Net­work-cen­tric­ity in fu­ture bat­tle­fields will be vi­tal for win­ning wars and this can only be achieved if our com­mu­ni­ca­tions are digi­tised,

se­cure, ro­bust (with built-in re­dun­dancy) and sur­viv­able in the strate­gic as well as in the tac­ti­cal do­mains. The tac­ti­cal bat­tle area (TBA) pri­mar­ily has two types of net­works which are in­te­grated–static com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Ef­fec­tive static com­mu­ni­ca­tions are be­ing ac­quired by the In­dian Army through a new op­ti­cal fi­bre ca­ble (OFC) net­work, be­ing pro­vided to the mil­i­tary since it was made to sur­ren­der 3G spec­trum. In ad­di­tion they have the Army Static Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Nodes (AS­CON) all along the in­ter­na­tional border. Thus while static com­mu­ni­ca­tions will be net­worked through OFC and AS­CON Nodes, and satel­lite links, mo­bile of­fen­sive for­ma­tions will re­quire the de­vel­op­ment of Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work (TCN) which are presently based on the up­graded Army Ra­dio Engi­neer­ing Net­work (AREN) sys­tem of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tem – A Digi­tised Net­work

In the fu­ture, TCS is planned to re­place AREN sys­tem cur­rently be­ing used in ‘of­fen­sive’ for­ma­tions. The AREN sys­tem uses ra­dio re­lay equip­ment (com­monly re­ferred to as RR equip­ment) to con­nect Bri­gade level head­quar­ters to Di­vi­sion and Corps level head­quar­ters on the battlefield. Based on the type of mo­bil­ity re­quired, the RR equip­ment of of­fen­sive for­ma­tions (Strike Corps), whose mis­sions in­vari­ably lie across the border is gen­er­ally mounted on high mo­bil­ity wheeled ve­hi­cles or tracked ve­hi­cles while those of de­fen­sive for­ma­tions are based on nor­mal wheeled lor­ries. Rear of the Corps Head­quar­ters, up to Re­gional Com­mands and to Army Head­quar­ters the com­mu­ni­ca­tions ac­quire a more static con­fig­u­ra­tion, re­ly­ing more on OFC, AS­CON Nodes and satel­lite links and less on ra­dio.

The TCS is a revo­lu­tion in com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy and is a quan­tum jump above the tech­nol­ogy cur­rently in use. It will be the In­dian Army’s fu­tur­is­tic back­bone for a digi­tised battlefield com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work. This sys­tem will pro­vide the ca­pac­i­ties re­quired for fu­ture battlefield com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the con­text of net­work-cen­tric war­fare and for fa­cil­i­ties such as stream­ing video trans­mis­sions which re­quire much higher band­widths. It will fa­cil­i­tate the com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the Corps Head­quar­ters to the troops de­ployed in the for­ward ar­eas and to of­fen­sive for­ma­tions which op­er­ate be­yond the bor­ders in the enemy ter­ri­tory.

The TCS ar­chi­tec­ture will com­prise se­cure ra­dios, satel­lite ter­mi­nal sys­tems and fi­bre-op­tic links, and will have mod­ern pro­tec­tion sys­tems against elec­tronic jam­ming threats. The TCS will be linked with smart an­tenna sys­tems to sup­port its trans­mis­sion sys­tems and will be tied to sev­eral Army sur­veil­lance and in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing sys­tems, in­clud­ing the aero­stat radars and sev­eral un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles.

Last Mile Con­nec­tiv­ity

As far as the last mile con­nec­tiv­ity in the TBA is con­cerned it can­not be overem­pha­sised as it is meant to em­power the sol­dier who is at the cut­ting-edge of our forces. The con­cept of Bat­tle Man­age­ment Sys­tems (BMS) ful­fils this re­quire­ment which will be linked to the TCS. It is ex­pected that in the next few years the In­dian Army will be able to in­duct state-of-the-art dig­i­tal sys­tems which would help in sus­tain­ing the mo­men­tum and tempo of oper­a­tions by clear­ing the fog of war and by pre­sent­ing a com­pre­hen­sive bat­tle pic­ture to the com­man­ders at all lev­els.

Other Armies

China’s mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion in the sphere of com­mu­ni­ca­tions has been based on dis­sect­ing enor­mous Western lit­er­a­ture, its scope and progress. De­spite this boom, many an­a­lysts have paid rel­a­tively lit­tle at­ten­tion to re­cent ad­vances in the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army’s (PLA) com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, com­puter, in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4ISR) ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The PLA’s grow­ing com­ple­ment of manned and un­manned air­craft, re­con­nais­sance satel­lites, and so­phis­ti­cated ground-based in­fra­struc­ture com­prises the op­er­a­tional foun­da­tion of China’s emerg­ing net­work­cen­tric mil­i­tary. Much Chi­nese think­ing on C4ISR and mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion stems from anal­y­sis of the United States’ mil­i­tary per­for­mance in both their con­flicts in Iraq.

Pak­istan Army has al­ready in­sti­tuted the PATCOM (Pak­istan Army Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tions). Un­der this pro­gramme, all Corps have been equipped with hand-held ra­dio sets, VHF ve­hi­cles ra­dio sets, low and medium power ra­dio sets, field ex­changes and FAX ma­chines. Work is in progress to have a real-time C4I Sys­tem at all tiers of Pak­istan Army.

The Bri­tish Army has in­tro­duced the FAL­CON trunk com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­gramme which is be­ing in­tro­duced in­cre­men­tally in Bri­tish Army. It pro­vides mod­ern, se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture for de­ployed for­ma­tions and op­er­at­ing bases. De­signed around IP, the sys­tem has scal­able ap­pli­ca­tion meet­ing needs of an ex­pe­di­tionary force.

The US Army’s cur­rent and fu­ture tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work is Warfighter In­for­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal (WIN-T), pro­vides se­cure, ag­ile and sur­viv­able end-to-end con­nec­tiv­ity and on­de­mand band­width that is dy­nam­i­cally al­lo­cated, based on op­er­a­tional pri­or­ity and prece­dence among mil­lions of space, air, sea and ter­res­trial-based fixed and mo­bile users.

TCS Project De­tails

In­dian Army’s TCS project field­ing was orig­i­nally sched­uled to com­mence in year 2000 (chris­tened TCS 2000) but did not take off. Later, this was given the name TCS 2010 but started mov­ing for­ward at a snail’s pace. In Fe­bru­ary 2014 two de­vel­op­ment agen­cies (DAs) were se­lected to de­velop the pro­to­types of the TCS. Of the two DAs se­lected were the state-owned Bharat Elec­tron­ics Lim­ited (BEL) and a con­sor­tium made up of pri­vate sec­tor de­fence com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power SED and HCL Ltd. Both DAs have been tasked to de­velop a TCS pro­to­type at the cost of $100 mil­lion apiece. The gov­ern­ment is to fi­nance 80 per cent of the costs in­curred in the pro­to­type de­vel­op­ment. Once the sys­tems are de­vel­oped they will be eval­u­ated, tested on the ground, and then one of the two will be se­lected for pro­duc­tion. The en­tire process, con­ducted un­der the In­dian De­fense Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil’s ‘Make in In­dia’ pro­cure­ment cat­e­gory, was ex­pected to take 36 months. It may be noted that the TCS project is worth over $2 bil­lion (over ` 13,000 crore) and TCS be­came the first ‘Make’ pro­gramme un­der the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP) 2011.

Dis­putes Have Arisen

It has been re­ported that pro­ce­dural dis­putes have cropped up lead­ing to fur­ther de­lay. The dis­putes ba­si­cally in­volve the fol­low­ing is­sues: Tax ex­emp­tion in­cen­tives. In­tel­lec­tual property rights. A level play­ing field for the pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies.

The Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power SED and HCL Ltd Con­sor­tium has re­port­edly re­quested that it re­ceives the same tax in­cen­tives as pro­vided to BEL. The sec­ond dis­pute in­volves the in­tel­lec­tual property rights (IPR) of the sys­tem. Project re­quires the IPR to be with the Army through MoD. Since TCS would be a ded­i­cated strate­gic project, the Army wants to en­sure the tech­nolo­gies built into the pro­to­type and the fi­nal sys­tems are ‘sani­tised’, im­ply­ing th­ese tech­nolo­gies are ex­clu­sively de­vel­oped for the Army and not shared. The de­vel­op­ing agen­cies feel the Army’s case is im­prac­ti­cal since it im­plies the DAs have to take an un­der­tak­ing from the over­seas equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers which may not be forth­com­ing. More­over the norms for checks on im­ported tech­nolo­gies would be uni­form for both de­vel­op­ing agen­cies. The Con­sor­tium’s de­mand re­lated to IPR must also be seen in light of the ‘Make in In­dia’ call by the Prime Min­is­ter which is to trans­form In­dia into a man­u­fac­tur­ing hub, which obliquely im­plies that prod­ucts may be sold else­where with or with­out per­mis­sion on case to case ba­sis.

The pri­vate sec­tor DA is also de­mand­ing a level play­ing field. The gov­ern­ment has al­ready cre­ated fa­cil­i­ties in BEL which would be utilised by them free of cost, whereas the pri­vate sec­tor con­sor­tium would have to make in­vest­ments that would be added on their bid. Ideally, the de­pre­ci­a­tion and in­ter­est of the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD)-funded fa­cil­i­ties should at least be added on BEL’s bid to en­sure a level play­ing field. This is­sue is still to be re­solved. The Con­sor­tium wants the gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the is­sue since the pro­duc­tion con­tract is even­tu­ally to be awarded to the ‘low­est bid­der’ af­ter the suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment of the pro­to­types. We hope that th­ese pro­ce­dural dis­putes will be re­solved soon and the project moves for­ward rapidly.

In the mean­while the In­dian Army’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion re­quire­ments are in­creas­ing enor­mously and be­com­ing more com­plex in view of the fu­ture joint war-fight­ing doc­trines that will en­com­pass joint and in­te­grated oper­a­tions, in­volv­ing higher mo­bil­ity, rapid ma­noeu­vre, quick sidestep­ping and dis­per­sion and the ever grow­ing de­mands for battlefield trans­parency in the form of in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (ISR), and the ever present need of com­man­ders at all lev­els for re­duc­ing the tim­ings of the ob­serve, ori­ent, de­cide and act (OODA) loop.

Con­clu­sion

Tech­nol­ogy has changed the tra­di­tional thought pro­cesses on mil­i­tary ef­fec­tive­ness. In­creas­ingly, mod­ern armed forces are en­deav­our­ing to ob­tain su­pe­ri­or­ity over the enemy by qual­i­ta­tive means through ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies. Devel­op­ments in imag­ing, re­mote sens­ing, night vi­sion, sen­sors, pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions, stealth tech­nol­ogy and above all dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­puter net­works are com­pelling the mil­i­tary to adopt new war-fight­ing tech­niques. The cur­rent ‘silent’ revo­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs, how­ever, has not been ac­com­pa­nied by an ex­am­i­na­tion of its im­pact on our force struc­tures, or­gan­i­sa­tional as­pects, doc­trines, qual­ity of lead­er­ship, hu­man re­source de­vel­op­ment and lo­gis­tics. In the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent, fu­ture wars will be a hy­brid na­ture, a mix of mod­ern wars and wars of the in­dus­trial age. Both will de­mand knowl­edge-based war­fare tech­niques and digi­tised com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

This TCS will pro­vide the ca­pac­i­ties re­quired for fu­ture battlefield com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the con­text of net­work-cen­tric war­fare and for fa­cil­i­ties such as stream­ing video trans­mis­sions which re­quire much higher band­widths.

LT GEN­ERAL V.K. KAPOOR (RETD)

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