Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tem—An up­date

SP's MAI - - MILITARY REPORT - The writer is for­mer Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Air De­fence, In­dian Army

The com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the tac­ti­cal bat­tle area is pro­vided by static and mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Static com­mu­ni­ca­tions are be­ing de­vel­oped through a new op­ti­cal fi­bre cable net­work be­ing laid as an al­ter­na­tive to the 3G spec­trum sur­ren­dered by the armed forces. This will be linked with Army Static Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (ASCON) sys­tem through a Bat­tle Man­age­ment Sys­tem (BMS). ASCON pro­vides voice and data links be­tween static head­quar­ters and those in peace­time lo­ca­tions. It is ex­pected to be of mo­du­lar de­sign so that it can be up­graded when re­quired. BMS is meant for com­mu­ni­ca­tions from the bat­tal­ion head­quar­ters for­ward to the com­pa­nies and pla­toons.

Army Ra­dio En­gi­neer­ing Net­work (AREN) was the back­bone mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the In­dian Army since 1987 when it was first fielded dur­ing ex­er­cise Brass Stack. Later on dur­ing a ma­jor ex­er­cise where In­dian Army’s all strike corps were launched, it was felt that with the rapid ad­vance­ments in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, there was a need to field a suc­ces­sor to AREN. Of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions are spread over a large ge­o­graph­i­cal area with rapidly chang­ing con­tours of a mo­bile bat­tle. Thus the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port­ing it has to be ded­i­cated, re­li­able, se­cure, mo­bile and ca­pa­ble of quickly adapt­ing to mul­ti­ple threat contin­gen­cies. How­ever mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions is still un­der con­sid­er­a­tion/de­vel­op­ment. Since the ges­ta­tion pe­riod to launch a new de­fence sys­tem is un­duly long in In­dia thus the blue­print for a fu­ture com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the mo­bile and of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions of In­dian Army was laid as early as 2000 through a de novo ap­proach of Tac­ti­cal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Sys­tem (TCS).

TCS

Army tac­ti­cal net­works need to be mo­bile, flex­i­ble, ver­sa­tile and re­li­able. It is also re­quired to com­mu­ni­cate with legacy and other In­ter­net pro­to­col based sys­tems. Fre­quency hop­ping is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment for pre­vent­ing jam­ming and af­fect­ing elec­tronic counter-mea­sures. In a tac­ti­cal sys­tem, mo­bil­ity is es­sen­tial for switches and end points to en­able multi-hop­ping ra­dio net­work. Their al­go­rithms have to be adap­tive and fast for op­ti­mis­ing the net­work. Dur­ing loss of com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment due to en­emy ac­tion or jam­ming, Adap­tive Chan­nel Hop­ping (ACH) al­go­rithm en­able net­works to re­con­nect them­selves thus pre­vent­ing loss of com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing crit­i­cal phases of the bat­tle. Thus ex­ten­sive search is go­ing on in the field of ACH al­go­rithm. The com­plex­ity of TCS is due to the di­ver­sity of the sen­sors, type of nodes re­quired to link from the sol­dier up­wards to head­quar­ters at var­i­ous lev­els, and the sheer num­bers re­quired. For ex­am­ple, ra­dio sets re­quired at tac­ti­cal level range from HF (3-30 MHz), VHF, (30-300 MHz) and UHF (300-3,000 MHz). Other key pro­grammes like F-INSAS also de­pend on the early and suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of TCS. It is ex­pe­ri­enced that par­tic­i­pa­tion of pri­vate sec­tor and use of com­mer­cial off the shelf tech­nol­ogy lever­ages new sys­tems to be fielded in a time bound man­ner.

Ap­proach for Im­ple­men­ta­tion

The TCS project went through many twists and turns, over­seen by three De­fence Min­is­ters. TCS2000 be­came TCS-2010 so that it ap­peared to be a re­cent pro­jec­tion. The Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) had a gen­uine prob­lem as pri­vate com­pa­nies can par­tic­i­pate in Make (High-Tech Sys­tems) cat­e­gory but not in Make (Strate­gic, Com­plex and Se­cu­rity Sen­si­tive Sys­tems). Ear­lier the rea­son to cat­e­gorise the project as Make (Strate­gic, Com­plex and Se­cu­rity Sen­si­tive Sys­tems) was due to the se­crecy of the ‘fre­quency hop­ping al­go­rithm’. TCS was also In­dia’s first ‘make’ big-ticket con­tract (a shade less than $2 bil­lion which will go up if the project is de­layed any fur­ther). Fi­nally MoD de­cided to fol­low a sim­i­lar ap­proach to the US by giv­ing the de­vel­op­ment con­tract to two con­sor­tiums namely one led by PSU Bharat Elec­tron­ics Lim­ited and the other joint con­sor­tium of Larsen & Toubro (56.67 per cent), Tata Power (Strate­gic Elec­tron­ics Divi­sion 33.33 per cent) and HCL (10 per cent). It also de­cided to fund 80 per cent of the de­vel­op­ment cost (es­ti­mated at ` 300 crore) with 20 per cent funded by the re­spec­tive com­pa­nies. Both the con­sor­tiums will field one sys­tem each for com­par­a­tive tri­als. MoD will then se­lect the bet­ter sys­tem and that con­sor­tium will be awarded the con­tract to build seven sys­tems to be fielded by seven corps. BEL is sup­ported by the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion for cer­tain tech­nolo­gies like the Cen­tre for Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and Robotics is de­vel­op­ing in­dige­nous se­cu­rity so­lu­tions which are es­sen­tial in such a sys­tem. Then there is the re­quire­ment of Mi­cro-electro­mechan­i­cal Sys­tems which are nec­es­sary to be ad­dressed as they ef­fect is­sues of weight and power re­quire­ment for com­po­nents. It is re­ported that the DPSU and the pri­vate com­pa­nies have sub­mit­ted a de­tailed project re­port (DPR) which de­fines ev­ery sys­tem, sub­sys­tem, and ca­pa­bil­ity of the TCS. This is an es­sen­tial doc­u­ment to guide and eval­u­ate the fi­nal prod­uct.

Con­cerns of the Pri­vate Com­pa­nies

The con­sor­tium of pri­vate com­pa­nies has con­veyed their con­cerns to the MoD. One of the ma­jor one is re­gard­ing the in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights which the MoD wants to re­tain as it is fund­ing 80 per cent of the de­vel­op­ment but the com­pa­nies wants it to be vested which can im­ply that it is fully and un­con­di­tion­ally guar­an­teed as their le­gal right. The Army (Corps of Sig­nals) also wants to sani­tise the tech­nolo­gies built into the TCS due to the sen­si­tiv­ity of the sys­tem as it is a ded­i­cated strate­gic project but the com­pa­nies feel that the army will in­ter­fere with the de­vel­op­ment of the sys­tem at ev­ery stage.

Con­clu­sion

Due to the long ges­ta­tion pe­riod, the ques­tion crops up as to whether it will be ever fielded and the an­swer is a big ‘yes’. The other ques­tion is ‘when’, which even the MoD can­not an­swer. Com­pare this with the de­vel­op­ment of tac­ti­cal ra­dio sets in other coun­tries. US Army has its Joint Tac­ti­cal Ra­dio Sys­tem ( JTRS) which is a fam­ily of ra­dios rang­ing from low­cost ter­mi­nals with lim­ited wave­form sup­port to multi­band, multi-mode, mul­ti­ple chan­nel ra­dios sup­port­ing ad­vanced nar­row­band and wide­band wave­form ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The ra­dio sets can be in­te­grated with com­puter net­work­ing fea­tures and con­form to open phys­i­cal and soft­ware ar­chi­tec­tures. The JTRC fam­ily of ra­dios cover an op­er­at­ing spec­trum from 2 to 2,000 MHz, and would be ca­pa­ble of trans­mit­ting voice, video and data. They are to re­sume full rate pro­duc­tion by Thales and Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics Mis­sion Sys­tems dur­ing 2017. Even Pak­istan has ac­quired from Harris the ex­port ver­sion of the Harris’ Fal­con II AN/PRC-150 in 2005 for $76 mil­lion and in 2007 for $68 mil­lion. These sets fit into the net­work-cen­tric com­mu­ni­ca­tions for su­pe­rior com­mand and con­trol, are bat­tle-proven for se­cure, re­li­able mis­sion-crit­i­cal voice, data and video. Both these coun­tries would have had the net­work in place to com­plete the sys­tem. In­dia has to catch up fast and the ear­lier it does bet­ter it will be.

Mo­bile In­te­grated Net­work Ter­mi­nal

LT GEN­ERAL NARESH CHAND (RETD)

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