For decades there has been no exchange of fire in hostilities between the troops of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to the restraint exercised by both.
India shares more than 3,400 Km long border with China and at many locations there is a lack of clarity on the demarcation. This has been one of the reasons for the recent skirmishes and face-offs along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Eastern Ladakh side. There has been massive troops build-up on both sides of the LAC in areas like Galwan valley in Ladakh and Naku La sector.
For decades there has been no exchange of fire in hostilities between the troops of the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to the restraint exercised by both. This time, however, the fistfights, and the shoves, failed to reflect the hi-tech Army both the sides have.
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It is time that the Indian Army enhances its Net-Centric Operational (NCO) capabilities which shall inter-connect the frontline combat soldiers using modern Digital network. The much required indigenous Battlefield Management System (BMS) was shelved by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2017, despite approved requirements existing for the system. BMS which was to integrate frontline troops of infantry battalions and armoured corps to efficiently and effectively handle various echelons of combat information so as to deploy armament effectively is presently not digitally robust. In a BMS system, each soldier has a digital identity and interconnected tactical communication network.
Indigenous Battlefield Management System
In 2017, the project was put on a back burner in an effort to use the funds for other essential items which were needed then.
The Army had evolved the requirement of BMS from a long term perspective, especially to support Command & Control infrastructure for a large number of troops, as been seen on Indo-China Border in the last few weeks. Earlier, when indigenous BMS project was active, it had reached the mature level where two Development Agencies were chosen after multiple rounds of sustained discussions. In one consortium, Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) was in partnership with L&T, while other was a consortium between Bharat Electronics and Rolta, India.
Even though the BMS at the Troop level NCO activity could not be progressed, effort to complete the integration of higher echelons through Tactical Communications System, Command level Decision Support System and Battlefield Surveillance System were progressively implemented to ensure NCO for higher echelons.
According to NCO experts, “the critical source of information at troop level emanating from hundreds of combat units on the frontline is also essential for an effective NCO. As every soldier on ground is a key Information Node for BMS system, making the two-way flow of processed information between frontline and higher Command echelons effective.”
Indigenous Netcentric Operations Systems
Along with the Army, the other two services — Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) have painstakingly and independently developed their own indigenous NCO systems. The Naval Combat Management Systems (CMS) for the Navy and Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) for the IAF.
As reported earlier by Financial Express Online efforts to develop an indigenous CMS programme by Indian Navy commenced in early 2000. Now, CMS systems are a standard fit onboard all frontline warships, giving the essential Net-Centric capability for operating the naval assets at sea. Similarly, IAF’s IACCS use high-end technology like Software Defined Radios (SDR) and SAM missile systems too are being integrated. To further improve the Air Space Management efficiency, integration of IACCS with Surveillance Network of Civil Aviation is also being undertaken for an efficient NCO.
One of the goals of the office of the Chief of Defence Staff is to integrate the resources of the three services.
“This can only be achieved through the interoperability of Network Centric systems of the tri-services, and needs to emerge as long term perspective plan. Adhoc re-appropriation of naval air assets in deserts etc. and similar measures need to be part of a holistic NCO vision. However, more essential is to have the information flow to the frontline Army resources through an indigenous BMS system,” explained a senior army officer.
Adding, “Such systems have to be indigenous since no country will share their warfare tactics and, India as per its perceived enemy profile and geo-political situation needs to digitise their Concept of Operations.”
Only an indigenous NCO is viable to achieve interoperability amongst the three services since control of the software code, including that of the Software-Defined Radios, can sustain this effort in a long term.