This "combative edge" of the Indian Army came out loud and clear, at the two-day third International Seminar on Battlefield Management System, organized jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS), here in Delhi.
The tenor for the conference was set by both the Minister of State for Defence, M.M.Pallam Raju and the Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V.K.Singh. The Minister was categorical that the spectrum of conflict of the Indian Armed forces had changed considerably and it was asymmetrical battlefield. "For the Armed Forces to have a full spectrum dominance, it was imperative for the forces to be equipped with modern weapons and information systems in a highly networked environment."
The Minister underlined that besides the Tri-services integration, such systems had to be precursors for the paramilitary forces too. The issues on hand were internal security, border management, disaster management, and peace-keeping and for all of these, information was going to be the key driver. Announcing that the government would support all endeavours in the private sector in adding to the defence capabilities, the Minister said "there would be a level-playing field for Indian entrepreneurs".
"Defence acquisitions have to have longer shelf life, while keeping pace with technology. The vendors have to look at this aspect and support the entire life cycle of the product." The offset policy provides a fair playing ground and also throws open for greater participation from both the Indian and the overseas companies.
Gen. Singh said that BMS would be a "force multiplier" and the requirement of the Indian Army was enormous. The system had to be robust overcoming challenges of terrain, weather, and adversary, while ensuring utmost security.
The BMS, he said, cannot be army specific. With new conflict scenarios emerging, the system should be interoperable. However, for the soldier it should give him "situational awareness" while guarding against information overload. The challenges are many in developing such a system and they include hardware, software and the end-user capabilities. Information has to be compressed in time and space, while giving speed and access to the soldier at all times.
Lt. Gen. V.S.Tonk, Deputy Chief of Army Staff, said the Indian Army was aware of the urgency to provide tools at all levels to achieve operational efficiency. With the battlefield being ever dynamic, the BMS had to factor that in, networking the various entities in the geographic area. The system also had to have capabilities of exchanging information with Tac C31 systems and FINSAS of Infantry.
Maj. Gen. Rajesh Pant, Officiating Director General Information Systems, said the DGIS was on the right track with regard to acquiring the BMS and that the inputs from the two-day seminar would help the DGIS in benchmarking the architectural requirement.
Lt. Gen. P.Mohapatra, SO-in-C said the Defence Ministry was engaged with the Communications Ministry on the issue of bandwidth and the radio frequency that would be available for the army. Meanwhile, think tanks were engaged in drafting the radio philosophy for the next decade.
Lt. Gen. J.P.Singh, Deputy Chief of Army Staff, said that any technology should be such that it "will not impede with the ability of the soldier to use the weapons system". Factors such as form, weight and battery life were key in any BMS and that it had to be a seamless extension from Command to soldier.
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) P.C.Katoch, former DGIS, underlined the importance of large scale mapping and high resolution imagery. "There is not a single agency for geo-spatial data. Both the Survey of India and the military maps need to shift from CAD to GIS models." Common geographic reference framework would go a long way in mapping, he sand mentioned that there was scope for outsourcing this.
The Chairman of CII Defence Committee on Policy & Strategy Implementation and Managing Director, Precision Electronics, Ashok Kanodia, said the cumulative defence budget for procurement for 2012-17 was over 80 billion dollars, highlighting the "significant" market opportunity that existed in India. The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) is evolving, he said and hoped that the decision-making processes were speeded up.
The Co-Chairman of the CII National Defence Council and Chairman of Samtel Group, Satish K.Kaura was of the view that the Indian defence sector had not fully tapped the IT capabilities that were readily available. "Now is the time," he said. The private sector was more than ready to participate in defence projects.
While the Army top brass spelt out thespecifications for the BMS, vendors, both Indian and international, showcased their wares at the exhibition and also spoke at length on the respective product capabilities. The exhibitors included Northrop Grumman; Raytheon; ITT Defence International; Rolta Thales; DRS Tactical Systems; Tata Power; Barco; Alpha Design Technologies; SAP among others.