Defcom India 2010

Defence Communication Systems key enabler in net-centric warfare

By R.Chandrakanth Video(s): By SP Guide Pubns

The Minister of State for Defence, M.M.Pallam Raju has said that the Tactical Communication System (TCS) was underway and that this offered an excellent opportunity for the Indian industry to seek its share of defence production. The government is exploring options to increase private sector participation in the defence sector through joint ventures, consortia etc.

Inaugurating the two-day Defcom India 2010 in Delhi, the Minister said these efforts were directed towards creating indigenous capabilities and achieving self-reliance in the defence sector. Defcom India 2010 has attracted quite a number of players from the private industry, showcasing their communication capabilities. Defcom India 2010 is jointly organized by the Corps of Signals and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Stating that the Armed Forces will remain a demanding customer, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the industry will have to invest substantially in research and development. The government will facilitate greater private participation in defence production and the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) is evolving.

Talking about the importance of communication in the present day battlefield, Pallam Raju said mission critical programmes cannot be left to chance and that networking of modern weapon systems would be key. While the soldier will require smaller and lighter equipment, efforts should be made to integrate the existing legacy systems. As cyber security was an area of concern, the stakeholders had to guard against leakage of information and also of disabling of networks by subversive elements.

The Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V.K.Singh said that with more technology infusion, the Indian Army would become a better force. The transformation was from a threat-based structure to capability-based force. With asymmetric warfare the norm now, the shift was from platform-centric to network-centric warfare and here the networks have to be robust, resilient and secure.

Transformation of the force takes time and sometimes there is resistance, he said and added that it is achieved with the least possible disruption to the mindsets that prevail.

The Signal Officer-in-Chief, Lt Gen P Mohapatra outlined the importance of the theme "Converged Infostructure for a Transformed Force". In a non-linear battlefield, precision by information becomes crucial from the command centre to the shooter. The army had embarked upon creating a robust and scalable network and that convergence remained a challenge. "Technology is a catalyst as well as inhibitor. Security will be a key factor."

The Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen. V.S.Tonk said there had to be seamless connectivity between the army headquarters and the tactical battle area (TBA). The programme was to empower the commanders to act decisively and in quick time. He also spoke on the importance of interoperability between the forces and also intra-operability within each service.

Ajai Chowdhary, Founder & Chairman of HCL Infosystems said that the defence communication industry was a multi-billion dollar sector and it required participation from different sources, primarily the private sector. Many defence communication programmes such as Network for Spectrum, Defence Communication Network and ASCON Phase-4 are being implemented, coping with the increased demand for reliable communication. The Indian hardware and software sectors had earned a reputation and for the defence sector it could be a viable hub.

During a panel discussion, Maj. Gen AK Srivastava, Assistant Director General Tac C, said improved situational awareness, robust and resilient networks, net-centricity, supremacy of information and empowerment of the soldier were essentials in the changing scenario of today's battlefield. In the communication realm, the main challenge was interfacing diverse and heterogeneous networks.

The Indian Army had initiated a number of projects with the aim of developing network infrastructure and tactical communications applications. Some of the projects such as Sanjay, Shakti etc were in various stages of development. The army sought from the industry new technologies which integrated with hybrid legacy systems; robust communication; convergence; integration and interoperability; secure and scalable networks; and life time support for equipment.

Giving a perspective of the Indian Air Force, Air Commodore Hemant Sharma, Principal Director, Signals (Air) mentioned how there had been significant growth in bandwidth wit induction of UAVs, radars, AWACs etc. In six months, the IAF would roll out the mobile network (WCDMA) wherein all IAF personnel would be connected through mobile phones.

The IAF recently introduced AFNET (Air Force Network), indicating the shift from coverage of western-eastern sectors to a pan-India approach. The plan is to integrate radars of civil, army and navy through the AFNET. The road-ahead, he said, was virtualization and capacity expansion in terms of bandwidth maybe to 10 gigabytes.

Capt. S.K.Chhetri, Director Naval Systems, said the navy was posed with challenges on sea, in air and land and called for integration of platforms for effective intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance. The Indian ocean was vast and with the curvature of the earth, it was difficult to track all vessels traversing the sea and there were about 1,000 ships passing every day through the Malacca straits. There were about 55,000 fishing vessels only in Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Navy, he said, had embarked upon a programme of identification of vessels through AIS (Automatic Identification System).

Lt. Gen. J.P.Singh, Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Planning and Systems) summed up stating that the transformation of the Indian army to an agile network-centric and knowledge-based force is imminent. Information dominance, achieved through information infrastructure, would help majorly in compressing decision-making time, crucial in a command-sensor-shooter hierarcy.