The Main Battle Tanks, fighter planes and modern warships will prove to be a sitting duck in conflict situation if the adversary is armed with the invisible and superior information and communication network.
This is called Net Centric Warfare and the modern age combat will be dominated by C4I3 based information and command network, which will help take a lead in the quick decision making.
An army taking a battle field decision within fraction of seconds before the adversary will prove to be the winner. Hence there is a race worldwide for acquiring systems relating to electronic and information warfare.
The Indian armed forces are acquiring these systems on a priority basis and India is getting ready to launch the first of its military dedicated satellite for its armed forces. However, till the satellite is launched India is relying on its present fleet of AWACS and other ground based networks. The nature of warfare will change from a platform centric to network centric and the armed forces will have to quickly adapt to the new environment.
The three services are setting up necessary infrastructure and command system to manage and upgrade them in relation to the capabilities being acquired by the adversary. The Indian Navy, last year in June appointed for the first time a post of Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Communications Space and Network Centric Operations) ACNS (CSNCO) at the integrated Headquarters of Ministry of defence (Navy) at New Delhi.
According to a naval official, communications technology in tandem with space based capabilities play a pivotal and transformational role in modern warfare. Recognizing the critical need to harness these technological capabilities, the Indian Navy has been taking rapid steps to seamlessly integrate all combat platforms and terrestrial nodes through state-of-the art communications and space systems towards network centric operations.
In addition to making platforms and infrastructure for network centricity, the Navy has also made organizational changes to create and efficiently manage the transition to seamless Network Centric capabilities. The creation of a new post of Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Communications Space and Network Centric Operations) is step in the process to migrate from a ‘Platform Centric Navy’ to a ‘Network Enabled Navy’.
During various exercises, Network Centric Warfare (NCW) has been one of the crucial aspects being validated. During the various coordinated exercises conducted by the Army with the Air Force, the endeavor has been to validate and integrate the use of all available assets, including satellites, UAVs and HUMINT (Human intelligence) to assist commanders at all levels in taking dynamic and proactive operational action in a fluid battlefield.
According to an official, another important facet being validated during the field exercises is the real-time sensor-to-shooter loop, which enables commanders to take instant decisions even as information is shared among platforms and personnel to order the weapons to be deployed. Network Centric Warfare provides shared information of the battle space among armed forces and is an integral part of the ongoing transformational studies.
In fact the major revolutions in information and communications technology have transformed the very basis of accepted norms of warfare and global security.
According to an official note of the Indian defence ministry the modern combat atmosphere is becoming more and more complex due to increase in ranges and complexity of military equipment, advances in Information Technology and sophistication of C4I2 structures/Net-Centric warfare.
Adoption of the latest technology in developing new warfare systems would propel us towards our goal of achieving a technological edge over the adversary in prevailing decisively across the entire spectrum of conflict with reduced force levels and minimal casualties.
The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while inaugurating a seminar presented the official view on the issue. “Terrorist groups are highly networked, nimble footed and more lethal, this calls for appropriate responses. Cyber threats are emerging as a major source of worry. Cyber and information warfare could qualitatively change the concept of a battlefield.”
The Indian defene minister had recently stated that Information Superiority in today’s scenario directly translates into Combat Superiority, and an extremely responsive and agile ICT infrastructure would be required. The greatest challenge for our armed forces is to transform to meet both current and future challenges in this uncertain world of the 21st century.
Hence the ex Chief of Army Gen V K Singh had said last year that the academia and the industry can help the armed forces leverage state-of-the-art technologies in executing dedicated ICT networks. “With the focus of the battlefield shifting to a Network Centric environment, it is imperative to augment our capabilities in the digital domain to maintain information superiority over our adversaries. Our information grid will be a potent force multiplier and will enable us to optimally use our weapon systems.”
Accordingly the IAF has already made operational the Phase-1 of its layered, hardened and in-depth air defence command, control and communications network, called integrated air command, control and communications system (IACCCS).
This has been made operational and once the IAF-owned, operated and managed fully secure and reliable network and gigabyte digital information grid-known as AFNet, is fully operationalized, the force can rely on a very efficient system to challenge the rival forces.
Under an overall project cost of ‘16,000 crore, the IACCCS is being made operational under a two-phase program, which has been designed as a robust, survivable network-centric C4I3 infrastructure that will receive direct real-time feeds from existing space-based overhead reconnaissance satellites.
This will also be assisted by the ground-based and aerostat-mounted ballistic missile early warning radars and high-altitude-long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, and manned airborne early warning & control (AEW & C) platforms. The AWACS acquired from Israel has already been incorporated as IAF’s eye in the sky for providing advance warning about any fighter jet or missile taking off. This will help activate the IAF fighters to counter the threats.
The IAF has rightly assessed that the Ballistic Missiles have emerged as a major threat to a populated city, hence it has been authorized to coordinate the early warning and response aspects of a layered, ground-based, two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) network that is now at an advanced stage of development.
The BMD has been indigenously developed by the Indian defence research organization DRDO. The fibre-optic network-based AFNet, has in fact replaced the IAF’s tropo -scatter based communications network, which been deployed at a cost of around ‘ 11 billion in collaboration with US-based Cisco Systems Inc, HCL Infosystems Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL).
According to an IAF official the AFNet is based on the most up to date traffic transportation technology in the form of internet protocol (IP) packets over the network using multi-protocol label switching (MPLS).
A large voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) layer with stringent quality of service enforcement will facilitate robust, high quality voice, video and conferencing solutions. These are two main critical elements which has been inducted and the future steps will be to plug into the IACCCS a large number of new-generation ground-based radars that are now in the process of being delivered.
These are for airspace surveillance in search of airborne targets (like manned aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles), or coastal surveillance or ground surveillance.
Thus the NCW capability will give the armed forces sufficient time to react to any threat effectively. The NCW is in fact the brainchild of the US Army which worked on the processing power of the computer and networking communications technology for providing shared information of the battle space among the commanders of the three forces.
This tremendously helps in creating synergy for command and control which results in quick decision making and enables to coordinated complex military operations over long distances for a dominating war fighting advantage.