Guest Column - Force Magazine
Joint Capability
A reliable and inter-service C4I2SR system is an imperative
Prakash KatochBy Prakash Katoch
Military’s quest for Net Centric Warfare (NCW) capabilities has been ongoing. Intra-Service net-centricity in navy and air force is more because their weapon systems cannot function without it, but army is lagging behind. More significantly, inter-service NCW capability has made little headway. Lack of appropriate higher defence structures, void of network culture and inadequate political push, all are contributing factors. This, despite acknowledging that response to conflict situations need NCW capabilities and the Prime Minister declaring in 2004 during the Unified Commanders Conference, “Reforms within the armed forces also involve recognition of the fact that our navy, air forces and army can no longer function in compartments with exclusive chains of command and single service operational plans”.

No single weapon or force can reach full potential unless employed with complementary capabilities of other service(s). The battlefield has become non-linear, multi-dimensional battle space characterised by increased lethality, high degree of mobility coupled with simultaneity of engagement and increased tempo of operations in compressed time and space coupled with high degree of transparency. This calls for swift, concerted response and quick decision making and framework with a joint command and control structure to direct operations.

Success in battle largely depends on information advantage. Networking enabled by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) needs to be meshed with technological advancements and combined with organisational structures, processes and above all people – warfighters, operators, managers and commanders. The requirement is of a NCW capable force that is robustly networked with improved information sharing, situational awareness, collaboration, self-synchronisation, and sustainability, speed of command and mission effectiveness. A reliable Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4I2SR) System is an imperative.

Tri-Service Scene
Lack of an NCW doctrine has resulted in ambiguous NCW architecture, which has still not been defined. We have doctrines for C4I2 and Information Warfare (IW) but these are only components of NCW. NCW should also encompass policies, strategy, concepts, military organisations and adjustments required. Individual service concepts must flow from a joint NCW doctrine, facilitating development of coherent tri-service networked architecture. Non-merger of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) into MoD, lack of operational authority of former and void of a CDS have contributed to this. Lack of a top down approach has resulted in flawed net-centricity. There is no common tri-service ICT philosophy either. ICT plans discussed under aegis MoD actually are separate for communications and information systems.

Neither voice or data networks nor radio communications of the services are interoperable to the desired degree. Radio sets differ in their frequency bands, wave forms and secrecy algorithms. Networks of the three services do not talk to each other; respective intranets are not interoperable either. Each service develops networks in stand-alone mode. Common standards and protocols, mutually compatible database structures, development/deployment of interfaces between systems using disparate platforms and commonality of hardware have not commenced. Common data applications are yet to be conceived. In absence of this, UAV pictures of individual services continue to come up on separate screens in the Interim National Command Post. Similarly, the air force picture does not come directly into the Operations Room of the army. No single unifying secrecy algorithm for the three services has been developed though technological solutions exist. Requirement of a military satellite was first projected by the navy and later caught on by army and air force. Adequate bandwidth is at premium to exploit technology.

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