By Maj Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM (Retd)

Geo-political situation is changing fast in the world. These changes are heralding a new era of challenges and opportunities at the same time for India. Russia-Ukraine war has affected India already on three counts to include lack of requisite support for the defense equipment of Russian origin, ‘No limit’ friendship between Russia & China and above all a special challenge to balance its relationship both with USA and Russia who are opposing each other tooth and nail.

In addition to the above, the conflict scenario is growing in the Indo-Pacific besides China, continuing its transgression across Line of Actual Line Control (LAC) for more than three years now with major transgression yet to be resolved in Depsang plains and Demchok. India has accelerated its border infrastructure, focused on indigenization of the defense equipment and embarked on capability development programs at the national level.

As far as the Defense Services are concerned, a lot of work is under progress for the theaterisation of the defense forces for enhancing their effectiveness as well as optimization of stand alone approach based expenditures. While all these things are progressing, each Service is attempting to make itself more potent. The Indian Army is no exception. It has launched a silent technological revolution having declared the year 2023 as the ‘Year of Transformation’.

Though the ‘Year of Transformation’ has large No of issues and steady progress is being made on multiple counts, the most startling revelation has been the automation and netcentric approach in warfighting which has been the ‘work in progress’ for quite some time but has attained the crucial fructification in the recent past. The year 2023 will be able to transform the Indian Army given the current focus of the Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS).

No articles have appeared on the said subject where each has covered certain aspects of this technological transformation. An attempt will be made in this article to highlight the operational need and effectiveness of these automation projects.

The first and foremost requirement of any army is to have effective surveillance across the borders covering not only the area of ​​influence but also the area of ​​interest. Both these areas are expanding with increasing range of sensors and growing ranges of the long range vectors. The surveillance requires the use of multiple sensors as each type of sensor has its own advantages as well as limitations. The variety of sensors operating from various platforms ranging from underwater locations and extending up to the space do provide large no of inputs but the challenge lies in synthesizing this information and making it available in the readable format for military commanders to discern and make timely decisions. This need is being met through Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS) known as Project SANJAY (name probably takes its origin from Mahabharat wherein SANJAY was able to see all the happenings of the battlefield despite not being present their physically and was narrating the events of Mahabharat sitting far away from the battlefield.BSS also intended to operate through large No of surveillance centers spread across all along our borders so that sensor information can be fused in the realistic time frame.Though it is not known, there is a high probability of this project. leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) as well in the due course.

Having focusedsed on surveillance, Indian Army has also focusedsed on effective employment of long range vectors wherein it has operationalised the Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) for effective control of these resources. It will be in the fitness of things if the organizational changes are also undertaken and complete rocket & missile forces are also brought under this. This system also known as Project Shakti unleashes accurate fire power on the adversary.

Whether they are the surveillance devices/sensors or the trajectories of the fired warhead, they are susceptible to weather conditions that too in a complex manner. Weather affects Surveillance sensors based on the technology being used by the concerned sensor whereas warhead trajectories traverse through varying layers of weather conditions and therefore only accurate factoring of this facet can ensure the desired accuracy. Indian Army is seized with this need and operationalising its project ANUMAN to ensure that the accurate weather data is available to all stakeholders. These are not limited only to sensors and shooters but a large number of other stakeholders who have to plan their movement in glaciated/adverse terrain besides being of great benefit to plan and sustain operations both during war and peace.

The data of sensors and triggers need to be synchronized on a common map system for which a common GIS platform is being developed for all the stakeholders as part of Project AVGAT. The best part is that this is being done in the sync of national effort for Project GATISHAKTI which is harnessing the data from close to 16 ministries. This approach is the best national effort and needs to transcend to all other domains as well.

But all this will be of limited impact if the decision makers are not adequately empowered. The Army has automated the E-Sitreps for providing the information with enhanced readability for which Situational Awareness Modules for the Army (SAMA) has been developed. This will be an important link to the decision support system which itself is being comprehensively automated. Once they are fully operational, it will change the way we fight. Clearly, we shall be able to deliver much more from the existing resources.

Network for Spectrum (NFS) project has provided reasonable bandwidth to the defense forces including Indian Army (IA) which are being utilised for fast processing of data, creation of data centers for multiple purposes & build redundancies. The concept of edge computing will further facilitate the warfighting in a more effective manner. All this will lead to a clear cut battle supremacy against our adversaries, be it China or Pakistan. All other automation projects will be able to use this medium for fast and real time processing of the data.

IA has not used this year of transformation only for the operational purposes but has expanded the concept to the multiple domains. IA has focusedsed on operational logistics as well wherein Computerised Inventory Control Project (CICP) is executing automation of Ordnance resource on ERP solutions model. It has the potential to incorporate all other logistics requirements both for war and peace. A consolidated approach will definitely be rewarding.

IA has also focusedsed on the efficient management of its large Human Resources (HR) through ARPAN which provides the inputs for Indian Army Data Repository and Analytics (INDRA). This technological empowerment is also aiding the decision makers at all levels.

These are not the only initiatives by IA to enter into the domain of Net Centric warfare but all other fields whether linked directly or indirectly are also being automated in a time bound manner. The physical paper from the office is vanishing fast by adopting the E-office, another effort to leverage the national effort. The E-Office has already been adopted by the Central Government.

The focus has not been only on the current force structure constituents but also on recently introduced AGNIVERS for whom Project ASAAN (Army Software for Agnipath Administration and Networking) has been operationalised. IA is touching almost every facet of its automation to make it more capable. As and when we have own operating system (OS) of international standards, infuse modern technological tools, automate after the Business Process Review (BPR) as against automating the current way of doing things, make all automation projects agnostic to OS as well as other linkages and make these scalable & synergistic to all the three services as well as national stakeholders, the country would be really transformed even if all the aims are not fully achieved in the year 2023.

The author is a Kargil war veteran and defense analyst. He is a visiting fellow of CLAWS and specializes in neighboring countries with a special focus on China. He can be contacted at trinetra.foundationonline@gmail.com and tweets from @chanakyaoracle.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited.

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