|Maj. R. Baijal*, M. K. Arora and S. K. Ghosh**
Geomatics Engineering Section, Department of Civil Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee 247 667
*[email protected], **[email protected]
Military history is full of incidents wherein a smaller army having a good knowledge of the terrain has defeated a much larger well-equipped and organised army. Nearly, all military activities are terrain sensitive and need careful planning and reconnaissance to ensure success. However, planning of military operations is a complex process and is guided by the experience and capability of the commander and his staff who provide the necessary inputs to him. This decision making process can be made intelligent by developing Knowledge Based (KB) expert systems. In this paper, a knowledge-based approach has been used to produce a number of thematic maps useful for various military operations. The approach developed is capable of taking inputs in the form of data layers that may be generated from satellite images, aerial photographs, topographical maps or other ancillary data. Some common military operations such as selection of sites for bridges, ferries and helipads, identification of tactically important roads and vehicle mobility movement are considered. The development of such knowledge-based approached shall tremendously assist the military commander to provide efficient and real-time information in an organized way for any military task.
With the present cold war situation between India and its adjoining neighbour, the defence forces have to be on alert at all times. Any emergent situations means that the army has to move towards the border at a very short notice. The modern battlefield is highly mechanized with heavy arms and ammunitions to shift around. The mobility of any armoured column depends upon the terrain conditions over which it has to move. Ground conditions have always played an important role in all conflicts over the ages. The parameters like topography, soil type and land use land cover have a direct bearing to key activities like mobility of both men and machines, methods of crossing obstacles, selection of tactically important areas etc. Logistics also play an equally important role as weapons in a war. Replenishment of ammunition, fuel and other supplies are required to reach the fighting troops in time. These require careful planning in terms of routes to be taken and movement of various types of vehicles to ensure success. Thus, in today’s modern battlefield, speed of planning and execution of operations is of prime importance.
Fortunately, we are living in an Information Technology (IT) era where the dissemination of information from one place to another has virtually become real time. The IT tools can be sufficiently exploited for any challenging task such as planning of wars. Remote sensing, Geographical Information System (GIS) and artificial intelligence technologies are sitting on the top of these IT tools that can together be effectively utilised to develop intelligent systems for war planning. Command, Control, Communication, Coordination and Information (C4I) is one such system where these technologies can be effectively used. For example, satellite remote sensing data can be used to generate a wide range of products such as land use land cover maps, obstacle maps, slope maps, road mobility maps, line of sight plots etc. A GIS can receive, process, create, store, retrieve, update, manipulate and compress digital terrain data to generate a number of products. Knowledge of experts is a key input for any C4I system. Knowledge Based (KB) systems are being developed for war planning that can process inputs from remotely sensed and GIS derived products and use the knowledge gained to aid the decision making process, thereby allowing the military commanders make better battle plans. GIS embedded C4I systems aim to give this KB to field commanders and their staff who despite having little knowledge of GIS, can work on such systems. Currently only a few C4I systems are in use with embedded GIS, but their numbers are likely to rise substantially soon as more and more systems are developed around the world.
This paper presents a study on the use of a GIS assisted knowledge-based approach for some military operations such as selection of sites for bridges and helipads, identification of tactically important roads and preparation of vehicle mobility maps.
Some common military operations
The commanders have to carry out careful planning of a range of activities required during any military operation in war. Some of them are:
Selection of Sites for Launching Bridges
To provide mobility to ground forces across water bodies, two types of bridges are generally employed by the military. Wet bridges are built across the rivers and large water bodies where these can float. For small water bodies such as canals and drain, dry bridges clear of the water surface are provided. However, these bridges have fixed specifications of span, launching slope and bank conditions. Therefore, a suitable site has to be selected to meet these requirements with some site preparations. Selection of Ferry Sites
For crossing the canals and rivers, suitable ferry sites are needed till bridges are constructed over them. The terrain requirement is somewhat similar to bridges except that some form of road or track on the banks of the water bodies to provide access to the ferry site is required.
Selection of Sites for Helipads
During the movement of the troops and equipment, sufficient air cover essential in today’s warfare, as these are easy targets from air by the enemy. Keeping the capabilities of a helicopter in mind, it is being increasingly used in combat role and other tasks like reconnaissance, evacuation of casualties etc. The dimensions of the helipad required for the landing of a helicopter varies from place to place but the ground conditions may nearly be the same as for bridge and ferry sites. For example, the location of a helipad depends upon the tree cover, soil conditions and slope of the ground.
Identification of Tactically Important Roads
In order to provide fast and safe movement of troops and equipment, identification of tactically important roads is essential. Roads and tracks that lead up to the likely bridge or ferry site are tactically important and need to be identified and suitably constructed so that these may be used as the axis of maintenance. Ideally these roads should not pass through any obstacles like the minefields.
Preparation of Vehicle Mobility Maps
Military vehicles are generally classified into two broad categories, tracked and wheeled. Vehicles like tanks have excellent cross country mobility due to presence of tracks over its wheels. However vehicles having wheels but without tracks do need careful route planning before cross-country movement can be attempted. Vehicles carrying essential war stores like ammunition; fuel and other supplies are all wheeled vehicles.
The need for a knoowledge based approach
The activities mentioned above are just a few undertaken by the defence forces while planning for a military operation. Most of these require good interpretation skills to understand the terrain. These skills may vary from person to person and hence the interpretation is also likely to vary. This may adversely affect the battle plan therefore, there is a need to standardize procedures and incorporate systems, which use the existing knowledge acquired by experts, intelligence agencies and other means. This knowledge base (KB) can be effectively used to make accurate decision making tools which can easily be used by military commanders at all levels.
KB expert systems can be developed, which can take into account the experience and knowledge of terrain analysts and other experts to convert them into a set of rules, which can then be applied to digital data to derive a number of thematic maps that can in turn be used in war planning.
A typical KB system comprises of a set of interrelated and interconnected components such as knowledge base, inference mechanism (IM), user-interface, mechanism to update KB, and the explanation of the rules applied (Nikolopoulos, 1997). The KB is a systematic collection of information from various sources and experts in the area of application (e.g., war planning here). It is organizes the information into rules, which are generally written in the form of IF-THEN-ELSE statements. The IM is the work center as it provides the deductions or solution to a particular problem based upon the rules framed. The user interface is the link between the user and the KB such that a non-expert can also use it comfortably. With passage of time, the KB has to be updated in terms of informations and rules, thus Mechanism to update KB is an essential facility to upgrade and check the validity of KB. Generally, a KB system shell is built that houses the IM, the user interface, an explanation system and a knowledge base editor. There are numerous commercial KB system shells, each one appropriate for a slightly different range of problems. Using shells to prepare a KB system generally reduces the cost and time of development.
In this paper, the knowledge based classifier in the well known Image Processing and raster GIS software namely ERDAS Imagine has been used as a shell to develop a knowledge-based approach for the military operations mentioned above.