Building the foundation for modern warfare

Building the foundation for modern warfare


Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS) is responsible for transforming Indian Army into a net-centric force. But this isn’t an easy process given the kind of challenges that our territory faces and the nature of operations that Army is involved with.

Lt Gen N B Singh
Lt Gen N B Singh
Director General of Information Systems
Directorate General of Information Systems, India

Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS) is responsible for transforming Indian Army into a net-centric force. But this isn’t an easy process given the kind of challenges that our territory faces and the nature of operations that Army is involved with. Lt Gen N B Singh, Director General of Information Systems, India, tells us that despite diffculties, DGIS is committed to its mission.

Can you describe the role of Directorate General of Information Systems? Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS) is responsible to facilitate the transformation of Indian Army towards net centricity by developing various Operational Information Systems (OIS) along with associated Geographical Information System (GIS) as well as automation of Management Information Systems (MIS).

What all projects have been taken up by DGIS since its inception and how are they progressing?
Th e various projects that are in diff erent phases of development and fielding include the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS) for providing OIS at Army HQ, Command HQs and Corps HQs level. At the operational and tactical level, the Tactical Command, Control, Communication and Information Systems (Tac C3I) is being developed to provide net centricity; and at the cutting edge of operations, Battlefield Management System (BMS) for units and below level is planned. Since its inception, the directorate has been able to successfully field Artillery Combat Command & Control System (ACCCS) as part of Tac C3I Sys in the Indian Army. Command Information and Decision Support System (CIDSS) is the hub of Tac C3I Sys and has been successfully fielded in the test bed and is now progressing forward for pan Army fielding. Similarly, Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS) has been validated in the test bed by users and is now on its way to be fielded across the Indian Army. Air Defence Control & Reporting System (AD C&RS) is another system under development and will be fielded in the test bed soon.

Since GIS plays a crucial role in all operational systems, we are also closely involved in the preparation of geospatial data, standards and protocols to ensure seamless geospatial interoperability amongst various command and control systems.

In the field of Management Information Systems, certain applications have been developed for personnel and equipment management.

Progress on most of the projects is perceived to be rather slow. What are the reasons for the delay and how long will it take before the Force achieves 100 per cent network enabled status?
Net centricity for the Indian Army is much more complex than establishing commercial internet connectivity. Th e media connectivity, applications, security infrastructure, exchange protocols are complexities that require dedicated solutions.

In a large army such as ours, induction of new equipment and technologies has to be spread over time. Systems being developed need to be validated under field conditions, changes made based on the test results, necessary certifications need to be taken and the revised system needs to be retested before the process of induction starts.

As regards the timelines for achieving full network enabled status is concerned, I am of the opinion that it is a continuous process and will take some time. Even the advanced armies of Western and European countries are yet to achieve full net centricity. But I would like to add that as far as certain applications and services are concerned, Indian Army enjoys network connections down to unit level. Th e army intranet is one such example.

As you mentioned, GIS plays a crucial role in all operational systems. What is being done in the field of GIS by your Directorate?
GIS continues to be the hub of all OIS since all information in the operational domain has a spatial component. GIS issues continue to remain the major challenge in the development of command and control systems. When we look at GIS, we are mainly concerned with GIS application and geospatial data. At the application level, in the long run, we are looking at integrating GIS functionality in the main Command & Control application itself. To ensure interoperability, we are looking at various options including development of suitable protocols and formats for exchange of user created vector data. Development of a ‘Common Military Symbology’ standard is also an area we are currently working on. As regards geospatial data is concerned, we are addressing the challenges in using digital topographic data. Th e systems being developed require GIS ready map data that can be exploited by using various analytical tools. Converting the existing digital maps, prepared for a printed output, into GIS ready data is an enormous challenge.

A related aspect is the dissemination of vector maps. Formulating a suitable ‘Spatial Data Model Structure’ and putting it in a format that can retain the symbology across diff erent systems is one area we are focusing. We are looking at various options to address this issue. Another area we are looking at is the scale of maps. Th e existing scales of 1:50k are too small for the level of details required in the automated systems. We are in the process of identifying the requirements and some pilot projects are underway to evaluate the efficacy of large scale maps.

GIS is yet to be fielded in the Indian Army. Request for Information (RFI) for an Enterprise GIS was fl oated more than a year ago. When can we expect the RFP?
It needs to be understood that a Request for Information is only to gather information about a prospective project and the RFI in no way binds the user from issuing the RFP. Having said that, let me clarify that dissemination of geospatial data to the users in the Indian Army stays a priority for us. Whether it is in the form of an ‘Enterprise GIS’ or ‘Defense Spatial Data Infrastructure (DSDI)’, is another question. Th e responses to the RFI and subsequent deliberations do highlight the fact that while technology for dissemination of geospatial data is readily available, the real challenge lies in populating the geospatial databases. An enterprise GIS will be of little use if only a small subset of geospatial data required by the users can be hosted over it.

While the RFP is being prepared, simultaneous eff orts are on to create the requisite GIS ready data that will be hosted on such a system.

Since the systems were conceived and developed in standalone modes, the biggest challenge facing any organisation is to integrate them with other systems in a seamless manner. Your comments.
Integration and interoperability are perhaps least understood terms when it comes to command and control systems. While integration of disparate systems is technologically possible through translation approach at the database level and by use of gateways at the interface level, this comes at the cost of time penalties, additional hardware, processing power and bandwidth.

While many solutions for integration are being evaluated by us, we are also working on creating standard data structures for essential information that is to be exchanged between diff erent systems, both for spatial as well as non-spatial data. We are continuously interacting with the industry to identify solutions that can meet our requirements. Some studies within DGIS are underway to address this issue and one of our current projects aims to address the issue of ‘Common Military Symbology’ which will go a long way in creating standards that will lead to seamless interoperability.

Situational awareness relies on streaming videos and real-time inputs from surveillance systems rather than old and susceptible voice communications. What’s being done in this regard?
In Command & Control Systems, it is the real time inputs that lead to a better situational awareness. Every optical sensor’s output need not be streamed to all users. Streaming video is required only in certain situations; the challenge however lies in extracting the relevant information from any sensor output and disseminating the situation to all concerned users. In all our projects, we are looking at high bandwidth data capability. In times to come, all voice only communication devices will be replaced by data enabled devices.

For an effective Network-Centric Warfare (NCW), one requires equipments and weapon systems which are network enabled. While Indian Army is already doing that for its existing weaponry, how is it ensuring that future purchases integrate seamlessly with its existing systems? Does this form a part of its RFP for any future purchases?
In the ultimate analysis, unless all elements operating in the battlefield are on a common platform to provide Situational Awareness (SA), the concept of NCW will remain unexploited.

However, direct integration of weapon systems with computing devices will take place only when such weapon systems are developed and inducted. Project BMS aims to integrate all fighting and support platforms down to individual tanks/ specialist or modified vehicles with varying scales of SA capability, hence the transformation will be selective based on our operational requirement. However, for all future procurement of weapon systems and equipment, the aspect of integration with our command and control systems is very much considered.

The available constellation of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) do not provide adequate coverage under buildings as well as thick foliage. There is a need to have an alternate technology to assist in navigation and tracking in situations when GNSS based navigation fails. Your take?
Th is is a serious challenge faced by armies all over the world. However, various options are available to overcome this limitation. For all our systems targeted at mobile users, this aspect has been given adequate attention. Technologies such as ‘dead reckoning’, ‘personal inertial navigation’, ‘time/ angle of arrival’ are available making use of the data radios. In the commercial domain, such services are being provided by cellular operators by using the ‘assisted GPS’ technologies. However, for the military usage, not all technologies are suitable. We are also certain that availability of GNSS will be further boosted once our own Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) becomes operational.

Interoperability between the three services is a problem faced by armed forces around the world. How exactly are you planning to resolve the problem?
I am of the opinion that interoperability at strategic level can only be achieved by working towards integration at tactical level. Th e Tri Services issues are being dealt by HQ IDS. However, we continue to participate in all forums pertaining to interoperability amongst information systems. Certain standards are in the process of being created which will ensure that the information exchange between the services is seamless. Notable amongst these are the development of common waveforms for radio communication and the common geographic reference framework. With standard exchange protocols and dissemination formats in place, the issue of interoperability will be addressed in an efficient manner in times to come.