Lt Gen AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Despite the fact that military organisations world over are generally averse to change, warfare has constantly been undergoing transformation, adapting to the prevailing environment. Technology has always played a key role in this transformation process. Earlier, it was the military requirements that led to the developments in technology and then these found applications in the civil sector, but more recently it is the competition driven commercial organisations whose demands have led to an exponential growth in technology. Large commercial organisations with global footprint, particularly in the financial, retail, logistics and services sectors, have shifted to net-centric operations, enabled by the boom in the information technology. Armed forces too are evolving themselves from ‘platform centric’ to ‘network centric’ warfare, a concept pioneered by the US in the nineties.
Linking or networking entities which are geographically or hierarchically dispersed, enables sharing of information and collaboration, which results in shared battlespace awareness and self synchronisation of a combat force. Stated simply, networking aims at accelerating engagement cycles and operational tempo at all levels of warfighting, by ensuring that commanders have the information advantage to remain ahead of their adversaries and use available combat power most efficiently. The availability of sophisticated sensors, reliable communications, computing, switching and information storage devices, alongwith the associated software and accurate geospatial data, have provided the necessary infostructure enabling this change. However, technological challenges such as connectivity, spectral efficiency, mobility, survivability and interoperability do exist. Also, it is not enough that each service is independently networked, as most operations today involve more than one service and in the case of internal security operations, information and platforms need to be shared with other security agencies as well. These challenges are being addressed and technological solutions will be found.
But is technology by itself enough to ensure this transformation? Apart from the technical and organisational changes required for this transformation, there is a need to develop necessary human skills. Successful NCW adoption requires a technologically competent work force with a changed mindset, ready to collaborate, innovate and accept responsibility. Personnel would have to be educated and trained to operate new systems and learn new skills. HR policies may require a relook as specialised assignments would require qualified people with longer tenures.
There is no doubt that networking is a force multiplier and would improve warfighting capability immensely, but transformation to net centricity is complex as much as it is essential, and the strategy for change must be properly planned and diligently implemented without delay.