Geographical Information Systems Enable Combat Operations

Geographical Information Systems Enable Combat Operations


Lt Gen AKS Chandele
Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Managing Editor
[email protected]

Technological and organisational changes in the last three decades have resulted in a Revolution in Military Affairs which has transformed armed forces the world over. No longer is it mere numbers that will decide the outcome of a conflict. State-of-the-art surveillance systems providing real-time intelligence enable commanders to take quick decisions, conveyed through robust, secure communications to networked troops and platforms with precision guided weapons. Whether on land, at sea, in the air, space or cyber space, each element of this sensor, decision maker, shooter cycle relies heavily on GIS. In simplistic terms, GIS can be stated to be a system of hardware, software and procedures designed to support the capture, management, manipulation, analysis, modelling and display of spatially referenced data. Unlike earlier days, the modern battlefield will have no fixed or clearly defined boundaries. The enemy can attack targets well in-depth using his air assets and stand-off weapon systems. This is all the more true in the case of attacks by non-state actors such as terrorists and insurgents. There is, therefore, a need for comprehensive surveillance to gather intelligence about enemy and own dispositions and movements. Similarly, to be able to launch a surprise attack and destroy enemy’s critical infrastructure, troops and weapon systems, we should have real-time information regarding their location. Situational awareness is achieved through integration of all Intelligence, Surveillance (sensors deployed on ground, at sea, in the air and in space) and Reconnaissance (ISR) along with their spatial context.

The selection and acquisition of targets and attacking them with precision weapons is the final phase of the cycle. Weapon technology today has developed to a stage where a small target can be attacked from large distances by a precision weapon system, ensuring maximum punishment without the risk of any collateral damage. For this to be successful, the real-time relative positions of weapon systems and targets are essential to compute the flight path of an attacking weapon system. Same is true when designing an effective defence system against enemy attacks.

Logistics is an essential requirement of warfare, from the movement of troops, supply of food, fuel, ammunition, to the repair and maintenance of weapons and equipment and transportation and treatment of casualties. Decisions regarding location of logistics infrastructure and facilities in the supply chain need to be based on geospatial information. Transport plans can be optimised based on availability of geospatial information regarding routes, trafficability, obstacles, vulnerability to enemy action, etc. Providing efficient logistic support in fast paced mobile operations is a challenge for which accurate geospatial information is a prerequisite.

Thorough knowledge of terrain has always been of importance to defence forces. This was earlier restricted to maps, varying in scale, detail and vintage, with suspect accuracy. Aerial imagery and remote sensing have revolutionised the techniques of map making. Geospatial information in the form of digital maps and satellite imagery are available to commanders today enabling them to take decisions in a digital battlefield environment.