Geoint Modelling and Simulation: Forward to the Future

Geoint Modelling and Simulation: Forward to the Future


Integration of geoint with the discipline of modelling and simulation has led to possibilities of predictive intelligence for the armed forces. In India, there is huge room for investments in this niche area, given the potential

Surface with inputs from varied sources such as signal, electronic and human intelligence. Geoint could thus be viewed as a standalone system for acquiring information as well as a part of an integrated intelligence vista, be it at the national or the lower tactical level. The discipline has, within the span of just over a decade, transcended utility in the defence and security domain, benefitting from significant advances made in commercial technologies of computing software, Big Data analytics and augmented reality, to name a few. The potential of acquiring imagery through a variety of sources including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has added to possibility of providing real-time intelligence to the forward trooper on the tactical battlefield.

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SIMULATOR-Vert-Left3-BEST Terrian-Visualisation

Integration of geoint with the discipline of modelling and simulation has led to possibilities of predictive intelligence. These advances have contributed to reduction of uncertainty and provided greater scope for predictability in the combat zone where the unknowns are many. While traditionally simulation and modelling applications in the military have been in the field of training, potential of geoint facilitates intelligence analysis, a powerful function that can provide invaluable insights to military planners.

Predicting alternate futures and narrowing these down to the most likely has been a nightmare for intelligence analysts. Given the importance of geography to military operations as well as logistics, capability of geoint platforms for integration of data from varied sources facilitates modelling for varied terrain panorama and operational situations. This is particularly important in India where diversity of topography varies from the hot and arid deserts of Rajasthan to the super high-altitude glaciated terrain in Siachen and humid jungles of the North East.

Simulation is the next step which can, through tweaking based on varied criteria, envisage diverse outcomes. This could be useful for force planning, capability development and logistics. Thus, geoint modelling and simulation can not only provide real-time solutions to the intelligence problem but also provide projections for terrain and force development. Moreover, this is economic as options can be generated through simulation without employing tangible assets. With enhanced visualisation tools such as augmented reality, computer models can provide near perspicacious vision to military commanders in the field as well as planners at the grand strategic level.

For a military model, terrain features such as altitude, gradient, nature of soil and so on are critical elements. These can be acquired through satellite imagery and supplemented by real-time UAV streaming. At present suitability of terrain for varied type of operations is essentially based on experience of the commanders with prior employment in similar geographical areas providing a benchmark.

During the World War II for instance, German General Von Manstein was faced with the dilemma of employment of tanks in the Ardennes Forest. Given the nascent stage of armoured warfare in the late 1930s, adequate knowledge about the use of tanks in Ardennes was not available. Manstein turned to General Heinz Guderian, architect of the German Panzer (tank) Corps. Guderian confirmed that panzers would indeed be able to operate in the Ardennes. Despite expertise of Guderian the Manstein Plan envisaging an advance through the Ardennes was highly risky, thus the German General Staff refused to initially accept the same.

Today, geoint provides a far better solution. By combining terrain intelligence with other sources, a model of the Ardennes can be created, and movement — be it of tanks, armoured personnel carriers or other heavy vehicles — simulated to accurately predict the possibility of passage of tank columns. And as power of computing increases, modelling and simulation will gain exponentially thus adding to overall “reality” that can be generated providing near perfect solutions to military planners.

Preparing the pitch
In another dimension, this combination can take the game to the next level by providing solutions for force and capability development. A similar model can be developed to create terrain and operational obstacles on the envisaged battlefield by the defender. The standard pattern in defence is to lay minefields, obstacles, construct bandhs and deploy tactical subunits as sections, platoons and companies to cover the same by observation and fire. A geoint-based modelling and simulation model can provide far more rigourous solutions than that offered by experiential applications and legacy information. A long view can also be taken envisaging expected transformation in terrain thus providing templates for enhancing the defence potential either by creating additional obstacle layers or construction of permanent ones as the ditch cum bundh. Impact of such permanent systems on the environment and local economy including socio economic profile can also be factored in through geoint modelling and simulation. This can overcome the present impasse in sanctioning of defence projects by the Ministry of Environment in India.

Another related aspect is force development. At present visualisation of operations by the ‘Red Force’, in a given set of terrain is descriptive augmented by images and corroborated through war games. This can be predictive with a modelling and simulation model generated through geoint, providing a high degree of clairvoyance and a common picture from the military commander to the budget head to technology developer. This will facilitate greater accuracy and consensus for force development thereby ensuring focused allocation of resources for developing key capabilities.

While force development in foreign armed forces is joint, in the Indian context this is carried out by the Army, Navy and Air Force in silos. Through modelling, geoint can merge the plans of the services to evolve a joint force development model and while this may not be the ideal way, till the armed forces in India integrate, this could provide an alternative.

In the larger perspective, this will overcome the perpetual dystopian nightmare of operational hollowness and gaps in capacity that face the Indian armed forces today by providing a real- time visual picture of force on force capability in relation to the opposing forces and terrain developments on the northern or western border.

For the operational planner, geoint can be an invaluable tool for planning future and current operations. Take the case of the Tibetan plateau. Infrastructure development on the Tibetan plateau has been ongoing for the past two decades. Geoint simulation can provide an accurate picture of the Chinese build up on the Qinghai Tibet railway line. Thus, one can create a realistic view of the Chinese army’s mobilisation and depict on a computer screen with relevant details denoting movement at various stages.

A simulated model will be able to provide the Blue Force commander corresponding actions required to be taken again depicted on the real-time terrain format and can be a powerful tool for exploitation eliminating a high degree of uncertainty and providing a common operational picture from the commanders in the field to the staff at the Military Operations directorate in Delhi. The opportunities for exploitation are therefore substantial and can vary from designing transportation axes to operational areas to tactical deployment of troops. Geoint modelling and simulation is a tool that will provide more options to a planner and suggest a best course to the commander for making a decision.

Application of augmented reality in military

Geoint for policing and disaster management

In the domain of law enforcement, geoint modelling and simulation can provide options for predictive policing. One of the challenges faced in India is of communal violence. Predicting the same by using Geoint modelling and simulation tools is feasible. Geoint can provide a consolidated picture of the terrain, community, ethnicity and religious density and superimpose the policing grid. Building a holistic picture the model will provide an all-factor profile with vulnerable pockets. Simulation of varied situations such as religious festivals, community meetings and rallies when superimposed on the model should provide a clear picture of various scenarios that may lead to tension thus and options for control through proactive community or policing action.

Many of the tools are already being employed by the police in India such as GPS, mobile internet, satellite imagery and UAVs, though in a nascent stage. Recent use of UAVs by the police in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh during communal riots was well publicised in the media. Predictive modelling would have added to the picture obtained in real time, providing effective solutions for management of violence.

For normal policing and law and order the geoint M & S model will be simpler. This will provide solutions for optimal policing by integrating location, crime and police deployment. Geoint will provide a very discerning picture of locations where crime is rampant. GIS-based Blue Force tracking tools will enable the police control room to identify deployment and move forces based on the crime pattern or a set frequency daily or diurnally from day to night time. As criminals establish patterns, geoint, with the help of Big Data, can identify varied locations which are crime prone and thus facilitate deployment of police to prevent crime.

Augmented reality in the future will enable a policeman to merely glance at a stranger and obtain his full profile, including criminal record on tools as Google Glass and even indicating the location from where the person has come and his likely destination.There are downsides in employing high technology such as encroachment of privacy for which regulations have yet to be evolved.

GeoInt for disaster management

Disaster management is a major challenge in India, particularly in the hilly terrains and urban areas. Fires in highrise buildings in metros are resulting in a number of crises. Identifying intensity of fire, targeting the main source and rapid deployment of fire fighting personnel to the spot are functions that can be simulated through geoint. Modelling and simulation can dictate the ideal location of the emergency. This can also give safety gradations to buildings, thereby raising a high level of awareness of the fire threat and investment in mitigation. This information will provide the pattern of vulnerability of a particular building as also particular sections of a building depending on the nature of the occupant. Direction of fire fighting personnel to the site through a maze of urban traffic channels can be effected through the geoint-modelling and simulation combination while the package can be effectively utilised for training. Mitigation through safety of buildings in the designing stage would be the next stage.

At the macro level, this combination is an important tool for disaster mitigation. An appropriate example from the recent past is the tragedy in the state of Uttarakhand in India as thousands of pilgrims were stranded in the mountains in June 2013. Geoint data on terrain, geological strength of the roads and tracks, river flow and precipitation if modeled would have generated the devastating effect that a certain degree of precipitation would have brought about well in advance preventing loss of hundreds of lives and property. For instance, a model could be built with projected roads to denote maximum traffic that these can take in varied periods and particularly during the monsoons thereby restricting the tourist flow in the area and ensuring a high degree of safety.

GIS can also facilitate management of scarce resources to maximum effect by directing the required number of rescue personnel to the affected site during disaster management while dictating the best type of transportation to be used. All this through models prepared in normal times.

Technologies making this powerful tool
A number of advances in technology are making modelling and simulation a powerful tool for military planning and warfare. Employment of persistent full-motion video with UAVs can add to the potential of existing geoint tools by providing opportunities for real-time scan of the terrain and operational environment that can be built into the existing model seamlessly.

Development of software is another major advantage. The application Earth Viewer, for example, can superimpose maps onto satellite images, and today is commonly used as Google Earth which has revolutionised location mapping enhancing personal as well as business mobility. Open standard development is also an important marker in this area.

Augmented reality (AR) is likely to revolutionise the manner in which geoint will be used by superimposing computer-generated image on a user’s eye view creating a composite picture. Google Glass is the next generation computer which provides immense potential in real-time communication to the individual soldier on the battlefield with requisite tools. The use of AR in Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II fifth generation combat fighter helmet is seen to be a true exploitation of this technology. The heads up display of the Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II helmet eliminates the need for heads down display and provides pilot night vision capabilities. The Distributed Aperture System (DAS) enables “see through” the fuselage creating high level of situational awareness. Modelling and simulation can enhance the AR further and as technology downstreams both in terms of costs and availability, this can be replicated in the soldiers or the police beat constable’s helmet in the future.

The way ahead in India

Developments in the field of geoint modelling and simulation are mainly happening in the US where the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) is bringing together the modelling and simulation community with the geoint community with formation of a Modelling & Simulation Working Group. In India, there is increasing interest in geoint recognition of importance by the mapping community and increasingly by the general staff.

Achieving a confluence between modelling and simulation and geoint will, however, require a high degree of competence which may not yet be available in the country and will have to be developed. The level of expertise required to generate geoint-linked modelling and simulation applications is very high. Conversion of standard GEOINT data formats of terrain into simulation formats is cumbersome and there is a need for common formats for both applications, which may prove to be complex and costly. Use of open standards for both purposes for ready integration may be one option but how far this will be successful is not clear so far. Once adequate competencies are developed the advantage would be to transfer data generated through simulation to operational models thereby enhancing perspicuity of the planner faced with devising real world solutions. There is a need for investments in this niche area in India, given the potential. Developing indigenous capacities may be difficult at present but a fast-track joint development model with new cooperation frameworks that are being established with countries as the US, which is the leading geoint technology power in the world, will provide rich dividends and needs to be explored.