By Raveen Janu
19 Mar , 2013
If a perusal is done of the military doctrines of the major advanced powers, one aspect that has a common theme across the board is information dominance. Network centricity is the backbone providing holistic battlefield transparency and decisive information advantage over the adversary. Future battles will take place in the three main domains of information, physical and cognitive. The next generation networks that are at the heart of a robust net centric system include telecommunication, bandwidth, spectrum and Service Level Agreements which are able to withstand the rugged requirements of the Armed Forces. The combination of hardware, software, human resource and doctrine would give the defence forces the much needed punch in the conflicts of the future.
As future conflicts will be fought in a technology intensive environment, high training standards in equipment use would be essential.
Indian Army efforts to develop indigenous basic net centric capability begins with the soldier on the ground and goes on to advanced terrestrial and space based net centric capability. A classic example of a completely indigenous simple hand held component is the “SATHI” (Situation Awareness and Tactical Handheld Information); project BETA (annual report 2004-05 Ministry of Defence). SATHI is a strong feature based portable combat information system providing a Common Operating Picture (COP) to the infantry soldier and his team on the ground. In addition, the equipment also has the ability to connect to an external long range radio to provide the battlefield picture to senior commanders. There is an integrated Geographical Positioning System (GPS) and radio, a customised Geographical Information System (GIS), dynamic wireless LAN and user friendly battlefield application. A very important component is the Software Defined Radio (SDR) which will form the core of a true ad hoc network, tactical in nature and robust on the front lines. The device communicates with hopping functionality to relay the information to HQs, which is a crucial operational requirement in a counter-insurgency or conventional environment where infrastructure is virtually non-existent.
The GIS application can be used in friend-foe identification, target marking and coordination of team activities, particularly at company level and below. The SMS and texting feature is innovative and can help in team communication, taking orders and importantly calling for help as was evident from US troops’ reports from Iraq and Afghanistan where they had used off the shelf applications like Skype and Instant Messengers to call in aerial strikes. Another functionality of which limited information is available is the self destruct in enemy hand capability; the encrypted software has a mechanism to go blank, which would be useful to secure the equipment and the contained information. The touted weight of the equipment is nearly 875 grams which is acceptable but has scope for improvement and comes with a solar charger and batteries capable of sustaining 24 hour operations. The operating system is Linux, open source software, which not only brings the cost down substantially as compared to proprietary software, but is also more secure as access to source code is not an issue. The Army had conducted user trials in Jammu and Kashmir in 2005 initially deploying around 90 of them and then in 2007 after modifications. SATHI can be used in collaboration with hand held thermal imagers (HHTI), night vision devices (NVDs), unattended ground sensors (UGS) and radios, which could be very effective in counter insurgency and border management operations to provide real time common information and strengthen the surveillance grid.