Pushing secure voice and data communications down to situational awareness and command and control (C2) applications in a tactical environment poses particular problems for C4I systems. The benefits that accrue for these systems are undeniable; enhanced awareness of the battlespace both of friendly ‘blue forces’ and an up to date picture of enemy ‘red’ activity continues to be considered the most effective force multiplier on the battlefield today.
by Adam Baddeley
However, the complex terrain in which the platforms they equip fight, the necessity of tight integration of equipment on legacy platforms previously designed only for basic intercom and Combat Net Radio (CNR) based analogue voice as well training troops with the new equipment continue to challenge even the most advanced militaries. Combined with the more mundane but equally important issue of funding, the acquisition of large numbers of systems necessary to populate the high numbers of nodes on the tactical edge and it quickly becomes apparent that Tactical C4I is one of the biggest challenges facing militaries today.
Despite the issues, militaries in the Asia-Pacific are rising to the challenge, seeking both domestic and overseas solutions to the problems.
With India’s Tactical Communications Systems (TCS) moving on to its next phase of activity, the next big program will be the Army’s Battle Management System (BMS) program. The next phase is an EoI (Expressions of Interest) due to be issued in 2012 which at the time of DEFEXPO was not expected to be issued before October.
Final industry partnerships will be arranged after any award however a number of firms have developed contacts in the meantime. Punj Lloyd for example had relationship with Northrop Grumman, showing its iBMS family, BEL and others each have their own “Indigenous BMS”. Tata for example has links with Raytheon and Harris for radios but seem to have developed their own BMS software solution. Rolta has worked in the BMS field with Cobham’s BattleHawk Vehicle System and Rheinmetall’s Iniochos BMS.
Under previous plans, BMS was to have delivered a Combat Group and three battalion’s worth of equipment in a test bed by 2012. This is now expected by 2015 at the earliest. In late 2011 the Defence Acquisition Council approved BMS as a Make India program. This prompted an integrated project management study which is due for completion by late 2012/early 2013. It is said that the program cannot go ahead without this being completed.
The expected strategy is for the Ministry of Defence to down select to one DPSU and one private company for the Request for Proposals. A response to the BMS EOI would be expected, four months from that point.
If an EOI is issued in 2013 then an award of Phase 1 and delivery of a test bed might be expected by about 2016. Phase 1 is valued at Rs.35,000,000. At DEFEXPO industry comments suggested that the pilot program would cover between 500-1200 ‘nodes’. This would be followed by the wider fielding of BMS from 2017-21 and then an upgrade taking place under Phase 3 in 2022-2026. Total costs for BMS begins at Rs.2,300,000,000 and could rise to up to four times that.
At higher levels is India’s higher level CIDSS (Combined Information & Decision Support System) program, sometimes known as Project Samvahak. Phase I Stage 1 was to have equipped a Corps HQ, one division HQ, three brigade HQs and nine battalion HQs. However the failure of TCS to appear which is its key bearer, has lead to a limited set of tests which is where it has largely stuck. Under plans for Stage 2 a full Strike Corps was to have been equipped. Phase II would have extended fielding to non teeth arms in that Corps, integration with other Tactical C4I elements. This work is understood to be still being undertaken by BEL but at a slow pace. When this is complete and TCS is fielded and if existing plans are anything to go by, the Army plans to equip another 13 Corps with CIDDS over a period of seven years. This is referred to as Phase III.
The Army level TAC C3I also has strong inter-service links. The system comprises the CIDSS, Battlefield Surveillance system (BSS), Artillery Command, Control Communications System (ACCS), Air Defence Command and Reporting System (ADC&RS) and BMS program. Other programs covered include EW and ELINT. There is a further high level system the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTEROIDS) which links Corps to Army HQ.
ST Electronics Info-Software Systems had a number of their future C2 capabilities on show at Singapore Air show. The capabilities were based around three key capabilities; Smart Data Management, SAINT or Smart Analytics with Insights for Tomorrow which collectively seek to pre-empt problems before they arise. ST Electronics has also shown a complete vehicle architecture and BMS built around the Info-Comm Systems Supernet ST6800 intercomms, the Ceteon Vehicular computer 520 and 920 as well as an in-house BMS solution. The latest BMS deployment for Singapore is on its Singapore Technologies Kinetics Terrex 8×8 infantry carrier vehicle (ICV). The on-board BMS is synchronized with the dismounted systems on the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) soldier system.
Malaysia’s Sapura has just begun Phase 1A of the country’s Network Centric Operations (NCO) contract which will look at integrating existing C4I systems. Phase 1A will complete in early 2014 with Phase 1B envisaged as being a more
comprehensive program in which new capabilities will be added such as a new BMS.
Sapura have recently been awarded a Ringitt 130-150m (£25-30m) contract for Phase 1 A of the Network Centric Operations program with the Letter of Acceptance has been signed by the time of DSA. Modest funds allocated to buy hardware in this phase with the main task in this phase being to establishing a plan to develop future capabilities. It is a two year contract combining a study and limited implementation of how to integrate existing C4I program together. Sapura will primarily work with the Malaysian Army’s Mechanized Brigade.
There may be a role for a foreign partner but it is assumed that Thales will be a leading contender based upon its Sapura Thales joint venture. The follow on Phase 1B is of an indeterminate length but three to five years is seen as likely. No capabilities have been set for this but is implied that a BMS and maybe Sakti, its future soldier program will be included. Sapura Thales electronics have prepared versions of the PR4G F@stnet and TRC-4000 with local crypto and other undisclosed changes but this is also seen as likely to be part of 1B. The Sagem BMS in the PT91 is not expected to be included with some in industry seeing this has linked to EMC issues.