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SEPTEMBER-2012
FEATURE/REPORT
Basic Instincts
The Battlefield Management System — Army’s Preserve?
A FORCE Report
Battlefield Management System (BMS) in most foreign militaries, especially in advanced countries, implies an operational information system that integrates all Services, flowing from the very military apex down to the fighting echelons in the Tactical Battle Area (TBA). However, in the case of the Indian Army the BMS is visualised at the Battalion Group/Combat Group level and below. This is so, because the BMS was an afterthought in the army while arrangements for battlefield management above the Battalion Group/Combat Group level were already underway through initiation of other operational information systems, especially under the Tactical Command Control and Communications System (Tac C3I). The Army initiated the BMS when realisation dawned that a while the army would get networked above Battalion Group/Combat Group levels in due course of time, the cutting edge (Battalion Group/Combat Group level and below) will not be able to benefit from this higher level net-centricity in absence of the BMS and overall net-centric warfare capacity of the army would remain deficient. What about our Para Military Forces (PMF) and Central Police Forces (CPOs), particularly those battling the Maoists? There appears to be little thought being given to upgrading their combat capacity by providing them a system like the BMS.

Battlefield Requirements

It is a well known fact that conflicts and wars are no more the domain of a single Service. Future military operations will necessarily have to be combined and joint. Practically all conflict situations will involve at least two if not all the three Services. Conventional war, on the other hand, without doubt will be a Tri-Service affair. The implications are that the combat force will comprise of all arms and inter-Services elements. Operations will require all arms cooperation including units and sub-units of other arms operating and being subordinated to each other,
plus their frequent grouping and regrouping in fluid combat situations. Manoeuvre and fast moving operations will be the hallmark of combat. This will require an accelerated decision-action cycle plus the ability to conduct operations simultaneously within an all arms group. Effective command and control across the combat force will be the very key to success. In order to enhance the decision making and command capability, commanders at all levels, particularly at the cutting edge level — will require real time requisite information.

While loads of digital information is available even at the cutting edge (level) in the army today, it is not integrated information and its usage cannot be optimised. A solution, therefore, is needed to enhance operational effectiveness of commanders and troops at all levels by enabling exchange, filtering and processing of ever increasing amounts of digital information. The requisite force multiplier can be acquired by appropriate harnessing of information technology.  

Why BMS

In simple terms, both the soldier and the commander want to pick up the enemy much before he picks you up, see the target, direct fire in quick time using the best weaponry available and monitor the after effects of having engaged the target(s). However, in the current context, the army lacks an integration tool supporting every level of military users ranging from individual soldier to Battalion Group/Combat Group Commander in the TBA, which can provide in real time or in near real time an appropriate, common and comprehensive tactical picture by integration of inputs from all elements of the battle group. Requirements at these levels are of battlefield transparency through situational awareness and a Common Operating Picture (COP). However, in contrast to the requirement of an integrated network system, situational awareness existing in the army is presently on ad hoc basis. Most foreign armies have situational awareness packages of various types, examples of which were significantly visible in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our army urgently requires its own situational awareness packaged customised to Indian requirements. Fielding of the BMS will be an important facet of capability building in the army. The BMS will enable a faster decision process by commanders at all echelons, enable better decisions with reliable operational information provided in real time and be able to telescope the sensor to shooter loop.
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