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Special Story
Army’s tactical network goes hi tech
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gag (Jalandhar), May 11
In a bunker beneath the swirling dust and sun-baked plains of Punjab, a group of Army officers in battle fatigues sit before a bank of computers, processing information flowing in on data lines from various formations deployed in the field for operations.

In an adjacent bunker, with its walls covered with maps, a commander grazes at a projector screen showing a video image being transmitted from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying overhead, checks a blow-up picture downloaded from a satellite and printed in a mobile centre a few minutes ago and compares it with a picture of the same area taken a few hours ago.

Information from other formations about their location, movement and feedback from their own surveillance set-up, data from UAV and the latest satellite imagery on enemy positions and movements give the commander an instant picture of the scenario in his theatre. This enables him to drastically cut down on the time frame required to make a comprehensive assessment of the emerging situation and take tactical decisions on deployment and movements which are passed down the line equally fast.

This is the new face of the Army’s command and control mechanism battlefield management system and in an operational environment. This emerges from its approach towards network-centric warfare on which its new doctrine for a short and intense war is based upon. This is a drastic shift from the earlier situation, where commanders in the field had to rely on information which was several hours or even days old and often had no visual references.

A visit to the well concealed tactical headquarters set up by 11 Corps for the conduct of Exercise Vajra Shakti here showed the Army’s growing emphasis on modern equipment, information technology and communication modes for achieving information domination on the battlefield.

One of the most striking aspects of the exhibition was the unveiling of the imagery interpretation vehicle (IIV) and the imagery printing vehicle (IPV). Mounted on an 8-wheeler TATRA vehicle, the canisterised, air-conditioned IIV can download pictures directly from a satellite and process them. These pictures can be printed by the IPV with the print size being up to about three feet in width and length. These vehicles can function independently under any field conditions.

Another innovation displayed was the Simputer, a palm top device fitted with a miniature camera. The simputer can transmit data and pictures from a recce team back to an operations centre over a radio network.

The Israeli-made long range recce and observation system provides day and night surveillance capability for tracking movements of men and vehicles up to a distance of about 13 km. Mounted on a TATRA truck, it consists of a night camera, laser range finder and electronic surveillance equipment which culminate into video images for commanders to view. The system can also be used for target acquisition and directing artillery fire.

Hand held thermal imagers for detecting movements at night, Elta battlefield Surveillance Radar for getting ranges and bearings of intended targets and emergency radio relay terminals mounted on jeeps are among other recently introduced equipment adding to the Army’s information warfare capability.

To manage these assets and make optimum use of what the Army is terming as force multipliers, an establishment called Force Multiplier Command Post (FMCP) has been set up at tactical headquarters. “While setting up Tactical Headquarters is an existing measure when a formation is deployed in the field, the FMCP is meant to serve as a mid-point on the ‘sensor to shooter’ link,” an officer said during a briefing. “It is connected to all the surveillance and reconnaissance assets as well as formations and channelises the flow of data and information,” he added.


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