C5ISR – Imperative Need for a Focused Approach

A joint C5ISR doctrine geared toward problem-solving rather than the resource providing approach is the need of the hour for the Indian defence forces, a void that has been exposed time and again

Special Feature Archive

Lt Gen A B Shivane

C5ISR (Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capability is a weapon to achieve asymmetry in warfare. It enables superior situational awareness to shorten the OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) loop by acting and pre-empting rather than reacting and restoring an adverse situation.

From a military point of view, strategic surprise creates spatial, temporal, moral and psychological dislocation and responses thereto prove costlier. While the gamut of strategic intelligence has a larger canvas, the key challenge for the Indian defence establishment remains of plugging existing voids in mitigating military surprise by developing an integrated joint C5ISR architecture.

The Indian security canvas post-independence has repeatedly been a victim of a military surprise to cross-border threats. From the Razakar-regular mix, the 1962 “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai” syndrome, 1965 operations, Kargil 1999 and now the latest Eastern Ladakh 2020, are glaring illustrations of its void.

Ironically, the strategic security apparatus despite several committees and high power studies have failed to take effective actions to mitigate the same or carve the larger national security strategy. The haunting question however remains—had we detected the intent and build-up well in time, could the course of events have been different both at Kargil and Galwan?

The Indian security canvas post-independence has repeatedly been a victim of a military surprise to cross-border threats

The reality is, limited wars in the Indian context are here to stay and it would be wise to learn our lessons and generate future capabilities to ensure combat readiness at all times. The prevailing fragile situation on our disputed borders mandates an integrated C5ISR networked decision support system, integrated with state-of-the-art targeting systems, as part of our joint force future capability.

The recent joint force structures of Space, Cyber and SF along with the proposed tri-service commands are steps in the right direction but remains silent on empowering the joint force C5ISR capability. This is an area often glossed or viewed with ignorance in the past both at intra and inter-service levels.

Five Factual Postulates

Fact No 1: We have transited from the industrial age to the information age. Today the world is becoming completely wireless, demanding uninterrupted access to info real-time and anytime, and anywhere with better quality, high speed, increased bandwidth and reduction in cost, size, weight and power utilization. Further, a common media, virtual cloud storage and cellular wireless generation from 1G in 1980 to 6 or 7G are bringing about transformation.

Fact No 2: The key determinant of success in future conflicts across the entire spectrum will be information superiority and decision dominance rather than brute power.  This would result in higher favourable force exchange ratios enabled by superior shared situational awareness and focused targeting. The net desired outcome will be victory at least cost and minimum time by dominating the key factors of time, space and force.

The key determinant of success in future conflicts across the entire spectrum will be information superiority and decision dominance rather than brute power 

Fact No 3: In future wars, the challenge, however, will be one of having to make a decision in the face of too much information rather than too little. There will be information overload both self and enemy generated. Thus, the aim will be to get the right information, at the right time, at the right place to the right person without information overload. Therefore, the object of C5ISR will be to champion the concept of “need to share” over the concept of “read to know”.

Fact No 4: The four core characteristics and capabilities in future battlespace will be:

(a) Shared situational awareness (Space)

(b) Decision dominance (Time)

(c) Joint force synchronisation and rapidity of force application cum precision fires (Force)

(d) Predictive battle-space awareness (Information)

In short, we need a knowledge-based; decision-oriented networked joint force application capability.

Fact No 5: The Global C5ISR Market size is projected to reach USD 111800 million by 2026, from USD 101040 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 1.7 percent with the focus on technology and R&D. The challenge is shrinking defence budgets are placing demands on the industry to bring new technology at the right point in the design cycle and at a reliable, reasonable cost. The focus on technology through indigenous R&D with limited financial support remains a challenge for the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission.

Fundamentals and Key Imperatives

(a) C5ISR is a General Staff function that is command-led and staff-executed. Thus, C5ISR must be led, not managed

(b) C5ISR goal must adapt to address problem-centric requirements and not a resource-centric approach. The ultimate aim is sensors irrespective of organisation, shooters independent of platforms and decision-makers irrespective of geographical locations

(c) C5ISR must dilute inter-service lines and shun a compartmentalised rigid approach. C5ISR must be theatre specific in keeping with the terrain, weather and operational needs specific to a joint theatre requirement

The ultimate aim is sensors irrespective of organisation, shooters independent of platforms and decision-makers irrespective of geographical locations

(d) C5ISR must be addressed holistically with a single parentage and not the present culture of developing `I’, the `S’ and the `R’ in compartments with little synergy.  The need is to transform from a loose confederation of separate specialists and reporting chains into an integrated enterprise with single parentage

(e) The heart of the C5ISR or its jugular vein is the communication or networks.  Pervasive and persistent C5ISR is only possible if there is pervasive and persistent communication

(f) C5ISR will only be empowered if we shift from a platform-centric approach culture to a network-centric approach. The outcome will be a factor of networking sensors, decision-makers and shooters.

Recommended Focus Areas

(a) Critical Capability: Persistent and pervasive, all-weather, all-terrain layered surveillance and fused intelligence for force multiplication effect at the cutting edge

(b) Capability Thrust: Achieve seamless and secure information superiority across the battle-space dovetailing state-of-the-art technology with zero tolerance time

(c) Capability Mix Solutions:

(i) Layered C5ISR and Networks – persistent, flexible, interoperable, affordable and survivable

(ii) A continuous multi-tiered, multi-domain, multi-intelligence and time-sensitive C5ISR grid.  The 4Cs for generating this capability are:

(aa)     Resource capability

(ab)    Capacity

(ac)     Coverage

(ad)    Constrains of Employment

(iii) A Geo fuser C5ISR data cloud with standard protocols at the apex level and data fusion centres for relevant needs at the lower level

(iv) Joint Service C5ISR optimization. This entails a multi-layered, secure, dynamic & robust communication backbone with terminal connectivity and plug and play concept with a mix of both top-down and bottom-up approaches

(v) Network agile, mission-oriented and focused C5ISR process with matching human resource and training policies and empowered structures

Contours of C5ISR Force Modernisation

It is imperative to generate time and outcome centric C5ISR equipment acquisition policies and moving it out of the misery of the capital procurement process under the existing Defence Procurement Procedure which has more snakes than ladders. Assured dedicated and delegated budgeting for C5ISR with the critical requirement on a fast track mode thus merits consideration under DMA. Pragmatic pricing and fast-tracking trials in areas of employment are essential.

The focus must be on integrating the indigenous capability manifestation in a spiral approach in conjunction with enhanced investment in R&D as well as Science &Technology projects. In the interim JV, projects must pave the path of Atmanirbhar Bharat to fill up time-critical voids and vulnerabilities.

Recommended Doctrinal Construct

The need is to integrate intra and inter-service C5ISR capabilities through an integrated approach of “Headware” – doctrines, skills, training, people and processes; “Software” – GIS, data, automation and clouds; and “Hardware” – equipment, communication and infrastructure.

Joint C5ISR doctrine should provide a focused direction and create a shared context that orients the enterprise toward problem-solving over resource providing approach

A Joint C5ISR philosophy evolved must lead to shared situational awareness, blurring intra and inter-service compartments. It must lead to the evolution of a fused integrated layered mix of sensor grid architecture that is pervasive, persistent, survivable, enduring and affordable. The networks must address Volume (growing data size), Velocity (processing speed), Variety (data in many forms) and Veracity (data accuracy).

Further, it must address the HR policies and training must be central to the core of C5ISR with technology enablement. It must also define a geo-fused C5ISR data cloud with standard protocols and geographically distributed archival facilities and fusion centres on a common GIS platform.

The Joint C5ISR philosophy must lead to a doctrinal construct as an overarching framework, common data formats and data dictionary, common GIS with geo-referenced data, common coordinate digital maps and softwares, standard protocols, policies and procedures, as also joint encryption system moving towards quantum.

Conclusion

 C5ISR is a present capability void of the Indian defence forces which has exposed operational vulnerabilities and merits immediate addressal. Joint C5ISR doctrine should provide a focused direction and create a shared context that orients the enterprise toward problem-solving over resource providing approach.

Joint C5ISR operations must be fused and integrated into the overall operational philosophy and warfighting doctrine and not managed or be a standalone capability. The challenge remains in addressing the cultural, cognitive, doctrinal, fiscal, and procurement domains to manifest C5ISR into a time-sensitive war-fighting-enabled capability.

-The author is a PVSM, AVSM, VSM has had an illustrious career spanning nearly four decades. A distinguished Armoured Corps officer, he has served in various prestigious staff and command appointments including Commander Independent Armoured Brigade, ADG PP, GOC Armoured Division and GOC Strike 1. The officer retired as DG Mechanised Forces in December 2017 during which he was the architect to initiate process for reintroduction of Light Tank and Chairman on the study on C5ISR for Indian Army. Subsequently he was Consultant MoD/OFB from 2018 to 2020. The Officer is a reputed defence analyst, a motivational speaker and prolific writer on matters of military, defence technology and national security.The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily carry the views of Raksha Anirveda.