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Backbone of connectivity
Modern war is all about exploiting information superhighway which is becoming increasingly hi-tech to ensure quick victory with zero casualties. Although it sounds unfamiliar to military strategists, it could be possible in near future as technology is all set to outpace existing human thinking.

It is not just robotic intervention, but controlling a battle theatre from thousands of miles away, using cyber space assets through C4ISR capabilities, to surprise the enemy while leaving no time to retaliate.

As more and more weapon systems and platforms are becoming autonomous, they will all be controlled through network enabled command and control structures with a high degree of awareness and can be neutralized by robotic warriors for a lethal retaliation.

However, going by the revolution in military affairs (RMA), the principal function of the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) component of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) is to find, fix, and track both friendly and hostile forces, as well as to assess damage to hostile targets in an area of interest.

In addition to sensing (collection), the function includes the tasking of sensors and the integration, interpretation, and exploitation of sensed information.

In this context, India will face a daunting task when it takes on Chinese military in its next war. The growing informationalization of Chinese military resulting in new PLA war-fighting doctrines will affect Indian military assets.
In most possible situation, Chinese military would like to disrupt Indian military’s advanced capabilities to intercept processed data that might be transmitted by the latter’s field units and forward bases. This will add a punch to the PLA to pinpoint targets.

Therefore, Indian military can look for an integrated joint and combined C4ISR capability which is necessary to ensure that accurate understanding of events, trends and intentions are comprehend as the war progress from one stage to another.

The Indian MoD should consciously discourage the recent trend of individualistic approach of each service. If singular forces are allowed to have their choice of network centric operation systems then the cohesive approach to a battle-theatre will continue to evade.   

However, lack of strategic communications, lack of ISR platforms especially at operational and strategic level, and a need for modern C2 and soldier systems may result in operational deficiency, despite having best of doctrines.

Thus, unless Indian military is connected with a network grid, it will be difficult to fight a modern war. The gap between information collection, dissemination and implementation may not hold ground as rival forces would exploit this precarious situation.    

Evolution of C4ISR

All modern C4ISR systems can be broadly divided into the “back end” or C4 components, comprising the command and control systems, and the networks and computers supporting them, and “front end” or ISR components, comprising the orbital, airborne, maritime and fixed or mobile ground-based sensor systems, which collect raw data for the “back end” components.

The ISR capabilities of naval strike groups are provided by a host of naval, joint, and  sensor systems that can be space-based, airborne, on-the-surface, and subsurface platforms, and by a number of ground and ship- based systems for the tasking of the sensors and exploitation of the sensor data.

Among other nations, the US is in the forefront of enhancing its C4ISR capabilities. The US has powerful space-based image intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), and measurement and signatures intelligence (MASINT) collection systems and is in the process of developing even greater capabilities.

It is essential that naval forces have access to data from these capabilities and that they would be able to task the capabilities. The US national IMINT systems provide photographic coverage over denied territory that, through the science of stereo-photogrammetry, enables precise geodetic positioning of targets on the ground.

For decades these capabilities have provided the US the means for precision strike against fixed targets; as the speed of tasking, collection, and processing has increased, the same capabilities have begun to put relocatable targets at risk.

New satellite constellations are in progress under the Future Imagery Architecture program of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). SIGINT systems have global coverage and provide geodetic positioning of platforms emitting at radio frequencies.

Their product is quickly and widely broadcast to tactical forces afloat and in the field, where it is used for strike targeting and defence avoidance and suppression, among other purposes.