The Indian Navy will be the first of the country’s three armed services to induct new-generation software-defined radios (SDR), following a contract signature on August 8, 2019 with state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), the producer of the SDRs. It was on November 29, 2017 that the Defence Acquisition Council of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had cleared procurement of these SDRs, valued at Rs.490 crore (US$70.64 million). More than 260 SDRs of different types are being procured under the Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) category.
While the MoD-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) designed and developed the SDRs, it was assisted by multiple agencies, including the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR), and the Indian Navy’s Weapon and Electronics System Engineering Establishment (WESEE). The contract involves the replacement of existing hardware-based legacy communication sets with software-based multi-band, multi-functional and multi-role/mission radios. This is to enable secure communications for improved information sharing and situational awareness. The SDRs feature domestic waveforms capable of providing a wide range of frequency usage and capability enhancement. The DRDO had worked on the Integrated Development of Software-Defined Radio (INDESDR) project for eight years. Following the development of the radios, the DRDO conducted user-trials for five different SDRs, all of which will be seamlessly interfaced with the Indian Navy’s new-generation digital network (NAVNET).
On October 16, 2018, Vedanta Group’s Pune-based Sterlite Tech, a digital networks and telecom solutions company, bagged a Rs.3,500 crore contract from the Indian Navy deal to design, build, operate and maintain the NAVNET. The multi-year contract includes design, execution, operations and maintenance of the NAVNET. Sterlite Tech will build a robust integrated communications network that would provide a secure, reliable and seamless digital highway to the Indian Navy for administrative and operational applications. This network will give the Indian Navy digital defence supremacy at par with the best naval forces in the world, Sterlite, which also manufactures optic-fibre cables domestically. The initiative includes creation of an independent high-capacity end-to-end communications network, linking multiple static Indian Navy sites and India-administered islands, and includes the setting-up of highly secure data centres and Big Data content delivery software-defined next-generation networks. This is the first time an integrated end-to-end digital network at such a scale is being built in India, empowering the Indian Navy to secure the country’s borders till the farthest posts in India. The technology will also enable the Indian Navy to ride new-age applications with advanced security solutions while bringing real-time situational awareness and faster decision making.
Other Services Networks
At the apex-level is the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS), which connects Army Headquarters to the Command Headquarters and forward to the Corps Headquarters while rearwards it will connect to the national command post, the other Services and other national level entities. The latter portion dealing with the national strategic level will be enabled through the C4I2SR (Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Intelligence, Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) System when it gets established.
The Army Static Switched Communications (ASCON) system’s third-tier, commissioned in September 2006, is called Mercury Thunder and it forms the backbone communications network of the Indian Army. ASCON provides voice and data links between static command/formation headquarters and those in peacetime locations. It is of modular design so that it can be upgraded as better technology becomes available. As a back-up, the Indian Army also deployed the static fibre-optic Army Intranet, known as the Army Wide Area Network (AWAN) February 24, 2006. Mercury Thunder builds on Mercury Streak that created an optical fibre cable (OFC) network for the Army in 1995, and Mercury Flash that provided a microwave network in 1998. Mercury Thunder enables the integration of its predecessors with a satellite-based overlay that enables seamless transfers over all three systems. It enables the transmission of real-time battlefield data to top commanders during hostilities and also enables a qualitative improvement in relief and rescue operations when natural disasters strike. Mercury Thunder raises the number of channels on which voice conversations can be simultaneously transmitted from 120 to 10,000. Since ASCON supports a mix of voice, data and video transfer, the number of channels available at any given time would depend on what mix of the three was adopted.
Field-level Command Information Decision Support System (CIDSS) is under the command and control of the GOC Corps Commander. Field-level ‘Project Sanjay’ Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), ‘Shakti’ Artillery Command Control and Communications System (CCCS), Air Defence Control and Reporting System (ADC & RS) and Battlefield Management System (BMS) are all bound by the CIDSS as the backbone, also configured to integrate field-level systems like the EWS and ELINT (the Samyukta/Himshakti systems). in an effort to present a holistic picture to a commander and his senior staff officers to ease the decision-making process. The second vital link will connect the Corps Headquarters forward to the Battalion Headquarters. This will be the Tactical C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence) system or tac-4g, which will use the 4-G cellular telecommunications networks already established by BSNL, as well as those if private-sector service providers like Reliance JIO.
TAC-4G is based on a flat-IP network architecture which provides flexible and fast communications between many users. This includes fast-and-secure communications between different points and support of concurrent running of multiple applications, many of which require high bandwidth. The high flexibility of TAC-4G along with additional inherent capabilities such as information security, on-the-move network infrastructure, and support of multiple applications, positions the system as an optimal solution for addressing the complex military communications requirements. TAC-4G also supports a wide variety of multimedia applications and allows quick and easy addition or removal of applications. It also implements the ‘network-centric warfare’ principle; allows various-level commanders the highest level of control and effective activation of various warfighting, logistics and maintenance forces; allows, real-time battlefield management and control; uses the cost-effective commercial cellular network providers’ infrastructure, which allows shorter implementation time and fewer risks in comparison to other alternatives that are not based on COTS infrastructures.
Air Force Network (AFNet) is an Indian Air Force (IAF) owned, operated and managed digital information grid. The AFNet replaces the old communication network set-up using the troposcatter technology of the 1950s making it a true net-centric combat force. The AFNet project is also part of the overall mission to network all three armed services: that is the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. Commissioned on September 14, 2010, AFNET is a fibre optic-based network on which the integrated air command, control and communications system (IACCCS) of the IAF rides. It also provides a real-time sensor-to-shooter loop, which will enable IAF commanders to make instant decisions to order the weapons to be deployed. AFNet is a dedicated fibre-optic network that offers up to 500 MBPS encrypted, secure bandwidth. It incorporates the latest traffic transportation technology in the form of IP (Internet Protocol) packets over the network using Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). A large VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) layer with stringent quality of service enforcement facilitates robust, high-quality voice, video and conferencing solutions. All major IAF formations and static establishments have been linked through a secure Wide Area Network (WAN) and are accessible through data communication lines. Decision-makers can now get intelligence inputs (for example, video feed from UAVs, real-time air situation pictures from AEW & CS platforms etc.) from far-flung areas at central locations seamlessly.
AFNet can be described as a perfect example of public-private partnership. The Rs.1,077 crore project, which started in 2006, was developed by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (Department of Telecommunications DoT), HCL Infosystems and Cisco Systems in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The DoT started the project in the previous decade to set up a dedicated fibre-optic network for the exclusive use of Indian armed forces at a cost of Rs.10,000 crore. As per the agreement, the DoT is required to lay about 40,000km of optical fibre cable connecting 219 army stations, 33 naval stations and 162 points for the air force (so far, work pertaining to the air force and navy has been completed). In exchange, the armed forces have released the frequency spectrums.
SDR Manpack For Indian Army
SOFTNET Combined SDR-Tactical Data-Link
BNET-AR Combined SDR-Tactical Data-Link For Tejas Mk.1A L-MRCA
Airborne Internally-Mounted Fire-Control System For BrahMos-A ALCM
SATCOM Terminals For India’s Strategic Forces Command
These are the very terminals now being used by the authorities in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and in Ladakh for command, control and communications.
BrahMos-1 Quad-Launcher For Project 15 DDG Mid-Life Upgrade
Other Elements Of Project 15 DDG Mid-Life Upgrade
Following exhaustive competitive evaluations, Spain-based INDRA, in which US-based Raytheon owns a 40% stake, had in late 2016 bagged the contract for supplying through the MoD-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) the naval version of the 3-D all-digital LTR-25 L-band air/surface search radars for both the four Project 15B guided-missile destroyers, and for the seven Project 17A guided-missile frigates, as well as for the mid-life upgrade of the three Project 12 DDGs (that will replace the THALES-BEL RAWL-02/PLN-517/LW-08 L-band air-search radars). Each LTR-25 unit is composed of a primary radar integrated with a secondary radar and an operation and power generation sub-systems. The LTR-25 is capable of digital beam-forming, direct radio-frequency sampling, monopulse technique of operation in elevation and azimuth, clutter-rejection, as well as ballistic missile detection and tracking.