India Still Lacks Modern Battlefield Communication
An Indian Army paratrooper with the 50th Independent Para Brigade
Image Credit: U.S. Army

India Still Lacks Modern Battlefield Communication


The Indian Army’s Tactical Communication System (TCS) is facing additional delays, Defense News reports. In February 2014, India selected two domestic development agencies (DAs) to compete for the TCS project, which is worth over $2 billion. However, “since the selection of the DAs in early 2014, no headway has been made in the development of a TCS prototype,” a defense ministry source told Defense News.

The TCS — an interfacing mobile tactical communication system — is intended to replace the obsolete radio communication network (the Plan AREN system) of the Indian Army for offensive operations. The Indian Army is also planning to introduce the new Battlefield Management System (BMS) integrating all surveillance resources, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and ground sensors providing soldiers on the ground real-time information on enemy troop movement and the disposition of friendly forces, along with information on terrain features.

The Defense Acquisition Council categorized TCS as a ‘make India’ system which restricted the selection process to domestic companies — the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and a special purpose company consisting of Larsen and Toubro, Tata Power SED, and HCL Infosys Limited.

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However, the special purpose company announced that it would not proceed with the development of a prototype “until it receives the same tax incentives as are given to BEL, and insists that the intellectual property rights of the system be vested with the developer and not the Ministry of Defense,” according to Defense News.

Additionally, the article quotes an executive of the consortium who said:

The Indian government has already created facilities in BEL which would be utilized by them free of cost, whereas the private sector consortium would have to make investments that would be loaded on our offer. Ideally, the depreciation and interest of the MoD-funded facilities should at least be loaded on BEL to ensure a level playing field. This is still an issue to be resolved.

Another executive notes:

The major problem is legal as the special purpose vehicle formed by private consortia is not yet recognized by MoD. However, in their efforts to move forward, the qualitative requirements have been shared by the user [Indian Army] for DAs to respond with their costs for the prototype. That discussion is on currently. However, even if this is cleared, the legal clearance has to happen prior to disbursement of funding by MoD.

The two rival manufacturing groups are supposed to design the TCS and BMS systems over a period of five to seven years, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. However, the repeated delays — the project was originally scheduled to take off in 2000 —  have Indian defense officials worried:  “Even Pakistan has developed its own TCS kind of project, and further delays of the Indian project will affect the combat worthiness of the Indian Army,” the defense ministry official quoted by Defense News said.

According to retired Indian  Lt. Gen. P.C. Katoch, the TCS is supposed to fulfill the following requirements:

TCS is a system that is meant for offensive operations, configured as a mobile system that can leapfrog in sync with rapidly advancing strike operations – covering offensive elements of both the ‘strike’ and ‘pivot’ corps. Important requirements for the radio system are: ESM and ECM resistance; integrated voice and data to the user; performance matching projected user demand (like error detection/correction, quality, delays); effective use of transmission medium; interoperability; flexibility in deployment; survivability; provision of user mobility (carry options, easy access etc).

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