Technology has invaded all aspects of our life. It also promises a whole new battlefield milieu when armies take to the field tomorrow. We have already witnessed how technology can be used in the preparation of the battle-space before manoeuvre and firepower are brought into play, in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that was only a limited display as compared to the arsenals that will be let loose in the years ahead. The author explains some of these changes that Indian armed forces will need to cope up with.
Big data is an enormous amount of data which is huge in size. In short such data is so large and complex that none of the traditional data management tools is able to store or process it efficiently. To quote a few examples, the New York Stock Exchange generates 1024 gigabytes which are equivalent to 1 terabyte of new trade data per day. 500 terabytes of new data get inserted into Facebook every day. A jet engine can generate about 10 terabytes in 30 minutes.
Big Data could be structured in the form of fixed format, unstructured and semi-structured. This was relatively less relevant when volumes were small. Currently, data has reached the level of billion terabytes.
Data is the beginning of a military operation. Militaries, in the current environment, use big data for surveillance, processing of intelligence, prioritizing of targets, engagement, post-strike damage assessment. The entire fields of military logistics and human resource management call for data management.
It would be interesting to analyse all these aspects comprehensively. In the field of surveillance, it would be essential to know the areas to focus and the likelihood of attaining the best results with devices. Today, surveillance includes a plethora of devices. These are satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, aerostats, Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), reconnaissance helicopters and aircraft, ground-based electronic devices and human intelligence.
The data collected is enormous. To give an example, the United States ARGUS ground surveillance system mounted on a UAV collects more than 40 gigabytes of information per second. ARGUS-IS is a Composite Focal Plane Array (CFPA) assembly of 368 overlapping FPAs, imaging a wide persistent area at 10 Hz. The device, if the need arises, could also be mounted on a manned platform. Each FPA provides high-resolution imagery which is combined with neighbouring FPAs to perform the functions of creating video windows, detect and track moving vehicle, reach back into the forensic archive and generate 3D models.
It is at this stage that Big Data experts come into the picture. Internet inputs in terms of information gathered through military operations can be put to varied use. An analytics company has created an application called Wave Exploitation Network, which makes use of big data analytics to give frontline troops information about how organisations are connected. The United States Army’s Force Management Enterprise Division uses big data and predictive analytics through its Enterprise Management Decision Support Tool (EMDS) which drives data related operations across all United States Army Departments and answers queries regarding any data that personnel in the Army can seek across the entire spectrum from enemy operations across the entire United States Army to include personnel payment data in any unit or formation of the United States Army. Derivation of data is being done from Hardtop Applications like H Base, Accumulate and Cloud base. Human and Speech Recognition are being done with the help of various National Language Processing Systems.
The next aspect is Selection and Prioritisation of Targets resulting in their engagement. Prioritisation of numerous targets could be easily done using the analytics resulting in speedy engagement. The data sources for such tasks would include a range of inputs from social media, news accounts, field intelligence reports and if the need arises, e-commerce sites. Softwares have been developed by various agencies for these tasks. Front line troops deployed in critical areas can receive quick and timely information about targets allowing them to deploy the required amount of forces to destroy the targets. Analysis of big data assists in optimising target engagement on the battlefield.
Applicability: Indian Army
The then Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat while addressing the valedictory function of the National Conference on ‘Self Reliance in Defence Manufacturing’ at Hyderabad on January 21, 2019, stressed the need to focus on incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big data computing in the Armed Forces System, while pointing out that the Northern adversary of the country (China) was investing large amounts of money on technology development for incorporating Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in the Armed Forces. Apart from inducting equipment, there is a need to invest in these technologies to ensure we have a capability in the area of Non-Contact Warfare.
As the forces of developed countries, in the Indian Armed forces too, intelligence is at the heart of all defence planning and implementation. With joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence and Information (C4I2) systems in place, there is no dearth of data. The need of the hour is Big Data Strategy as well as recognition of its crucial importance from the top echelons to the front line soldier. Rightly, the decision-makers have focussed on the need for collaboration with industry. It is pertinent to note that the European Defence Agency has made numerous recommendations about how the data is to be analysed and thereafter fed to each combatant. The Europeans have included Modelling and Simulation (M&S) applications over the Cloud and the utilisation of predictive analysis data in the development of M & S models.
Big Data will also play an important part in the fields of human resources and logistics. The handling of manpower within the Indian Armed forces needs a higher degree of optimisation. This would benefit the force immensely. Handling of logistics data is a nightmare for the Indian Army. The need to form a Distributed Logistics Agency in a Combat Zone would need automation to ensure the free flow of items to the troops without indents and replenishments taking place on an online system.
The Indian Army is doing its utmost to introduce a systems-based approach to its operations, training and functional activities. Big data provides the Indian Army with advanced tools (analytics and algorithms) to reveal critical information. Big data combined with Artificial intelligence will help in solving issues about operations, training and other activities. Most of the software is available off the shelf and this must be applied under a Task Force controlled by the Army Design Bureau in conjunction with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. A systematic plan will pay rich dividends and see the Army move on a planned path.
Maj Gen P K Chakravorty (Retd)
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