C4ISR —  A Strategic Imperative


India has reasonable capability in Command & Control communication networks and has very strong all weather capabilities, however, we need to improve on integration, bring more synergy in analysis and also need to ensure availability of infrastructure and training to meet the requirement of human resource for a C4ISR rich environment….

It is a strategic imperative for Indian Defence Forces to build comprehensive national capability to negate any threat from its adversaries. Such a capability would require a fully integrated, responsive, viable, efficient, robust and survivable Indian Command, Control, Communications, Computer Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) system. In the military arena, C4ISR combines all the systems that allow military commanders to understand their operational environment, identify mission critical factors, and control their assets. C4ISR systems offer an exceptional level of tactical communications that provide ground access to a global information grid of shared data and information sources. C4ISR systems utilize radio networks to transmit intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information from global positioning data to video and sensor data.

To operate in an era of Information Warfare (IW)/Network Centric Warfare (NCW) and in today's complex geopolitical environment, decision makers and defence forces need quality intelligence as accurate and timely information is mission-critical for addressing complex battlefield and peacekeeping requirements. Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) refers to “Integrated capabilities to collect, process, exploit and disseminate accurate and timely information that provides the battle space awareness necessary to successfully plan and conduct operations.

This needs seamless integration of sensors, command and control, and advanced information systems, network centric solutions to deliver actionable intelligence in real time. Most of the ISR resources utilize either airborne platforms or are used by air power. The information superiority fundamentally changes the way operations are conducted. Joint C4ISR enables ability to mass effects without massing forces; protects against asymmetric threats; and provides joint force flexibility, analysis, interpretation, and efficiency. In essence, C4ISR is about co-evolution of Technology, Organisation (i.e. Architecture and Processes) and People and about control and disruption of Information and quick decision making. A typical C4ISR System will consist of:

  • A well defined Command and Control structure with supporting organization for joint planning and execution,
  • Technology, Systems, Human Resource and Organisation for Surveillance and Reconnaissance
  • Communication networks for secure, efficient and fail safe information flow,
  • Data storage, processing, management and analysis capability,
  • Information Assurance, Cryptography and Language expertise
  • System Integration and Large System Integration
  • A viable Defence Industrial and R&D base.

In C4ISR, Command and Control refers to the use of information technology in military tactics. The purpose of C4ISR is to use information technology to gain a competitive advantage over the opponent. It involves collection of vital and strategic information, spreading of propaganda, misinformation or delivering information to assets in a foreign state. Also it performs the vital function determining whether the information collected is accurate or not. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in recent times have been equipped with systems to enable them to perform vital roles in electronic warfare. The MQ-9 reaper is one of the most lethal UAV to perform in this function.

In terms of function, in addition to the C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Computer), the Airborne ISR can be classified into four major segments, based on role, namely:

  • Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
  • Airborne Ground Surveillance (AGS)
  • Maritime Patrol (MP)

Existing Indian C4ISR Capabilities

India has reasonable capability in Command & Control communication networks and requisite organizations and has very strong, all weather capabilities by way of our Space-based assets, Aerostats, UAVs, AWACS, AEW aircrafts, naval assets like P-8I, ELINT and SIGINT assets and so on, however, we need to improve on integration, bring more synergy in analysis, have secure data storage and mining infrastructure, and enhance image processing and information sharing capabilities. Digitisation of existing information and its co-relation is a major challenge. With regard to Navigation and Target acquisition, India is developing its own IRNS System and the first of the seven satellites is already in orbit. IRNS is likely to be completed by 2016. It also has a strategic tie-up with GLONASS, the Russian GPS and Navigation system facilitating half-a-metre CEP for our missiles, including those planned to be fired from nuclear submarine Chakra. Also, a strategic tie-up has been done with the EU Navigation and Positioning System Galileo, which will become available by 2020. Agni -V had the most modern navigation and target acquisition systems with full redundancy. India has launched 72 satellites since 1975 of all types including Nano and Pico satellites and very recently demonstrated her strategic capability of launching satellite in the geosynchronous orbit successfully with an indigenous cryogenic engine.

Indian Army

Keeping current developments and future prognosis in mind, the Indian Army has been working towards establishing 'net centricity.' For some time now, the Indian Army has been evolving its doctrine to integrate the different elements of C4ISR. The tactical command, control, communication and information system (TAC C3I) which essentially is the mainstay of the Army's C4ISR is plodding along. The TAC C3I comprises of the artillery command, control and communication system (ACCCS), Air defence control and reporting system (ADC&RS), battlefield surveillance system (BSS), battlefield management system (BMS), all of which are in various stages of development.

Indian Air Force

The IAF plans to put in place five integrated air command and control systems (IACCS) through indigenous route which when fully developed are expected to put all sensor platforms and weapon systems on a common grid, interlinking its five operational commands in a fully networked architecture. At the heart of the air force's communication network is the Air Force Network (AFNET) - a dedicated IAF fiber-optics network that offers up to 500 MBPS encrypted, unjammable bandwidth. A military satellite is expected to be launched next year, inter alia, to streamline the massive data flow.

Indian Navy

The Navy amongst all the three defence services is the most advanced service in deploying C4I2 and Airborne ISR components.  It is already in the process of implementing concepts like network centric warfare, Integrated Command and Control, System of Systems and Global Information Grid. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has launched an indigenously built geo-stationary satellite for the Navy. The dedicated satellite is aimed at giving a big push to C4ISR capabilities of the IN. Scattered assets of the Navy at different geographical locations would be networked as a unified force. Procurement of more UAVs, Maritime Patrol Aircrafts, sonars and radars are in the pipeline through indigenous and foreign procurements which will further boost its ISR capability.

Global Market Size

The global C4ISR industry is highly competitive, with a large number of suppliers thriving to gain supremacy of this highly profitable market. At present, the United States is the principal market for ISR systems but as emerging economies such as China and India seek to improve their military capabilities, they will necessarily focus upon this aspect of modern warfare. The C4 market (Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence) which consists of land, space, naval and airborne systems is presently $99 billion approx. and is expected to reach $158.97billion by 2025 at a CAGR of 4.85% over the forecasted period. Harris Corporation, Rheinmetall Defense, Raytheon are some of the important players in the Global C4ISR Market.

The Global Land Based C4ISR Systems market will grow from a market $48.5 billion in 2015 to a market size of $57.04 billion by the year 2020 growing at a CAGR of 3.29%. Among all the platforms within the C4ISR market, land based systems control the highest share and will grow at a slower CAGR of 3.29% till 2020.

The Sea based C4ISR market will grow from $14.61 billion in 2015 to a market size of $ 19.84 billion by the year 2020 growing at a CAGR of 6.31%. The growth in the market will be primarily led by the Asia Pacific countries of Australia, South Korea, Japan, India and also from Saudi Arabia. The growth in Asia Pacific region will be primarily propelled by the need to counter the growing threat and dominance of China and North Korea.

The Space based C4ISR systems market will grow from $12.61 billion in 2015 to a market size of $17.36 billion by 2020; at a CAGR of 6.60%. Space based platforms constitute the smallest share of all the platforms and control 11.2% of the total C4ISR market. However, this segment after air based systems, is the fastest growing and is expected to overtake the CAGR of airborne systems post 2020. Currently United States of America is the pioneer and leader in Space based platforms, This is because the technology available is expensive and hence not in widespread use. But the space technology, which was limited to a few countries until now, started to become main stream and will register good growth rate globally over the forecasted period.

Use of C4ISR is vitally important in present times. With the demise of conventional warfare, Electronic, and Cyber warfare were born, where information collection and correct dissemination is vital. Countries such as United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Germany and France are among the top defense spenders and they have well developed C4ISR industries. Subsequently, developing countries armed with huge budgets are slowly making their presence felt in this space. The C4ISR market will witness Moderate growth. The demand for networked communication, sensor upgrades, intelligence and electronic warfare systems will increase among developing countries.

Indian Market Potential

Post 2020, C4ISR of all platforms will register improved rates of growth all over the world and there will also be a quantum shift in technology. The market is expected to register tremendous growth in the Asian powers of India and China. The spiked defense budget in India to counter the external forces opens up new opportunities for C4ISR market in the country. During the period 2015-25, it is anticipated that India will be spending over US $25 billion approx. on C4ISR systems with the emphasis on the defence services becoming network centric; more indigenous and foreign procurements will be in pipeline.

The market for ISR systems will definitely be growing at a robust rate year-by-year offering lucrative opportunities to local and foreign vendors. It is AGS which dominates, although Maritime Patrol is forecasted to experience robust growth throughout the reporting period followed by AEW&C systems.


Indian defence services need to overcome the challenges of security architecture, connectivity matrix and points of exchange of information, integration, legacy systems, standards and protocols, functionalities and procedures, time sensitivity, human resource issues, training of users and management of trained manpower. Roadmaps of Information and Communications must converge into an integrated Information Communication Technology roadmap, which is yet to take off. Also, services need to focus on spectrum management and technology to telescope bandwidth.

There is an urgent need to expedite the fielding of communication networks which have been awaiting approval/ implementation for unacceptably long periods. We must integrate the Networks of the three services at all levels. The Intelligence and National Networks including the proposed National Broadband Network must be integrated.

Like the dedicated naval surveillance and communication satellite, the Army and Air Force should also have their own satellites and evolve a scheme for sharing the transponders with each other. “In orbit” spare satellites for surveillance &communications, launching of Low Earth Orbit satellites at a short notice to meet emergency/operational requirement of surveillance or communications and capability to manoeuvre the satellites will be a future requirement.

Recently, the USA has been active to sign an agreement on the complex Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which would allow India to obtain advanced radio and satellite communications equipment from them. However, India is worried that CISMOA-protected communications might contain a bug which may allow the US and its allies to detect and track Indian platforms equipped with those radios. So far, CISMOA-protected category of communications equipment has been denied to India, even in advanced aircraft bought from the US — like the C-130J Super Hercules special operations transporters, and P8-I Poseidon maritime multi-mission aircraft.


C4ISR Systems are the true power of information in battle space. The modern digital battle space and requirement for situational awareness is greatly increasing demand for C4ISR technologies. The decision makers expect rapid and easy access to critical mission data anywhere, anytime and the C4I system gathers data from the remote sensors, transports it over secure network and presents tactical picture in real-time to command for faster decision making & deployment of weapons. To garner the power of C4ISR, Indian Defence establishments are moving from platform centric operations to net-centric operations.

We need to ensure availability of infrastructure and training to meet the requirement of human resource for a C4ISR rich environment. Communication Networks and Information management systems are the nervous system of a C4ISR system requiring an integrated approach. Best catalyst for jointness and synergy would be the “Integration of Communication and Information Assets” of the three services under one head.  The ability of domestic and international military and civilian security forces to interoperate and share information is essential to operational success. The foundation of such interoperability is the systems and processes needed to support an integrated C4ISR capability.

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