Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000 cr army communications network - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 5 October 2010

Pvt sector to develop Rs 10,000 cr army communications network

The Indian industry gears up to begin developing the Tactical Communications System (TCS), a backbone communications network, like the British Army's Falcon mobile network seen here

Industry consortia to be formed for developing high-tech system

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Oct 10

In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputed IT industry into defence production, the Indian Army has approached six private sector IT majors for developing a high-tech communications backbone network for the Indian Army.

The army’s communications chief, Lt Gen P Mohapatra, revealed today that the army had sent out security-classified “Expressions of Interest”, or EoI, for developing a Tactical Communications System (TCS), which will provide a robust, snoop-proof, mobile, cellular network for the Indian Army’s voice and data communications during battle.

The EoI, which Business Standard has reviewed, has gone out to at least five private companies: Tata Power (Strategic Electronics Division); HCL Infosystems; Wipro Technologies; Rolta India; and L&T. Another potential candidate, Tech Mahindra, was ruled out as it did not qualify as an Indian company because of a foreign holding component higher than 26%.

In addition, three public sector undertakings --- Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL); Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL); and ITI Ltd --- have also received the EoI.

In the 16 months since the TCS project was sanctioned by the apex Defence Acquisition Council on 18th May 09, the MoD has tried to hand over the project without bidding to defence PSU, Bharat Electronics Ltd. As Business Standard reported (3rd Mar 10: MoD sidelines pvt sector in crucial defence project) the MoD cited “communications secrecy” as the logic for handing over the project on a plate to BEL. After protracted internal debate, the MoD decided to allow the Indian private sector to participate, with the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) developing the secret algorithms required for encoding communications.

Recipients of the EoI say the TCS development and production will cost up to Rs 10,000 crores. But the TCS is only a foot in the door for the private sector. CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee estimated today that there are about Rs 30,000-40,000 crores worth of defence electronics systems in the pipeline.

Recipients of the EoI must respond within two months (it was issued on 24th September) giving out details of the consortia they create for the TCS project; their technology development plans; development milestones; and time schedules. They must also spell out their estimated capital expenditure for designing and developing a prototype system. Based upon this, the MoD will select two companies, which will each build a prototype of the TCS. The better of the two will manufacture the seven TCS systems that the Indian Army needs.

The EoI places the TCS project in the “Make” category of the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008 (DPP-2008). Under this, the MoD will fund 80% of the development costs, while the selected company (termed the Development Agency, or DA) will fund the remaining 20%. The “Make” procedure mandates that at least 30% of the system must be indigenously developed. However, one of the companies that have received the EoI confidently claims that it will develop at least 70-80% of the system in India.

In a bold departure from its earlier practice of selecting the lowest bidder, the MoD has indicated that indigenisation and technological quality of the product would be considered in choosing a Development Agency. The EoI states, “The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring and developing Technologies in critical areas shall be a key criterion in assessment of various proposals (sic).”

Intriguingly, the MoD has issued EoIs in the TCS project only to companies that fulfilled the criteria developed for nominating Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RuRs), a concept that the MoD went on to reject. These criteria, which are mentioned in the EoI, include: registration at least 10 years ago as a public limited company; FDI holding of under 26%; annual turnover of at least Rs 1000 crores; a minimum credit rating of CRISIL/ICRA-‘A’; and a positive net worth and profitable operations in at least 3 out of the last 5 years.

The TCS project is India’s second project under the “Make” procedure, after the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) development project (Business Standard, 9th Aug 10, Indian industry at landmark defence tender). But MoD sources, pointing out the significance of the TCS, say, “The FICV is just a stand-alone armoured vehicle. In contrast, the TCS is a network-centric backbone that connects crucial systems in the electronic battlefield; it connects the sensors, the shooters, the decision systems and the command hierarchy. It is the backbone for everything.”


  1. Well its only the EOI. We have to wait and see who bags the contract finally? Hope the winner will be chosen based on merit !!

  2. Should we expect Anthony to do a Rob-bin-hood on pvt sector this time as well? :-(

    - Manne

  3. “The contribution of the Indian industry in acquiring and developing Technologies in critical areas shall be a key criterion in assessment of various proposals (sic).”


  4. O sirji, all this networking is fine but what guarantee do we have against these networks being hacked and disabled by the chinkis? The Chinks know we are strong on the IT side and they'll definitely try to hack us to the stone age as a prelude in any future conflict with us.

  5. Anonymous 17:21:

    So what's your suggestion? That we communicate through carrier pigeons and hand-scribbled notes like Osama bin Laden, for fear of being electronically intercepted and infiltrated?

    This country is already too full of people who can dredge up three problems for every solution. It takes nothing to list out the difficulties; take a break from that and try to list out some solutions?

  6. @ Broadsword. Good reply to anony Ajai. On this i remember a line my friend use to say. "Whatever you do, you can not satisfy everyone, there will always be an a**h**e shouting/grinning/crying somewhere in the corner".

    We need to find solutions to the problem, not to be scared of the problem. Have some positive attitude people and if you guys are worried about a problem then try to find a solution instead of question others when they try to move ahead.

    Good move by GOI

  7. Anon@6 October 2010 17:21

    Indians are the biggest hipocrites. When a white guy calls them a Paki they are so hurt, but they have no qualm about calling the others "chinki". Look yourself in mirror first. Not sure why the blog owner allows such comments, probably a reflection of himself.

  8. a good step .... ajay will it be like AFNET .... also is there any thought given to unification of all the networks (if navy gets one)

  9. This is a good area for involving the private sector. Our information security capability and encryption enabling capabilities is considerably superior to Chinese or Pak capabilities in this area.

    We should play to our strengths and focus on IT as a force multiplier.

  10. In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputed IT industry...


    In a giant first step towards bringing India’s reputable IT industry

  11. I hope, the algorithm designed by DRDO has laws that would help the program to develop it's own algorithm
    In case attack by foreign programs or infected systems.

  12. Anonymous 21:17

    I agree with you that referring to the Chinese (or our own citizens) as "chinkis" is repugnant and racist.

    I don't, however, agree that it reflects on me. If someone wants to be racist, that is his or her decision.

    You won't ever find me referring to people as "chinkis" or "niggers" or "wogs". But if someone wants to use those terms, I think it is important to allow that because that person is revealing more about himself or herself than about the subject of the comment.

  13. Ok here is my answer.

    I work in an European nation and work with so many Chinese. I was speaking to one of them and he told me that it was INDIA who attacked on China in 1962. This what they learned from their elders and media.

    Next I know what is quality of their work.
    They can hack networks only if they are deployed using Chinese devices. These hackers are nothing but Chinese developers working for these networking firms.

    BSNL in INDIA always use networking devices from China. Like ZTE, Hawai ..... And you know what, its very easy for Chinese to hack these devices, because they know what is in Software.

    Do you understand what I mean ?

    So my advice. DO not buy Chinese networking devices.
    A network is hackable only, when you know how it is made and what is Software. And Chinese have more insight it as they produce both hardware and software.

    Any argument on this ?

    So as Ajay suggested. I give a solution
    Some INDIAN firm produce Networking devices, including the software ( Firmware ) and we should only use that in INDIA.

  14. In my five years of research I have developed algorithms that optimize network path in event of one non functional node. The algorithm was defined to follow a law and develop programs, the same algorithm could be made more robust with inclusion of awareness factors and encryption technology based on physical structure of molecules, self destructive encrypted packets. I am waiting call from DRDO.

  15. Hack a defence network? Haha.

    1. It's not going to be on the
    Internet. Tiny non-classified portions of it may be accessible over a very strongly encrypted VPN, although even those systems will be isolated from the core network.

    2. Every action on systems of this network will be logged and analyzed by intrusion detection systems.

    3. Sabotage. While this is a genuine cause of worry, redundancy will ensure that it will take a very coordinated attack to temporarily disable a whole network.

    4. Encryption, Authentication, Authorization. COTS software are quite reliable now, but I wouldn't trust anything that is not open-source.

    5. Anon, I know you are kidding, but some people may take you seriously. The whole network will almost certainly be IP-based, whose protocols were designed for the specific purpose of surviving a nuclear attack.

  16. Protocols are set of steps followed by which is again algorithm.
    On encryption of data similar to physical structures of molecules was done at JNU, i had a look into the output and the person left for US to work in AT & T labs.

    On my algorithm writing it's own program to develop the shortest algorithm was done at University of Queensland. I am working more on mathematical models using learning algorithms to forecast credit risk.

    However I would like to work more shortening learning algorithms used by machines, a factors that we have not considered is using psychological coefficients or using ANN/ Bayesian GMM to include psychological factors in machines. This will help the machines to develop their own nodes or programs to make faster and smarter decisions.

    Wakeup India people are working on topics that we never thought of.


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