India’s Integrated Defence Communication Network (DCN)

India’s first Integrated Defence Communication Network (DCN) was dedicated to the nation by the Defence Minister on 1 July 2016.  DCN is a state-of-the-art strategic, exclusive, secure communication network. It is imperative for augmenting Network-Centric Warfare (NCW). DCN will ensure Network Centricity across the three services, Integrated Defence staff (IDS) and Strategic Forces Command (SFC). It was developed as a part of the armed forces pursuit of modernising military communications system. It was planned to be developed as an exclusive strategic communication network more than a decade ago. But after a long delay, the project was finally given a nod for development in 2013.

Questions & Answers

  • Where and how the DCN was designed and developed?
  • What are the salient features of DCN?
  • What is the significance of DCN?
  • What are the criticisms?
  • Why there exists low priority to strategic projects like DCN?
  • What is the way forward?
Where and how the DCN was designed and developed?

The contract for designing and developing the network was awarded to the Information technology services, distribution and digital solutions company, HCL Infosystems. Hence, DCN is fully designed and developed in India.

HCL Infosystems has closely worked with the Indian Defence sector on various other projects too. It has worked with the Air Force to deploy The Air Force Network (AFNet) and AFCEL (Air Force Cellular Network). AFNet is the first network of its kind which interlinks major installations throughout the country on a high bandwidth network.

What are the salient features of DCN?
  • The fully secure DCN is the largest single satellite network spread across the country in the Indian defence Forces.
  • It is a strategic, exclusive, highly secure and scalable system and has a pan-India reach from Ladakh to the North East to island territories.
  • The tri-communication network makes voice data and video data accessible to the three services over a secured network with adequate redundancy.
  • It is capable of working on both terrestrial as well as satellite mode of communication and can also be fixed onboard different military vehicles.
What is the significance of DCN?
  • It will help the armed forces and the Special Forces Command to share situational awareness for a faster decision-making process. Hence, it will help in improving the prompt response time due to the integrated technology.
  • It will ensure network centricity across the three services, Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
  • It will help in bolstering the prowess of the defence forces during critical operations and rescue missions.
  • It acts as a proof of strength of the Indian industry. Initially it was planned to import the system. With the indigenous development, it has reaffirmed the capability of the Indian industries and acts as a boost to the Make in India Programme.
What are the criticisms?

Though, DCN has been inaugurated, it did not include the common software for effective integration between the three services and hence, the significant handshake between the services is missing. So, now the military has the strategic communication capacity but will not be able to communicate effectively.

At present, the intranets of the three services are interoperable. Hence, they do not talk to each other. In addition, the common standards and protocols, commonality of hardware have not been so far developed, though technological solutions exist. If the three services proceed to develop their own software then the issues of interoperability, cost and time overruns may crop up and make the functioning of DCN sub-optimal.

Why there exists low priority to strategic projects like DCN?

The primary reason cited for this state of affairs is the lack of integration between Headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) and the Ministry of Defence. The lack of integration and interoperability issues continues to delay such strategic projects.

Secondly, citing secrecy, DRDO grabs all the projects of this nature. But, the organization was found to possess dismal record in meeting software requirements of the military projects. The organization’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) is found to be incapable of developing security solutions and actively outsources many projects of this nature. This results in undue delay in commissioning projects of strategic importance. For instance, the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (Astroids) was sanctioned to be developed by the DRDO’s Institute of System Studies and Analysis (ISSA) in 1995. But the project made no significant progress and was shut down in 2002. Phase 2 of the same project was again awarded to the ISSA in 2006. However, the organization was unable to meet the requirements and the project was also foreclosed.

What is the way forward?

The evolving geostrategic environment requires synergised responses from the three services. Military alone cannot handle such threats. Realizing this, the Government should take proactive steps. Immediate steps have to be taken to develop the common software for making DCN operational. As done for the development of DCN, the contract for developing the common software may also be granted to the private sector as anyways DRDO is outsourcing such projects.