As per a Business Standard news report, on Friday, the Ministry of Defence is shutting down the revolutionary indigenous project to develop the Battlefield Management System (BMS) — a 21st century digital network that interconnects combat soldiers on the frontline, giving them all a common picture of the battlefield and greatly reducing the fog of war.
The report states that the Army's vice-chief, along with a few senior generals want to save the Rs.30 billion needed to develop the revolutionary BMS, in order to buy foreign rifles and carbines — weaponry in which technology has advanced only incrementally over the last century.
"Every military worth its salt will be networked in a decade or two. We will have no choice but to be networked too. Foreclosing BMS today will only mean that instead of Indian companies, it will be the Israelis or the Americans who networks us," an officer who is part of the BMS told Business Standard.
Newsclick has been following the dismantling of the indigenous defence efforts and thereby attempt to relocate the story in a larger context. Recently, Newsclick emphasised upon the handing over of civilian areas within cantonments, over to municipal authorities while retaining control over the military installations. Major Priyadarshi Chowdhury SC (Retd.) had called it a good move that if gets implemented, will resolve all issues surrounding cantonments forever. The reason behind his view is that apart from handing over the civilian installations to municipal authorities, some of the other recommendations are to abolish the Directorate General of Defence Estates (DGDE) as well as the Cantonment Boards.
The army says that equipping the army’s 800-plus combat units with BMS would cost Rs.500-600 billion, judging by the cost of prototype development. However, industry sources argue that prototype development costs are far more than industrial production, where scale drives down prices.
With the defence ministry reimbursing 80 percent of the costs, BMS project is one of the major platforms that India's defence industry has been asked to develop.
BMS networks frontline combat troops in infantry battalions and tank regiments. It works like Google Maps, which gets drivers to their destinations faster through “crowd-sourcing” traffic information from various sources, including drivers’ mobile phones. BMS similarly “crowd-sources” battlefield information from its own soldiers, communicated over small “software defined radios” (SDR) that equip each soldier.
Within the defence industry, the army’s unilateral closure of BMS is a matter of serious concern. If cost is the issue, the MoD must sit down with the DAs and discuss and analyse all costs in detail.
“Shutting down the project arbitrarily will destroy trust with the industry. Private firms have put money and effort into this project. Now, without discussion, the project is being closed,” says a senior executive in one DA firm.