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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Building The Indian Navy A War Game Simulator Befitting Its Admirals

Leveraging technology to hone skills, test strategies.

The fluid security situation & changing regional alliances requires a nation to revaluate its own positions, & formulate newer responses to challenges. A critical domain requiring re-look is its security. Developing new strategies of defence, testing it & evaluating its outcome, further fine-tuning it is essential to credible war planning. Testing these strategies could involve actual mobilisation of physical assets of the Sea, Air or Land forces, & running them extensively through their paces to judge the outcome of their strategies. However, such verification methods are a highly expensive proposition, especially when strategies are at a nebulous stage of formulation, and expected to go through multiple iterations, & there would still be scope for improvement. An alternate is to test the hypothesis virtually, harnessing computing power to calculate the outcomes of action, to a close approximation, before marshalling physical military resources.


representational screengrab: Wargame: Red Dragon

The Indian Navy is, currently, in the process of putting together a War Gaming system for its Commanders to test & evolve & validate military concepts. Work is underway at its Weapon Electronics & System Engineering Establishment [WESEE] towards developing this solution, named Operational Level War Game [OLWG], to be setup at the Naval War College, in Goa. As part of this, it recently floated Tenders seeking multiple Desktop Computers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL], 40-inch LED Monitors & other hardware/networking paraphernalia. Earlier, this month, it sought out a MIL STD 1472F standard-compliant Game Controller Console [GCC] solution "to house all modules in order to support user operation".

Going through the documents, it's clear they're cleverly making use of Commercial Off The Shelf [COTS] hardware to build it. Besides achieving standardisation, it should help with the development time, while achieving convenient scalability. Once successfully deployed, it could serve as a framework for the other branches of the Armed Forces to build their own. Subsequent versions could interlink the individual systems of each of the branches to arrive at an intelligent, tri-service theatre-warfare simulation solution.

An earlier DRDO programme, lead to the development of Sagar, whose version 2 included a 9-terminal wargaming system - 4 computers for the Red Team [Bad Guys], 4 for the Blue [Good Guys] , & 1 Game Controller [Umpire]. Not further development happened, it appears.


Read: Simulation of Naval Wargames by S. C. Jethi, R. K. Jain

Interestingly, in 2013 it had floated a Request For Information [RFI], seeking outright purchase of such a system. 4 years down the line, the Navy apparently isn't happy with the response. Hence, its own in-house solution. The RFI does give us a sense of what WESEE is seeking to achieve, & capabilities to be incorporated into it. The OLWG system, for example, would be able to simulate the planning process undertaken at the 3 Geographically-dispersed Operational Commands, plus the tri-service Andaman & Nicobar Command. To make the wargming system as realistic, as possible, the simulation would be built-in with constraints of Standard Operating & Safety Procedures, such as missile allocation per target for a formation, navigational safety & collision avoidance, Anti-missile Defence etc.  The intuitive UX would provide Planning Tools to participants for force representation, plan execution & eventual outcome evaluation. Not restricting the planners to just the strategic aspects of warfare, the software would also allow for a switch to the tactical-level nuts and bolts war-fighting activities, allowing the Admirals to gauge the possible effects of decisions taken in the upper echelons of the Navy on the err, ground levels.

Further Reading: Transforming Naval Wargaming: A Framework for Operational-Level Wargaming


Also Read: UCAV: How to wage a war from your living room