The experience of recent military conflicts (especially with the massive use of UAVs in Nagorno-Karabakh) has revealed new threats to tank and showed fundamentally different methods of conducting combat operations based on obtaining operational information about the enemy and the possibility of delivering pre-emptive strikes without engaging in direct combat. A tank subunit (as an independent combat unit) and even more so a tank (as a separate part of it) is no longer able to successfully resist them.
To counter such threats, it is necessary at a new level to unite into a single whole the coordination of actions and control of motorized rifle, tank, artillery and repair and evacuation forces (together with aviation), fire support, UAV, air defense and electronic warfare, taking part in a specific operation. Command and control of military units and formations is the subject of a separate discussion.
Today, the lower tactical level is more relevant - a platoon, company, battalion, which solves the assigned task directly on the battlefield.
Network-centric control principle
In this regard, network-centric methods of warfare are being discussed more and more often, implying a change in the command and control structure of troops, equipping them with the necessary technical means and integrating all forces and means into a single combat control system.
The network-centric principle provides for the integration of all elements of the system into a single information-coordination network. For constant exchange of information in real time and obtaining the necessary information about the enemy. For the purpose of prompt decision-making and issuing (receiving) control commands from the upper level to the lower one.
The system is based on overlapping and mutually intersecting sensor (reconnaissance), information and combat (means of destruction) grids, united at the appropriate level of command control. Moreover, each element of the structure receives only information specific to it. The system is built using modern information and network technologies with the aim of integrating geographically dispersed control objects with reconnaissance, target designation and destruction into a highly adaptive design.
The system is distributed open. And it consists of a set of autonomous objects united by a common network capable of acting both independently and in a group to perform a common target function. Individual objects, depending on the task at hand, can go out of a particular structure or enter into others.
The organizational structure of the departments, the forms and methods of performing their assigned tasks, naturally, must be modified and built into a single management architecture. To implement a network-centric system, all its elements from different branches of the armed forces must be equipped with the necessary technical means to ensure the exchange of information and the transfer of control commands.
Tank information management system
The tank, as one of the main elements of network-centric combat, must be equipped with a tank information and control system (TIUS). That will provide him with interaction with other combat units involved in solving the assigned task.
TIUS should unite all the devices and systems of the tank into a single integrated network. And in real time to remove information about the situation on the battlefield and detected targets from the thermal television and radar devices of the tank. Transfer it to the network-centric system. And also receive data from superior and subordinate commanders to the operational depth about the detected ground and air targets and enemy defense nodes.
In addition, the system must determine the location of its own and subordinate tanks and map them. To exchange data on the location of combat units and targets via closed communication channels and to form commands for subordinate control objects.
The network-centric system forms an integrated picture of the battlefield, giving tanks additional "vision" and expanding their capabilities. It also makes it possible to optimize the performance of the assigned task for each commander of the corresponding control level: observe and assess the situation in real time, carry out target designation and target distribution, control fire and maneuver of subordinate units.
To solve these problems, the tank must have its own computer complex, coupled with sights and observation devices, satellite and autonomous inertial navigation systems, an information display system, communication channels with high throughput and an appropriate level of noise immunity and cryptographic resistance.
Within the network-centric system, tanks receive a fundamentally new quality. And their combat effectiveness increases sharply with the same characteristics in terms of firepower, protection and maneuverability.
Such an open network architecture of the system also makes it relatively easy to upgrade previously released tanks and bring them up to modern requirements.
Technical means TIUS
When creating a TIUS, many technical problems must be solved. Some elements have already been tested in other systems of the same class and can be used in a tank. But there are elements that will require serious innovative efforts. These include communication channels for the exchange of information and methods of presenting data acceptable to the tank crew.
On tanks, traditionally, of the communication channels, only radio stations operating in the VHF and HF bands, which are not protected in any way and are easily suppressed by electronic warfare systems. Naturally, this is unacceptable for an information management system.
Tanks will have to organize a fundamentally different communication system using the technical capabilities of digital equipment and a new generation of radio stations operating in this range and providing the required level of noise immunity and cryptographic resistance.
Or, transfer information using technical means based on other physical principles that guarantee a stable and secure connection between system elements. It should be borne in mind that the tank has a limited reserved volume, and not all electronics can be placed in it.
The solutions should be simple and acceptable for the tank environment.
In a network-centric system, operators should be provided with a mass of heterogeneous cartographic, digital and symbolic information about the targets and their characteristics, the location of subordinate and attached objects, the state of the tank's systems and other information necessary to control the battle. Such data should be provided in a convenient form and not overload the operator. Now on many tanks this information is displayed on the monitors to the crew members.
It is well known that in a moving tank it is simply impossible to work with such information on a monitor and enter any data. The operator is thrown from side to side and it is rather difficult to achieve a stable position.
An independent eye-to-screen system is required. For example, the commander and gunner of a tank have a stable position when they hold the guidance panel with their hands, rest their forehead against the forehead of the sight and see a stabilized picture in the field of view of the sight.
In this regard, it is advisable to enter all the information in the field of view of the sight. And depending on the operating mode, the operator can set the picture: field of view or information.
Another option is to display all the information, as in aviation, on a screen fixed to the operator's headset. But a tank, according to the operating conditions, is far from an airplane. And it is not so easy to implement a similar scheme there.
These are all technical problems that specialized organizations must deal with as part of the creation of a network-centric system.
The introduction of a new control system will require changes in the structure of tank units. From the recollections of distant student years, when studying the structure of the US tank forces, I was always amazed at the presence of many control and support links at all levels of the tactical link with a large number of military personnel. We used to have in the battalion only tanks and one KShM per battalion and practically nothing else.
Now there are departments of management, communication and service. But this will not be enough in the new management system.
Tank units should receive full-fledged command and control services. Including at the company level. On a tank chassis, an appropriately equipped reconnaissance vehicle with a set of UAVs. And a communication vehicle with air defense and electronic warfare for operational interaction on the battlefield. These network elements do not exist today. And they will have to be created quickly.
I already had to write that for the first time the development of TIUS for the "Boxer" tank in the 80s began in the Soviet Union. But after the collapse of the Union, the work was curtailed.
In the United States, the second generation of TIUS has already been introduced on the M1A2 tank. And the process of introducing elements of a network-centric control system for the tactical echelon in the ground forces is underway. Those that have already been successfully used during the operation in Iraq "Desert Storm".
The Russian military and the military-industrial complex are still defining the concept of such a system. And the proposed system of tactical echelon "Constellation-M", judging by the open access, cannot take root in the army. What is the reason for such a significant lag?
The system covers the elements involved in the implementation of the task. And each of them must be properly included in the control loop and equipped with the necessary technical means. The development of such structures involves several stages - the creation of an application concept, the algorithmicization of control processes and the production of hardware.
The development of the concept of the system and the tasks assigned to it is the business of the military. They must determine the requirements for the network and its components.
At this stage, it is necessary to determine the levels of management and the issues to be addressed at each level. As well as flows and volumes of data between the elements of the system. Requirements for noise immunity and cryptographic stability of communication channels. Parameters for displaying information both for commanders of different levels and for crew members of combat vehicles.
At the next stage, the algorithms of control processes are carried out jointly by the military and the head designer of the design.
Who deals with these issues?
In Soviet times, I had to participate in the coordination of such requirements between different heads of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Defense Industry. Even then (even with strict centralization and the existence of Academies and research institutes for the types of troops, which, as it were, were supposed to move military science), there was no particular zeal for creating new systems. And many ideas died at the stage of endless approvals.
The academies tried to do something else on an initiative basis. For example, I had to participate (at the Academy of Armored Forces at the Department of Tank Automation) in seminars where the tactics of using tanks when equipping them with means of automating the battle process were discussed. But the matter did not go further than discussions. And in no way did it translate into directive documents for carrying out such specific work.
And the head for armored vehicles 38 NII MO (Kubinka)? What could he suggest?
Previously, they were only able to test new types of equipment. And give an opinion on the requirements. There was almost no one to deal with programs for the future. And there were no necessary specialists.
Little seems to have changed over the decades. Now the Academy is gone. And it is not clear who is now developing the requirements for innovative armored vehicles?
And (according to open information) Kubinka offers some mythical tank designs. Instead of developing reasonable modern requirements for them.
The complex of such issues, as a rule, is regulated by the General Staff and its subordinate structures. But something, apparently, is not working out yet.
This can be judged by the development of an automated control system for the tactical link "Constellation-M", which (according to reviews) never took root in the army. Although, according to fragmentary information, the system already exists and has even been implemented on the Armata tank. Which has not been able to reach the army for many years.
One thing is clear for sure - the network-centric system should be developed by system specialists with relevant experience in this area.
The Sozvezdiye-M tactical control system was developed by the Sozvezdiye concern (Voronezh), created on the basis of the Communications Research Institute. As far as I remember, he was always engaged only in radio communication systems in the HF and VHF bands. And what experience does this concern have in creating military command and control systems at the tactical level? This is still a big question. What kind of specialists - this is the result.
After a long search in 1990, the head developer of control systems for rocket and space technology - NPTs im. Pilyugin. But the Union collapsed. And the work was stopped.
Decades have passed. And it looks like the same thing is happening again история... It is not clear who sets the system requirements. And they are being implemented accordingly. And the work is marking time. Everything is as it was in the 80s.
The military is still somehow unable to decide what exactly they need. And at Rostec (with a lot of questions about military equipment), it seems that their hands do not reach the point of creating a modern control system for ground forces.
However, the experience of recent military conflicts (which dictates ever-increasing requirements for the conduct of modern combat operations and for the technical equipment of the army) will inevitably force all these above-mentioned departments to hurry up and join forces to promptly create an urgently needed control system of a new level. And introduce it into the troops.