© Corps of Signals, Indian Arm
Control of the battle has always been the concern of commanders down the ages and whoever could exert better control over his own forces and impress his will on his men won. When the armies were small and the distances relatively small, messengers on foot or on horseback sufficed. However, as the battlefields stretched out and the size of the armies increased, such means no longer sufficed. The coming of the artillery also underscored the importance of communications. Necessity being the mother of invention, such changes in the battlefield drove the evolution of the Signals and gave the Corps its unique place in the armies the world over. Signals are essentially the nerves of the Army. The Generals, being the brains of the Army, receive inputs from the troops in contact and from other sources through the Signals. These inputs are processed at the headquarters and converted into action plans. It again falls on the Signals to convey these operational plans to the troops who are to execute them. Feedback on execution gets conveyed back and the battle progresses. It is therefore obvious that the Signals are intimately intertwined in all aspects of the functioning of the army both in war and in peace and are present at all levels and at all places.
The advent of the telegraph were major evolutionary steps in signalling and had their effect on the Army Signals too. The earliest record of army telegraphy dates back to 1868 when telegraph routes were built by the Army Signals. Till then, signals was one of the functions of the Sappers and Miners. However, the increased sophistication and the enhanced responsibilities saw the birth of the Corps of Signals as a separate arm, on 15 February 1911. Since then, the Corps has made rapid strides, keeping pace with technology and in a number of cases driving technology to evolve faster and more reliable communication systems. The Corps has also evolved drills & procedures that ensure the provision of reliable and responsive communications to the army under harsh terrain and tough battle field conditions – living up to the motto of the Corps - Teevra Chaukas (Swift and Secure).
Organisation of the Corps
The Corps of Signals is organised into Officers, JCOs (Junior Commissioned Officers) and Other Ranks. Unlike officers who are employable at all aspects (Communication, Administration etc.), the other ranks are organised into various trades like ORL (Operator Radio & Line), TES (Technician Electronics & Systems), etc. That is the other ranks are employed only within their respective fields. The Corps is organised structurally into various regiments and companies. Each Brigade has a Signal Company commanded by a Major associated with it, while each Division and Corps has a Signal Regiment allotted, commanded by a Colonel. The Corps of Signals has the privilege of being the EW (Electronic Warfare) arm of the Indian Army with a vast array of computerised /automated state-of-art systems.
At the 1 Signal Training Centre in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh is a headquarters, a military training regiment, technical training regiments and a depot company. The centre is responsible for imparting military and technical training to recruits first time joining the Corps and also for upgrading and conversion training for various trades and categories at later stages. The 2 Signal Training Centre in Goa, also comprises of a headquarters, a military training regiment and technical training regiments. This centre is the largest military establishment in the state of Goa and the only local services establishment available for aid to the civil power.
The Military College Of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE) at Mhow has come a very long way from its early beginnings in 1946. The College continues to be the premier institution of the Corps, for imparting instructions to the personnel of the Corps. This college has been rated as a centre par-excellence in communication and computer engineering in the country by the Advisory Council appointed by the Government of India. MCTE is currently being developed as a centre for information technology and and information warfare.
The Modernisation Process
The Corps of Signals is well poised to exploit the state-of-art modern communication techniques for meeting the requirements of the Indian Army of the 21st Century. The ASTROIDS (Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System) and the DCN (Defence Communication Network) are other networks which have been visualised to cover communication requirements of all three services at the strategic level. Some of the areas where the Corps is already in the process of exploiting are the cellular radios - in both GSM (Global Satellite for Mobile Communications) & CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) modes, WLL (Wireless Local Loop), OFC (Optical Fibre Cable), mobile trunk radios, mobile satellite systems, etc. Advanced data transmission methods such as SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) and PDH (Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy) are also being used.
Personnel of the Corps are regularly sent abroad to expand their knowledge in numerous areas of telecommunications, information technology and electronic warfare including attending conferences such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to keep abreast with the latest in communications technology. The Corps also fielded communication task forces for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Sierra Leone. Signals personnel have also attended the Indian Army's training teams at Botswana and Mauritius.
Army Radio Engineered Network (AREN): This indigenously conceived area grid radio communication system for the field formations launched more than a decade ago has since grown into a potent tool for the commanders to exercise command & control and automated interoperable information and decision support systems in their area of responsibility.
Army Static Switched Communication Network (ASCON): The ASCON was evolved to integrate the telecommunication infrastructure of the hinterland with the tactical communication networks. It is a digital, fully automated, secure, reliable and survivable static communication system based on microwave radio, optical fibre cable, satellite and milli-metric wave communication equipments. Value added services such as Fax, Telex, data transfer and video are also available to the defence users on this network. The ASCON network is currently being expanded to include all army commands and areas in eastern India and also finalising plans for future expansion of the network. In addition, ASCON's existing microwave links are being replaced with optical fibre cable for increased reliability in communication.
Troposcatter Communication Systems: The Corps of Signals have harnessed the potential of troposcatter communications basically to meet the requirements of mechanised formations operating in rapidly changing tactical environments and for responsive & quickly deployable mobile systems to provide cross linkages and integration with the communication networks in the tactical zones. The digital mobile troposcatter systems are operated by specialized signal groups.
Satellite Communication (SATCOM): Conventional communication systems derived over field & permanent lines and radios could not be satisfactorily established over mountainous and snow-clad areas of borders in India. Hence the Corps has developed expertise and are already exploiting the latest facilities available by using INMARSAT, INSAT, LCTs and ECTs in the low-intensity conflict areas. INMARSAT has been used by the Corps of Signals units deputed for service in Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Cambodia and Angola.
Computer Data Networks: The Corps of Signals has done pioneering work in spreading computer literacy in the Indian Army since the 1960s. Right now the Corps is providing the pivotal role and infrastructure in exploiting Information Technology (IT) for data communications, weapon control and management systems. This fast proliferation of IT is providing an ideal incentive to the IT specialists for both graduates and post-graduates.
Electronic Warfare: This has become one of the most potent force multipliers and a technologically challenging field in which the Corps has developed tremendous expertise. EW has played a stellar role in anti-insurgency and low intensity conflict operations besides the conventional operations conducted earlier in Sri Lanka and recently in Kargil.
Information Technology: In the thrust of the Indian Army to usher into an era of acquiring maximum dividends from IT, the Corps of Signals is the torch bearer and facilitator. Fully automated offices with minimum paper work, improved response timings, fast information dissemination systems, hierarchical management information systems at all levels are some of the areas of thrust.
Static Peacetime Communications: Signals is providing standard subscriber communication services to the Army during peace time by way of telephone, telex, fax, e-mail, voice-mail and data transfer by establishing state-of-art communication systems and networks.
Automatic Message Switching / Handling Systems (AMSS): The Corps is also using a computerised AMSS for handling the high volume message traffic of the Army. This is network connecting the hierarchical nodes where the army formations are deployed