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By Bulbul Singh

13 Nov 13. One year after the shortlisting two competitors for the Indian Army’s $2 billion Tactical Communication System (TCS) project, the Indian Ministry of Defence last month submitted Qualitative Requirements to the bidders, giving a push to the already delayed NCW program.

A consortium of domestic private sector defence companies Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power, SED and HCL are pitched against state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for TCS which is to be built under the ‘Make India’ category under which only domestic companies are given the tender. Overseas defence companies are only allowed to participate through a domestic competitor.

For TCS, the government will contribute 80% of the cost of the prototypes developed by the two competitors. For the time being, the Indian MoD has asked the competitors to send a Detailed Project Report incorporating the Qualitative Requirements posted. The Indian Army wants the TCS to provide a safe and seamless exchange of data between various formations on the battlefield and hopes to bridge the gap between existing and contemporary technologies in the sphere of military communication.

An Indian Army official said, “The TCS will have the ability to share and exchange information in near real time which will involve integration of sensors, shooters and decision makers through a dynamic, reliable and secure loop.”

TCS, original TCS 2000, conceived nearly 15 years ago and was aimed at replacing the existing Army Radio Engineering Network (AREN). However, the program got delayed because the Indian MoD was unable to decide in which category TCS should be built. Firstly, it was planned to build the project on ‘Buy and Make’ basis. Later BEL was pressurized to build TCS on a nomination basis, after labelling it as a strategic project. However, after lobbing by the Indian defence industry, the Indian MoD agreed to allow the private sector companies to participate in the program and build it on ‘Make India’ basis.

TCS, based on frequency hopping algorithms, will provide anti-jamming and ECM and will be a mobile communication system which can operate in mountainous and desert terrain and transmit big parcels of data, such as maps or video and can also be datalinked to UAVs.

The development of the prototypes is projected to cost about $60 million with the government covering 80 per cent of the expense and the shortlisted domestic company 20 per cent. The prototypes will be put through extensive field trials and the selected defence company will be asked to produce more than 500 systems in India. The prototypes are expected to be ready by 2014-15.

The Indian MoD is of the view that since off-the-shelf technologies for TCS are not readily available, it would be better to make an indigenous product. While imports and technical collaborations would be allowed with overseas companies, under the TCS overseas technologies will be sanitized in India before they are integrated with the TCS. However, only time will tell if the system would be built on time and in the fashion conceived by the Indian MoD.

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