The gigabyte digital information grid of the Indian Air Force (IAF), AFNET (Air Force Network) went live after Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony inaugurated it in New Delhi on Tuesday.
A demonstration of the capabilities of the network was conducted with ‘a practice interception of simulated enemy targets by a pair of MiG-29 fighter aircraft airborne from an advanced airbase in the Punjab sector, neutralizing intruding targets in the western sector’, according to a statement issued by the IAF.
Network Centric Warfare ability was also demonstrated with video feed generation from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and pictures from an AWACS aircraft.
The statement said, “AFNET Project with an estimated expenditure of Rs 1077 Cr, comprises of Internet Protocol (IP) Multi Protocol Switching Protocol (MPLS) based Network with Optic Fibre Cables (OFC) as backbone. The AFNET Project has SATCOM Network as overlay, Line Of Sight (LOS) Radio for Metro Area and difficult terrains, as a back up to OFC links. The network is secured with a host of advanced state-of-the-art encryption technologies. It is designed for high reliability with redundancy built into the network design itself.”
The IAF says that all ‘major formations and static establishments have been linked through a secure Wide Area Network (WAN) and are accessible through data communication lines’ and that ‘AFNET incorporates the latest traffic transportation technology in form of IP (Internet Protocol) packets over the network using Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)’, adding, ‘a large VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) layer with stringent quality of service enforcement will facilitate robust, high quality voice, video and conferencing solutions’.
According to the IAF’s spokesman Wing Commander Tarun Kumar Singha, “Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS), an automated command and control system for Air Defence (AD) operations will ride the AFNET backbone integrating all ground-based and airborne sensors, AD weapon systems and C2 nodes. Subsequent integration with other services networks and civil radars will provide an integrated Air Situation Picture to operators to carry out AD role.”
The IAF says multi-layer security precautions have been planned by ‘incorporating encryption technologies, Intrusion Prevention Systems to ensure the resistance of the IT system against information manipulation and eavesdropping’.
Stakeholders in the development of AFNET included the Ministries of Defense and Communication and Information Technology, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) Cisco and HCL Technologies. “AFNET will be the largest Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network in the defence segment,” said the statement.
AFNET replaces the IAF’s old communication network set-up using the tropo-scatter technology of the 1950s.
According the IAF, AFNET is part of the overall mission to network all three services. The mission comes in the backdrop of an IT Roadmap document of the Defence Ministry stipulating automation, simulated training and mandatory computer proficiency in the services.
“While all three services are engaged in large scale automation and computer-based networking, the IAF is the first among the three to complete the project of interlinking major installations throughout the country on a high bandwidth network,” it said in a statement.
Union Minister of Communication & IT, Andimuthu Raja, Minister of State for Defense Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Communication, Sachin Pilot, Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasank Naik, Chief of the Army Staff General VK Singh were also present.