Sunday, June 23, 2024

WESEE: Celebrating A Vibrant Technological Legacy

By Aritra Banerjee

Delving Into The Archives

In the mid-60s, the Navy initiated numerous warship-building endeavours at Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) shipyards. Despite these indigenous efforts, most of the utilised weaponry and sensors were imports from various foreign countries. A response to this scenario emerged in the form of the Weapons and Electronics Systems Organisation (WESO), established by the Indian Government in July 1978. The primary intent of WESO was to form a core of systems engineers capable of integrating a diverse range of equipment aboard naval ships.

WESO’s remarkable success in its first project, the system interfacing and integration on the Godavari class, prompted the Navy to advocate for a permanent systems integration establishment. This led to the birth of the Weapons and Electronic Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE) on 31 May 1985, replacing WESO as a more permanent organisation.

Rear Admiral Ankur Sharma, Director General, WESEE, emphasised, “As WESEE strides into its fourth decade since its establishment, its most rewarding achievement lies in its dynamic capability to keep pace with the evolving world and proactively embrace cutting-edge technologies for upcoming Navy projects.”

A Brief Overview of WESEE’s Various Projects

WESEE has been a cornerstone in the Navy’s quest for self-sufficiency since its inception. In 1986, the Computer Action Information Organisation (CAIO) Group, later renamed the Combat Management Systems (CMS) Group, was established. Its primary objective was to design and develop the first indigenous system capable of providing a comprehensive Common Operational Picture (COP) using various onboard sensors and those on allied warships through Data Links.

RAdm. Sharma outlined, “WESEE’s real business has always been to do what nobody else can do, or will do.”

The Networking Group was established around the same time. Initially, they focused on terrestrial networks and later on indigenous radio Data Links. These foundational initiatives were the building blocks for Network Centric Operations (NCO) and Cooperative Engagement Capability, which were realised decades later.

In 1997, the Information Technology & Information Warfare (IT&IW) Group was formed to develop cryptographic and network security solutions for the Navy.

In just 15 years, WESEE has expanded its ambit of activities, capabilities, and size to encapsulate nearly all critical technological areas related to Weapons, Electronic Systems, Information Security, and Cryptography. This contributed significantly to the indigenisation efforts of the Indian Navy.

By 2001, the Combat Systems Integration (CSI) Group had established itself as a mature entity. It was the sole agency capable of undertaking Systems Integration with demonstrated capabilities.

Between 2001 and 2010, the group accomplished a tremendous volume of Platform Level Integration. The implementation of the interface-intensive ATM technology-based Ships Data Networks (SDNs) was the crown-jewel of their projects.

Following this success, WESEE initiated a paradigm shift from ATM technology to Gigabit Ethernet for future platforms. In addition to these significant projects, the group provided continuous Fleet Support by creating custom obsolescence management/retrofitment interface solutions for fleet combatants.

Pioneering Developments Through The Years

  • Combat Management Systems

One of WESEE’s many pioneering projects was the Combat Management Systems (CMS). CMS serves as the central nervous system onboard warships. They integrate all sensors, such as Radars, Sonars, EW systems, AIS, etc., with weapons like Guns, Missiles, Torpedoes, Rockets, etc., and facilitate communication with other platforms via the ship’s Data Link equipment.

WESEE has been at the forefront of securing the digital space for the Indian Navy; File Photo

The indigenous combat system program has experienced swift growth and evolution. With every new platform induction and all MLU projects, the indigenous CMS was implemented. However, the modern battle space’s ever-evolving nature demanded an enterprise-wide, net-enabled system-of-systems approach where the CMS was central to this paradigm. This evolution necessitated a redesign of the indigenous Surface Ship CMS to meet the modern battle space’s demands.

  • Networking & Data Links

The flagship Data Link equipment, the culmination of nearly 15 years of work, was deployed navy-wide on ships, submarines, aircraft, and shore establishments between 2006 and 2008. Today, it serves as the mainstay of messaging and tactical communications for the Navy.

This world-class data link system not only excels in transmitting and receiving data optimally over various radio bands and SatCom, but also uniquely aggregates data from varied information sources on board. The successive upgrades of the Data Link have empowered it to be a potent system for data management in future Network Centric Operations.

The beginning of the present decade marked a milestone for the WESEE with the widespread deployment of the Data Link across all naval platforms. This indigenous system became the cornerstone of all tactical communications for the Indian Navy.

  • The Emergence Of Software-Defined Radio

In 2009, preliminary work was initiated to develop an indigenous Software Defined Radio (SDR) in collaboration with some DRDO laboratories, opening up new frontiers in communication technology.

Prior to this, there had been the navy-wide deployment of a Signal Communication Application  in 2005. This time also marked the maturation of the Data Link solutions, with data rates of up to 9.6 Kbps being achieved on V/UHF Modems.

  • EMCCA

The decade-long development of Modular Equipment for Command and Control Application (EMCCA) granted the CMS Group significant maturity, particularly in implementing processes for complex and large-sized software development. The expertise and experience gained during this time were consolidated in the decade by developing several artefacts for other CMS programs.

  • Developments In Cybersecurity

The decade of 2001-2010 marked a significant leap for WESEE in the field of cybersecurity, with a remarkable suite of military-grade Information Security systems and products designed, developed, and deployed navy-wide. The WESEE-developed Desktop Security Suite is now deployed across all PCs in the Navy. In 2012, two new tools were added to this comprehensive security suite – the Secure Data Exchange Solution (sDrive) and a Desktop End Point Security Solution (Senic Guard).

WESEE also oversaw the creation of two groundbreaking solutions. The Linkryptor – a customised hardware for secure tactical communication and a Cross-Domain Solution – enables secure information exchange between two networks with different trust levels. These advancements further enhance WESEE’s capabilities in cyber security and reaffirm its role as a technological trailblazer.

The implementation of the Naval Enterprise Wide Network (NEWN) came in 2004. Remarkably, NEWN was the first indigenous firewall to be deployed in the country, and its resilient service continues today.

  • Leaps In Cryptography 

WESEE’s Cryptography Development Laboratory is one of the select few labs in India authorised by the National Cipher Policy Committee to develop cryptographic systems in the government sector. After successfully deploying the Secure Email Encryption system in December 1999, a Desktop Encryption system was rolled out navy-wide in 2003. 

In 2007, WESEE  saw the navy-wide deployment of a second book cypher and the development of a proprietary email for the Navy. Two years later, a significant technological breakthrough came with deploying the first Data Diode for the Navy, enabling data importation from the Internet to the Navy’s Operational Network. The decade culminated with the successful gradation by DRDO of the hardware cryptographic solution for the Navy’s Signal Communication application and its deployment.

  • Entry Into Quantum Computing

In 2018, the rise of Quantum Computers began to cause concern. The enhanced computational power of these machines posed a significant threat to the security of existing cryptographic solutions, especially from potential brute force attacks. Guided by the principles of proactive innovation, WESEE ventured into the nascent field of quantum technology, recognising the pressing need to stay ahead of the curve.

It established a state-of-the-art Quantum Communications Lab at the onset of 2020. Within a year, the team achieved a significant milestone — developing the first Quantum Safe Algorithm, ready for prototype testing. This accomplishment underscores WESEE’s unwavering commitment to ensuring the integrity and security of systems against the imminent quantum revolution.

Standards & Processes: Commitment To Excellence

Given the rapid growth of its portfolio and the increasingly complex demands of the future, WESEE recognised the need to introduce another core competency to holistically address standards, processes, and the management of intricate projects. This realisation led to the establishment of a new Work Group specifically designed to define and standardise organisational processes and methods.

The primary goal of this Work Group was to achieve the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Dev Certification, widely regarded as the gold standard in software development. WESEE became the first defence services organisation in India to be certified for Level 3.

In 2021, WESEE continued its trailblazing streak, becoming the first defence establishment worldwide to be appraised forCapability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3, Version 2.0. 

WESEE’s Work Philosophy

As Naval operations grew in scope and complexity, it required several systems to operate in conjunction – effectively becoming a system of systems. Thus, the mission became the central system of interest when designing a new system. Mission Engineering provided the coherency between system engineering, operations, and the mission, ensuring that all elements worked harmoniously towards the shared objective.

The organisation’s primary approach was to evolve from equipment and platform-centric designs to enterprise-level designs for integrated operations. This evolution also sparked a change in the method of designing and developing systems for the Navy, encapsulated by the concept of Mission Engineering.

As new platforms were swiftly inducted, WESEE faced an exponential workload related to system integration for new acquisitions and Mid-Life Upgraded (MLU) ships. 

In 2014, WESEE was designated as the Integration Authority of the Indian Navy. While this activity became a routine behind-the-scenes effort, it was evident that federated procurement of systems often resulted in non-utilisation of the capabilities of new acquisitions. Recognising this, the organisation has shifted its focus from merely interfacing equipment to pursuing functional integration.

Presently, WESEE’s advanced architecture reduces the life cycle costs (LCC) of products and optimises effort, ultimately saving the nation a substantial amount of foreign exchange. This design and architectural shift underscored WESEE’s approach to system integration and its evolution to better serve the needs of the Navy.

The Evolutionary Leap: 2010-2023

Entering its third decade, WESEE strengthened its position as the go-to solution for all system needs. “2010 to 2023 saw an exponential growth in the number of WESEE-origin systems deployed in the field,” the Admiral remarked. 

In a world where obsolescence often outpaces innovation, WESEE graduated with a concept of modular and generic architectures and designs. These innovations provided scalability, enabled seamless upgrades, facilitated rapid prototyping, eased maintenance and support, and allowed for hardware and software reuse across projects.

The Defence Minister getting briefed about the critical technologies developed by WESEE during the Naval Commanders Conference; Photo Courtesy/Twitter@proshillong

WESEE’s Ongoing Projects

  • CMS 24-29 

“The CMS 24-29 is a project currently in development, aiming to seamlessly integrate into the enterprise-wide net-enabled environment. It follows the philosophy of ‘Build once, Fix Once, and Use Many Times,’ with a focus on creating Common Components, Framework, and Services,” stated RAdm. Sharma.

This approach is expected to significantly reduce the development timelines for deploying CMS systems across various classes of ships, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. The system remains on track to accomplish its objectives and augment the enterprise’s capabilities, signifying a new era in indigenous combat system development.

  • Data Link II NG System

The Indian Navy is actively enhancing these systems with a particular focus on developing the Link II Mod III and its variants. These are specifically tailored to cater to the unique operational requirements of submarines and air assets.

Parallelly, the Navy is intensively working on creating the Link II Next Generation (Link II NG) system. This ambitious project is geared to incorporate upgraded features such as integrated platform time synchronisation, a modular and scalable open architecture equipped with a multi-domain gateway, enhanced throughput with hot redundancy, and fault tolerance. “As of now, Link II NG is in the development phase, a testament to the ongoing commitment of the Indian Navy to enhance and modernise its operational capabilities,” DG WESEE concluded.

Operational Framework

WESEE’s distinctness stems from its status as a permanent, functionally autonomous establishment under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Its duties are dictated and funded by the Navy, with personnel comprised of Naval officers and DRDO scientists supplemented by civilian staff.

At the pinnacle of WESEE’s management hierarchy is the Management Board. This board, overseen by the Secretary of the Department of Defence (R&D), consists of senior functionaries from DRDO, MoD, MoD (Finance), as well as the Chief of Materiel (COM) for the Indian Navy and the Director-General of WESEE.

Projects are delegated to the organisation by the Naval Headquarters, facilitated by a second-tier committee known as the Programme Management Committee. Under the leadership of the COM, this committee comprises representatives from various directorates of the NHQ, DRDO, MoD, and MoD (Finance).

Combat management system for INS Vikrant by WESEE & TASL; Photo Courtesy/Twitter@tataadvanced

The Future

The unique management structure of WESEE has, over the decades, allowed the organisation to balance the pragmatic, output-based requirements of the navy with the scholarly, research-based approach characteristic of the top R&D organisations in the country. This effective balance has consistently fueled the delivery of innovative, cutting-edge solutions that cater precisely to the Navy’s operational needs while also pushing the boundaries of technology.

WESEE’s current endeavour is to break boundaries in disruptive and transformational technology domains. The integration of these next-generation technologies aims to effectively translate desired capabilities into engineering solutions.

To achieve this, WESEE must engage with non-traditional defence R&D communities and innovators and collaborate with DRDO, other government R&D institutes, academia, and the private industry. By doing so, it will explore and develop future warfighting technologies, ensuring the Navy does not have to fight tomorrow’s wars with yesterday’s doctrines and weapon systems.

In the coming decade and beyond, WESEE will lead in the application of cutting-edge technologies to design and develop secure, intelligent, state-of-the-art next-generation systems for the Navy.

Challenges Ahead

As WESEE gazes into the future, it is apparent that breakthrough technologies, currently simmering on the edges of naval tech, will assert the Indian Navy’s role as a key enabler in meeting National Security Challenges. However, challenges loom ahead with the proliferation of powerful and economical technologies globally and the advent of disruptive tech.

Despite a consistently steady mission and philosophy over the decades, WESEE operates in a world that has changed dramatically. These changes encompass significant scientific and technological advancements that, when wisely harnessed, have the potential to secure the superiority of the Indian Navy and stimulate societal and economic progress.

However, the world is also experiencing technical, economic, and geopolitical shifts that pose potential threats to India’s rise and stability. These trends present an unprecedented opportunity to set WESEE’s strategic priorities for the coming years.

Arguably the most significant challenge is the dual phenomenon of technological challenge and opportunity. This encompasses needs ranging from faster radio-frequency and information-processing systems operating at nanosecond scales to accelerating the development time of major naval systems, which currently span several years.

In these areas, WESEE aims to maintain strategic speed, in part, by continuing to be a bold, risk-tolerant investor in high-impact technologies. This strategy allows the Navy and the nation to be the pioneers in developing and adopting novel capabilities enabled by such work.

Aritra Banerjee is a Senior Correspondent at Indian Aerospace & Defence


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