Operation ‘Randori Behak’ on 4 and 5 April 2020: Need for a Network Centric War (NCW) Approach

 By Brig. (Dr.) Ashok Pathak (Retd).

The Case (As reported in the print media)

“Army Killed ultras in a hand to hand combat” reported ‘Times of India” (ToI)[1] Dated 7 April 20 at page six. This news was also covered by ‘Economic Times’ (ET)[2], ‘The Hindu’[3] and ‘Indian Express’[4]. On 9 April 20 the incident was reported in ‘Hindustan Times’ (HT)[5] and ‘The Print’ giving an update after a preliminary probe. The disturbing details of the news: While the five infiltrating terrorists were killed in an intense fire fight, five soldiers of the Indian Army (IA) were also martyred. The infiltrators belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba based out in Pakistan. Three of the militants killed in the encounter were from the Kashmir valley who had crossed over to Pakistan on 12 and 27 April 2018 respectively. They were reported as missing as per the police reports[6]. Authorities feel that there has been an increase in terrorist activities for radicalising local population in retaliation to abrogation of Article 370 by Government of India.

The IA formation responsible for the sector noticed footprints on the snow in the specific area during early hours of morning 01 April 20. From 01 to 5 April 20 the weather was exceptionally hostile. But the highly motivated and determined troops kept up the tempo of the operation during this entire period till they cornered the ultras in a constricted space in the valley. The ultras were heavily armed and fired at close range. The search party, undeterred by the suddenness of the encounter retained balance and neutralised three ultras in close quarter battle. Two of the five intruders tried to run away but were neutralised by the alert troops. Thus, the entire infiltrating group was killed.


It is a tribute to the ‘dogged’ and ‘steely’ determination of our troops that they achieved their objective without fearing for their lives. The incident also highlights the alertness of the Indian Army deployed in the sector. The concerned formation did not give up because of bad weather. At the national level we may count this as another success story.

As regards Pakistan, their Armed Forces have lost the will to meet the Indian Armed Forces in direct confrontation. Hence radicalizing the poor youth and feeding them as cannon fodder is their only option. This in essence is their much publicised proxy war. How do we respond to this war of attrition? Maybe it is time that we look at NCW approach for all military operations.

The NCW Approach

About two and a half decades back the Indian Armed Forces commenced conceptualising Information War (IW) theories. Relevant doctrines were formulated. Some IW formations were raised, NCW was part of IW in these doctrines. The NCW approach gives us the capability of maximising the impact at the point of decision with minimal movements of platforms and troops. It generates combat power by interlinking war fighting enterprises. It provides the capability to synergise geographically dispersed forces or war fighting entities to obtain shared battlespace awareness and ability to concentrate their efforts with minimal or no physical movement. The Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) entities give us the capability to look deep into the enemy territory in all weather conditions. The ISR entities work during peace as well as war. Hence the picture building is continuous.  Further, NCW is about humans and organisational behavior based on collaboration, cooperation, commitment accompanied by total synergy of efforts[7] . The universal environment for NCW is information infrastructure[8]

For building up a NCW plan for operation Randori Behak. Three levels that are pertinent for this operation in this context. First the surveillance network, this comprises entire range of sensors integrated and fused to generate information about a large number of targets, activities enemy’s intent and so on. This would also include military reconnaissance satellites, Unarmed Aerial Vehicles (UAV), drones, mobile phone data analysis, human intelligence both internal from own troops, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and external from Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) and friendly nations. This input can be grouped into tactical, operational and strategic levels.

Second level will comprise of the command and control nodes or decision makers. To be specific this would include theatre, operational and tactical decision nodes.  This grid becomes active during the orient phase of the Observe, Orient, Decide and Act (OODA) loop. Here, a complete battlespace awareness is generated and shared in real time. Once target is identified the surveillance and decision grids are coupled at appropriate levels.

At this juncture the third level comprising of the warfighters/weapon platforms or the shooters is primed. The operation commences at this stage. The third level of NCW have their own ISR entities that can be supported by the strategic ISR or surveillance grid as per the operational requirements. The success of the operation is measured in terms of stand-off distance at which the target is neutralised. Obviously, the shooters and the target never come face to face. The close quarter combats are exceptions and depict failure to exploit the power of network. Targets are destroyed at stand-off range and damage assessment is done through the surveillance network.

In case of operation Randori Behak, it is likely that the formation surveillance elements picked up the target on 01 April 20. Through the use of UAV’s and other RADARs. This input was then integrated with all the other inputs available in the strategic surveillance grid. Techniques like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data were used to get to the exact picture and generate battlespace awareness. Complete battlefield awareness picture is shared with the troops to be launched. This information includes weather, terrain, type of snow, likely hiding places, likely number of ultras, local police inputs about the likelihood of any local in the group and so on. Once the operations commences, the strategic surveillance grid comprising of the national ISR entities are in support of the functional ISR entities available with the warfighters or the weapon platforms designated for action. Because limitation of space and technology curtail the extent to which the functional ISR aid can help the shooter. Thus, someone in the background should be monitoring the operations and provide necessary input when required by the shooter.


The military communication systems of the yore have undergone revolutionary transformation. The first Gulf War proved the war winning capabilities of ISR systems beyond all doubts. Today the old signalers do not provide communications they maintain military information infrastructure that can help the commander to see, think, decide, act and improve upon his last performance in pursuance of his mission. The rover operator of the radio communication age connected the commander to his command. The signaler today can do much more than this. He can help the commander in synergising his forces to orchestrate NCW with telling effect.

[1] Times of India Dated 7 April 20 page 6.

[2] Economics Times Dated 7 April 20, Page 3

[3] The Hindu Page, Dated 7 April 20, Page 8

[4] The Indian Express, Dated 7 April 20, Page 1

[5] The Hindustan Times Dated 9 April 20, Page 13

[6] The Print dated 9 April 20

[7] David S Alberts, ‘Network Centric Warfare Developing and Leveraging Information Superiority’ (Second Edition Revised) CCRP Publication Series August 1999, ISBN 1-57906-019-6

[8] Pathak Ashok ‘India’s Strategies for Information War and Cyber Deterrence’, Vitasta Publishing Pvt Limited (VIF) New Delhi 2020, ISBN 978-93-86473-87-5