Indian Army Day 2021: Making way for modernisation and digitisation

--By Major General P K Chakravorty, VSM, Retired

2020 has been a crucial year for the Indian Army. The clash in Galwan in Eastern Ladakh with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has compelled the Indian Army to accelerate the modernisation process to match the Armed Forces of China. The clashes resulted in preemptive moves to occupy the Kailash Ranges South of Pangong Tso on the intervening night of 29 and 30 August by the Indian Army which surprised the Chinese and provided India a strong position on the negotiating table.

To match the PLA implies that Indian Army must move its modernisation programme in top gear. In 2019, Indian Government finalised a road map to spend $130 billion in the next five to seven years to modernise the Armed Forces and bolster their capabilities to effectively counter the challenges from the adversaries. The plan includes acquisition of a wide variety of weaponry to include missiles, warships, drones, fighter jets, surveillance equipment and creation of architecture for Artificial Intelligence.

The Indian Army will also receive its due share and undertake its ongoing modernisation at a deliberate pace. The Indian Army has undertaken effort to restructure and optimise its manpower for greater finances to be available for procurement. The process of restructuring the Indian Army is taking place after obtaining necessary approvals.

Despite problems, tremendous efforts are being made to modernise the infantry at a deliberate pace. A lot of progress has been made to acquire a modern rifle, Machine Gun and Carbine. The Army began the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44000 Light Machine Guns (LMGs) and nearly 44600 Carbines. A contract was signed by the Ministry of Defence and the US firm Sig Sauer for procurement of 72400 assault rifles. The Army would receive 66400 units, while the Navy will get 2000 and the Air Force 4000. The first batch of 10,000 SIG 716 Assault Rifles arrived in India on December 11, 2019. The rifle fires a 7.62x51 mm Cartridge. Apart from these the AK 203 Kalashnikov rifle will be the mainstay of the Indian Army. A Joint Venture between Ordnance Factory Board and Russia will be made at the factory in Amethi, which will receive an indent of over 6 lakh rifles from the Indian Army. In all probability the Carbine and the Light Machine Gun (LMG) will be manufactured in the same factory. A limited quantity of LMG would be imported possibly from Israel and Carbine from UAE. In June 2019, finally, India and Israel signed a deal for the Spike Missile. This entailed a purchase of 12 launchers and 210 missiles. As the DRDO man pack missile would be available by 2022, a repeat order for the equipment has been placed.

Digitisation is an important element of Non-Contact Warfare. The heart of the system is Command Information Decision Support System (CIDSS), which comprises Tactical Command Control Communications and Information System (Tac C3I). the Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS), Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), Air Defence Control & Reporting System (ADC&RS), Electronic Warfare System (EWS) and Electronic Intelligence System (ELINT). The Tac C3 I is to provide state of the art connectivity from the Corps HQ and below. Upward connectivity from Corps HQ to Army HQ is to be provided by the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS). However, there is a lacuna as no connectivity exists at unit and sub unit level. Accordingly there is a requirement to provide an automated Battle Management System (BMS) for the sub units to enable them to have sensors, platforms, weapon systems integrated with individual soldiers, to enable them to exploit their assets and translate plans into synergised operations at the lowest level. This must be accorded priority.

As regards sensors we have currently acquired Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Battle Field Surveillance Radars, Weapon Locating Radars, Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS), Thermal Imaging Intensification Observation Equipment (TIIOE), N Cross night vision equipment, Hand Held Thermal Imaging (HHTI) equipment, night vision binoculars and Unattended Ground Sensors. The quantities held are minimal and greater numbers are needed for improved Battle Field Transparency. Apart from these the Indian Army needs satellites as also Aerostats for wider coverage of its Area of Influence.

Artillery is the predominant arm as regards Firepower. The induction of 155 mm Dhanush, Ultra-Light Howitzer, Self Propelled 155 mm Vajra and BrahMos Cruise Missile has added punch to the Army. Further the Long Range Pinaka would be on user trials and possibly inducted by 2022.The Artillery is moving on to Precision Guided Munitions and possibly undertaking trials of state of the art PGMs. Further Hypersonic BrahMos may possibly be inducted in about two years.

High Technology aspects concern Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nano Technology, Lethal Automatic Weapon Systems Directed Energy Weapons, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare. Research in all these fields are moving at a steady pace. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are in a nascent stage of development. Rapid strides are needed to be taken in the field of Nano technology as it would lead to reduction of size and weight which would be suitable for our High Altitude and Glaciated regions. Direct energy weapons are being developed by China and there is a need to expedite their development. We need to build up our credible deterrence in the field of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare.

Threats from China and Pakistan leave us with no option but to undertake modernisation at a fast pace. The Indian Army is currently involved in meeting challenges at the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control. All out efforts must be made by all concerned to expedite modernisation optimising the process initiated by the present Government.

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