Indian Army Modernisation – An Introspection
The facade of the yearly refined DPP over the years has done little to accelerate modernisation. The gap between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is widening alarmingly in favour of the latter. Faced with a two-front threat, India ne
GIVEN ITS SIZE, HISTORY and ambitions, India will always march to the beat of its own drummer,” says Ashley Tellis. Very apt, but who is the drummer, what is his proficiency, and what is the quality of his drums? Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledges that China is ahead of us in science and technology; our defence modernisation is woefully lagging with inadequate budgetary allocation, bureaucratic red-tapism, inadequate Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), coupled with the lack of strategic culture. Lack of focus on research and development (R&D) has stifled defence indigenisation, as indicative with Indian Army, which is forced to even import assault rifles and carbines. Indian Army’s 600-odd modernisation schemes amounting to over 70,000 crore in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) continue to be encumbered with bureaucratic procurement processes. The facade of the yearly refined DPP over the years has done little to accelerate modernisation. The gap between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is widening alarmingly in favour of the latter. Faced with a two-front threat, India needs to accelerate the pace of modernisation of the Indian Army, duly prioritised and executed within laid down time frames.
Threats and Challenges
Global and regional security concerns coupled with growing internal security challenges define India’s security environment. The conventional threats from traditional adversaries colluding with each other, continuing presence of terrorist, and the fundamentalist forces in its neighbourhood; has prompted India to carry out force accretion in order to maintain a high level of defence vigilance and preparedness. The recent antiIndia coup in Bangladesh, which failed, indicates how fragile peace across frontiers next to any neighbouring country is. Developments in Afghanistan-Pakistan and Pakistan-China collusion have brought South Asia to the centre stage of conventional and sub-conventional conflict and instability. Terrorism, low intensity conflict motivated by economic disparity, religious fundamentalism, narcotics trade, threat of nuclear weapons falling in wrong hands, etc, remain issues of concern in our region. Proxy war conducted by Pakistan and the various radical jehadi outfits promoted by them through terrorism continue unabated. China’s strategy of encircling India through its neighbours and confining it within the subcontinent is apparent and palpable apart from the outlandish claims to entire Arunachal Pradesh. Internally, India faces a series of low-intensity conflicts characterised by tribal, ethnic and left-wing movements and ideologies. Thus the security challenges facing India are varied and complex.
“In the coming years, we need to build greater surveillance (satellites, aerial and ground-level), night fighting and rapid deployment capabilities, particularly for mountains. We need improved C4I2, surveillance equipment, more helicopters, ultra-light howitzers and lighter infantry weapons and equipment.”
The emerging threats and challenges mandate that India should be prepared to fight hybrid wars in future which may involve the armed forces in simultaneously fighting limited conventional conflicts on two fronts, out of area operations, counter insurgency and counter proxy war operations in the domestic arena, low-intensity asymmetric wars, cyber wars, UN peacekeeping and peacemaking operations, etc. The internal situation is likely to get worse with tech savvy terrorists even engaging in cyber, maritime, chemical, biological and radiological terrorism, egged on by China and Pakistan. The Indian Army’s focus should be on a preparedness profile and status which has Rapid Deployment Forces for defensive and offensive operations, smaller fully integrated Strike Forces (integrated with air power and air assault formations) for the initial stages of offensive operations followed by larger “follow up” formations if the war lasts longer than anticipated. Capabilities must be built to fully exploit aerospace, cyber and electromagnetic domains throughout the spectrum of conflict. Additionally, India should have forces for lowintensity conflict operations (LICO), power projection and out of area contingencies (OOAC). Indian Army would also need Special Forces for special operations and a nuanced internal security/counter-insurgency force for LICO through reengineering of its existing forces. NCW capable forces and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, will become a necessity with enhanced situational awareness, capability of identifying, monitoring and destroy- ing targets in near real time with enhanced ranges and lethality to achieve ascendancy over the enemy. The aim would be to employ overwhelming firepower/force at the point of decision. The backbone of such a structure would be well-designed communication architecture at the national level with integrated networks which are integrated with the sensors for speedily transmitting fused and integrated data through command and control echelons enabling greater situational awareness for commanders at all levels.
The artillery modernisation plan amounting to over 20,000 crore aimed at inducting howitzers, but the last such induction was in 1987 (400 pieces Bofors guns). The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) sat on the designs for 25 years despite being coaxed by the Indian Army. Only recently they have agreed to produce prototypes of 155mm/39 calibre and 45 calibre. Since 1987, the 100mm and 122mm field guns of Russian origin and the indigenously developed and manufactured 75/24 Indian Mountain Gun have become obsolete and the Indian Army still awaits procurement of some 1,500 howitzers of 155mm, 52 calibre. Of these, 400 are to be procured outright and 1,100 manufactured indigenously with transfer of technology (ToT). Request for proposal (RFP) for these guns was issued in early 2011 and the evaluation process should be under way. Additionally, 145 ultra light howitzers were to be procured from the US through foreign military sales (FMS) route from BAE Systems but are locked in legal complications. The Indian Army also needs 120 tracked and 180 wheeled 155mm Howitzers for Artillery Divisions, of which there is no news. One hundred and eight pieces of 130mm M46 Russian medium guns have been successfully “up-gunned” to 155mm calibre with ordnance supplied by Soltam of Israel, enhancing the range to 40 km with extended range ammunition. However, manufacture of ammunition by IAI (Israel) is delayed as IAI has been blacklisted. Counterbombardment (CB) capability is also being upgraded, but at a slow pace. A minimum of 40 to 50 weapon locating radars (WLRs) are required for effective CB, especially in the plains, but only a dozen have been procured so far. In addition to the 12 AN-TPQ 37 Firefinder WLRs acquired from Raytheon, USA, under a 2002 contract worth $200 million (`1,000 crore), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is reported to be assembling 28 WLRs. These radars will be based on both indigenous and imported components and are likely to be approved for introduction into service after extensive trials that are ongoing. The radar is expected to match the capabilities of the Firefinder system and will have a detection range of about 40 km.
As for Army Air Defence Artillery modernisation, the 40mm L/70 which is about four decades old, needs immediate replacement. Considering the high costs of the new weapon systems, Indian Army is going in for upgrades for L-70, ZU-23-2 Twin gun, and ZSU-23-4 Schilka and is also looking for successors to L-70 and the ZU-23-2. The successor to Schilka (ZSU-23-4) already exists in the