Preparing Soldiers for Future Wars
We must be prepared for short, intense, high-tech wars; in addition to expanding terrorism, asymmetric and fourth generation wars where the soldier faces the brunt at the cutting edge. Delay in modernisation has a direct bearing on combat efficiency in co
We must be prepared for short, intense, high-tech wars; in addition to expanding terrorism, asymmetric and fourth generation wars where the soldier faces the brunt at the cutting edge.
T HE IMPORTANCE OF THE man behind the machine or weapon requires no debate. Conflict situations like terrorism, asymmetric and fourth generation wars have heightened their importance much more. At the same time, rapid advances in information technology are revolutionising methods of fighting. Situational awareness, information dominance, jointness, net-centricity and stand-off precision weapons are the buzzwords, requiring a transformed soldier capable of dealing with high-tech war that will be short and intense plus contending with fleeting opportunities including by terrorists/non-state actors/state-sponsored non-state actors, who are getting more and more sophisticated. Today’s soldier must be a man-machine-technology mix, a weapon platform with adequate firepower, self-protection, night-fighting capability and mobility. He should have the ability to ‘see’ the enemy much before he himself gets spotted and be networked to the required level, enabling him to effectively respond to any situation in real/near real time. Time magazine voiced concerns of the US Army’s slow soldier modernisation in the haze of big ticket defence acquisitions, a few years into Iraq and Afghanistan. Same has been the case with soldier modernisation in India. It is only in recent years that the future infantry soldier system (F-INSAS) has gathered pace albeit the timelines announced initially have not been met, as is the case of almost all the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) projects. There is need to not only hasten up this project but also holistically review whether there is a need to go beyond F-INSAS to meet the soldier modernisation needs of the Indian Army per se and the security sector.
The F-INSAS programme, which is to ensure a dramatic increase in lethality, survivability and mobility while making the infantry soldier “a self-contained fighting machine”, is based on the land warrior system of the US Army and future soldier programmes of other nations. With the intent to retain its strategic autonomy, self-reliance and indigenisation of the programme is being emphasised. Most of the equipment is being indigenously developed by DRDO independently, as the prime developer and the system integrator, as well as with private partnership. F-INSAS is being developed in three phases; Phase 1 (originally scheduled to be completed by 2012) comprising weapons, body armour, clothing and individual equipment, Phase 2 comprising the target acquisition system and Phase 3 comprising the computer sub-system, radio subsystem, software and software integration. F-INSAS will provide the infantryman with latest weaponry, communication network and instant access to information on the battlefield. It will include a fully-networked all-terrain, all-weather personal-equipment platform, enhanced firepower and mobility for the digitalised battlefield of the future. The Infantryman will be equipped with mission-oriented equipment integrated with his buddy soldier team, the subunit, as also the overall command, control, communications, computers, information and intelligence (C4I2) system. Complete fielding in all infantry and RR units (some 465 battalions) is planned to be completed by 2020 or so.
The core systems of F-INSAS comprise helmet with visor, clothing, weapons and accessories. The helmet is an integrated assembly equipped with helmet-mounted flash light, thermal sensors and night vision device, digital compass, video cameras, computer and nuclear, chemical and biological sensors, with audio headsets. The visor is intended to be integrated and to act as a
Soldier modernisation of the infantry must be treated as an ‘emergent’ requirement in consideration of the emerging threats within and surrounding the country, especially considering the rate at which the terrorists are achieving sophistication
head-up display monitor equivalent to two 17-inch computer monitors. The personal clothing of the infantry soldier of the future would be lightweight with a bullet-proof jacket. The futuristic jacket would be waterproofed, yet breathable. The new attire will enable the troops to carry extra load and resist the impact of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. The uniform will also carry solar chargers for charging palmtop and other attached electronic equipment. It will contain external oxygen supply and respirator providing protection against gas and smoke and will include flame retardant carbonised viscose undergarments, fire proof knee and elbow pads, bullet-proof armoured waistcoat designed to stop a bullet, ceramic armour plates covering the front, back and groin and an armoured helmet capable of stopping a 9mm round at close range. The new uniform will have vests with sensors to monitor the soldier’s health parameters and provide quick medical relief.
The weapons sub-system is being built around a multi-calibre individual weapon system with the fourth calibre attached to a grenade launcher. These include a 5.56mm, a 7.62mm and a new 6.8mm weapon under development for the first time in India. The under barrel grenade launcher (UBGL) will be capable of launching air bursting grenade. The sub-system includes a thermal weapon sight and laser range finder to provide the soldier with range and direction information. The global positioning system (GPS) location information will allow the soldier to call for indirect fire accurately. While there are two types of next generation infantry rifles under development indigenously, global tender for the acquisition of new assault rifles and carbines for close quarters battle (CQB) carbines have been issued. As for accessories, the soldier will be equipped with palmtop GPS device for communicating with other soldiers and locate or generate maps to find location, and for situational awareness. The palmtop will inform the soldiers’ location of friendly forces in relation to their own positions. It will also enable them to transfer messages. Terrain equipment gears for various missions will also be carried. Thermal imaging, sensors and night vision equipment, currently deployed in weapon systems such as artillery and main battle tanks will be customised to make them portable for soldiers to carry in the battle ground. Defence advanced GPS receivers, infrared sensors, thermal sensors, electromagnetic sensors and radio frequency sensors would also be carried.
The battlefield management system (BMS) and F-INSAS programmes are being developed concurrently; BMS under information systems and F-INSAS under the Infantry. BMS was conceived at battalion/ regiment level pan-Army (including for the infantry) and comprises of communication, non-communication hardware and software. The lowest level to which the system will be connected is the individual soldier/ weapon platform and the highest level with battalion/regiment commander. The system will be further integrated with the tactical command, control, communications and information (Tac C3I) system through the command information decision support system (CIDSS). The Directorate General of Information System (DGIS) is charged with facilitating transformation of the Indian Army into a dynamic network-centric force, achieving information superiority through effective management of information technology. Quite logically, Phase 3 of F-INSAS (computer sub-system, radio sub-system, software and software integration) should
be part of the BMS. However, the Infantry remains adamant that Phase 3 of F-INSAS should be developed by Infantry and not be part of the BMS. A separate project of software and communication integration by Infantry is retrograde and delaying overall net-centricity pan-Army, would incur additional avoidable costs and defeat the very purpose that DGIS was created for, considerable work in the fields of GIS and applications having already been done by the latter in addition to completing Phase 1 of CIDSS and battlefield surveillance system (BSS).
While the Indian Army required the BMS ‘yesterday’, squabbling on delimitation between the BMS and F-INSAS led to delay of the Phase 1 of BMS by almost a year. The infantry has been haggling that Phase 3 of F-INSAS be developed by them in full or at least till company/platoon level. Since F-INSAS is to incorporate situational awareness and GIS, it amounts to not only ‘re-inventing the wheel’ but also requires yet another project to integrate the F-INSAS with the BMS, implying avoidable additional expenditure and time. We have not learnt from similar situations in foreign armies. In UK, the FIST programme for Infantry was thought of 10 years after the bowman programme. In the latter, the C2 system went down to half squad. The Platoon Commander carries both the Bowman and the FIST. In case the section has to function independently, the Section Commander carries both the Bowman and FIST. Separate F-INSAS and BMS could lead us to similar situations which should be unacceptable. FBCB2 was implemented in the US Army in 1998. Land warrior was started late, prototyped in 2005 and foreclosed in 2007, leading to the future force warrior (FFW) programme being started. Land warrior did not integrate with FBCB2. As a result, FBCB2 is being replaced by joint battle command system (JBCS) which goes down to the soldier. Significantly, FFW programme is looking only at the soldier ensemble to include weapon, protection and integrated helmet. The future soldier programme will not have a radio of its own but JTRS Cluster 5 Radio (soldier radio), common to all US soldiers and a common SA and computer from JBCS. The helmet will have a helmet-mounted display and earphones as well as microphone. System of systems are about integrating systems and empowering the user. The soldier is only a part of the network; he is not responsible for the network. Separate F-INSAS and BMS programmes will lead to issues related to interoperability and integration of systems as the systems may be developed by different agencies using different platforms. Maintenance of disparate systems would be required and it would be difficult to achieve test bed of an integrated combat group or infantry battalion group. It would be prudent for the Infantry to only develop Phases 1 and 2 of the F-INSAS, leaving development of Phase 3 as part of the BMS, especially since the latter also caters for Mechanised Infantry both in mounted and dismounted roles.
Should we be looking beyond F-INSAS? Prudence demands we should. The reasons for this are as follows:
While Infantry undoubtedly is the Queen of Battle, soldiers other than from Infantry also contribute to the ‘cutting edge’ as frontline troops. The BMS is catering for the digitised battlefield at regiment/battalion level pan Army but the BMS does not cater to weapons, body armour, clothing and individual equipment, which actually should be part of soldier modernisation pan-Army. In an environment of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, invariably troops other than infantry also get involved in operations both inadvertently and/or advertently. We should therefore be looking at across the board soldier modernisation concurrent to the infantry soldier. A dispassionate analysis would indicate that the costs involved are miniscule compared to big ticket acquisitions and a minor curtailment of the latter can easily be adjusted against full spectrum soldier modernisation, especially as the payoffs in terms of operational efficiency at the cutting edge would be exponentially enhanced. Soldier modernisation should also cater to very basic items (like masks, gloves, hoods) for NBC protection for emerging threats in conventional and sub-conventional conflict situations. We are already some years into asymmetric wars waged by Pakistan and China and by all indications they are leaving no stone unturned to up the ante. Asymmetric wars are waged on a nation and cannot be countered by the military alone. The entire security sector needs to be energised. The national cutting edge includes the Paramilitary Forces (PMF) and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) besides others. Therefore, at least those PMF and CAPF units that are engaged or tasked for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency must be part of soldier modernisation.
We must remember that in the 21st century conflict situations, not only will operations be increasingly interagency, involving greater application of “all elements of national power”, our adversaries will also endeavour to employ high-tech irregular forces against us. If we can achieve soldier modernisation within the security sector and network this cutting edge at the national level, we can be sure to win future conflict situations.
Soldier modernisation of the infantry has not been given its due in the past decades. This must be treated as an ‘emergent’ requirement in consideration of the emerging threats within and surrounding the country, especially considering the rate at which the terrorists are achieving sophistication. We must be prepared for short, intense, high-tech wars; in addition to expanding terrorism, asymmetric and fourth generation wars where the soldier faces the brunt at the cutting edge. Delay in modernisation has a direct bearing on combat efficiency in coping with threats to national security and lives of the infantryman. We need to act and act fast.
Infantrymen during Exercise Sudarshan Shakti