In­dia’s In­fantry Mod­erni­sa­tion

While the like­li­hood of full scale state-on-state wars may be re­duced, In­dia will more likely face bor­der skir­mishes on its un­re­solved bor­ders and low in­ten­sity con­flict op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing counter-ter­ror­ism and counter-in­sur­gency in the fu­ture. This man


IN­DIA FACES DI­VERSE THREATS and chal­lenges. While on the one hand there is an ex­is­ten­tial threat of con­ven­tional con­flicts aris­ing from un­re­solved bor­ders in the west with Pak­istan and in the north and north-east with China, on the other hand, there is the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge de­vel­op­ing within the bor­ders of In­dia. This is from home-grown in­sur­gen­cies, mil­i­tancy and ter­ror­ism which arise due to a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. To add to th­ese two sce­nar­ios is the con­tin­u­ing and con­stant threat from state-spon­sored ter­ror­ism nursed and nur­tured in In­dia’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bour­hood and its di­rect and in­di­rect link­ages to con­ven­tional con­flicts, in the re­gion, in the fu­ture. All this makes this part of South Asia more volatile and un­pre­dictable.

The ex­is­tence of ter­ror­ist camps across the In­dia-Pak bor­der and the line of con­trol (LoC), and the like­li­hood of Pak­istani Tal­iban who are cur­rently en­gaged in fight­ing in their Western prov­inces and on the Pak- is­tan-Afghanistan bor­der, turn­ing their at­ten­tion to­wards the LoC, is a set­ting that In­dia must be pre­pared to face. The con­tin­u­ing in­fil­tra­tions across the LoC demon­strate Pak­istan’s at­ti­tude and ap­proach to ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions, even though such or­gan­i­sa­tions pose a dan­ger to Pak­istan’s own so­cial and po­lit­i­cal fab­ric. Thus In­dia faces a strong like­li­hood of more in­ten­sive low in­ten­sity con­flict sit­u­a­tions in Jammu and Kash­mir in the fu­ture.

In view of the in­creas­ing fo­cus on low in­ten­sity con­flicts, the aim of this ar­ti­cle is

to draw the reader’s at­ten­tion to the de­lay in mod­erni­sa­tion of In­dia’s in­fantry and its fu­ture in­fantry sol­dier pro­gramme.


The fu­ture in­fantry sol­dier as a sys­tem (F-IN­SAS) had been ini­ti­ated more than six years ago to make the in­fantry­man a weapon plat­form with sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, in­creased lethal­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity in the digi­tised bat­tle­field. F-IN­SAS was to be im­ple­mented in three phases: Phase I in­cluded weapons, body ar­mour, cloth­ing and in­di­vid­ual equip­ment; Phase II was the tar­get ac­qui­si­tion sys­tem and Phase III com­prised the com­puter sub­sys­tem, ra­dio sub­sys­tem, soft­ware and soft­ware in­te­gra­tion.

The F-IN­SAS pro­gramme was an­nounced by for­mer Army Chief, Gen­eral J.J. Singh in Au­gust 2007 which in­volved equip­ping over 3,00,000 in­fantry troops and around 1,00,000 Rashtriya Ri­fles (RR) and As­sam Ri­fles (AR) per­son­nel em­ployed for con­ven­tional and counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions or both with a mod­u­lar, multi-cal­i­bre suite of weapons, body ar­mour, as­sorted in­di­vid­ual equip­ment and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, and hand-held sur­veil­lance de­vices, in­clud­ing third-gen­er­a­tion night vi­sion de­vices (NVDs). It in­cludes, as stated in Phase III, com­mu­ni­ca­tion ap­pa­ra­tus and com­put­ers ca­pa­ble of trans­mit­ting and up­load­ing voice, data and video clips on wrist dis­plays for sol­diers and ‘plan­ning boards’ for com­man­ders, ‘smart’ vests packed with sen­sors, in­te­grated bal­lis­tic hel­mets with heads-up dis­play (HuD), minia­ture ra­dios, global po­si­tion­ing sys­tems (GPS) and por­ta­ble power packs. So the com­plete pack­age for the pro­posed in­fantry up­grade was im­pres­sive.

F-IN­SAS is to be a part of the bat­tle­field man­age­ment sys­tem (BMS) of the Army i.e. bat­tal­ion level and be­low. The for­ma­tions above the bat­tal­ion level, i.e. brigade and above, will form a part of the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem (TCS) of the Army at the Corps level. This part of the project of in­te­grated com­mu­ni­ca­tions and digi­ti­sa­tion of the bat­tle­field com­pris­ing com­mand in­for­ma­tion and de­ci­sion sup­port sys­tems (CIDSS) is be­ing han­dled by the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems (DGIS), while the in­duc­tion of weaponry and equip­ment of the in­fantry in the F-IN­SAS pro­gramme is be­ing han­dled by the Direc­torate Gen­eral of In­fantry.

The lack of progress of ac­quir­ing even the weaponry, which is the eas­i­est and most fun­da­men­tal, is de­pres­sive to say the least be­cause it di­rectly and most ad­versely af­fects the sol­diers fight­ing abil­ity in the field. It is there­fore clear that the Army is cur­rently grap­pling with the Phase 1 it­self i.e. the phase in which new in­fantry weapons with body ar­mour, in­di­vid­ual equip­ment and cloth­ing have to be in­ducted.

The In­dian’s Army’s six-year-old project to up­grade all its in­fantry bat­tal­ions and 106 units of Rashtriya Ri­fles and As­sam Ri­fles units un­der its elab­o­rate F-IN­SAS pro­gramme is in­or­di­nately de­layed. Of­fi­cials as­so­ci­ated with the pro­gramme have said that the F-IN­SAS pro­to­type, mod­eled on the US Army’s fu­ture force war­rior and aimed at de­ploy­ing a fully-net­worked, all-ter­rain and all-weather force with en­hanced fire­power and mo­bil­ity for the fu­ture dig­i­talised bat­tle­field, is de­layed by four to five years, if not longer be­yond its 2012-13 dead­line. Con­se­quently, the over­all in­fantry up­grade, to be ac­com­plished through a mix of im­ported and lo­cally de­vel­oped equip­ment and sys­tems and es­ti­mated to cost ` 25,000 crore (ap­prox­i­mately $4.0 bil­lion), may well be de­ferred be­yond 2025.

The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) headed by the De­fence Min­is­ter and in­clud­ing the three Chiefs (Army, Navy and the Air force) have ap­proved the in­duc­tion of a new as­sault ri­fle, 5.56 (with ca­pa­bil­ity of switch­ing to 7.62mm bar­rels if re­quired) along with a new gen­er­a­tion car­bine to re­place the 9mm car­bine which has al­ready been weeded out of the Army with­out get­ting a re­place­ment.


There has been some progress in the field of car­bines. In Au­gust 2012, the process of procur­ing 44,618 5.56mm close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines to re­place the out­dated 9mm model and 33.6 mil­lion rounds of am­mu­ni­tion in a con­tract worth over

2,000 crore was set in mo­tion. The man­u­fac­tur­ers in the race were Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries (IWI) Galil Ace car­bine, Italy’s Beretta with its ARX-160, USA’s Colt and Sig Sauer’s of­fer­ing the M4 and 516 Pa­trol mod­els. Th­ese weapons have un­der­gone field tri­als at the In­fantry School at Mhow, in Cen­tral In­dia, the Thar Desert in Ra­jasthan and high al­ti­tude lo­ca­tions in In­dia’s north­ern and north-east re­gions.

The ten­der for the 5.56mm close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines re­quires each weapon sys­tem to weigh less than three kg, fire 600 rounds per minute to a min­i­mum dis­tance of 200 me­tres and be ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing in ex­treme tem­per­a­tures. Pi­catinny rail-mounted re­flex and pas­sive night sights, vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble laser spot des­ig­na­tors and multi-pur­pose de­tach­able bay­o­nets are a part of their qual­i­ta­tive re­quire­ments (QRs). The se­lected ven­dor will be re­quired to trans­fer tech­nol­ogy to the OFB to li­cence build 3,80,000-4,00,000 CQB car­bines and 5.56mm am­mu­ni­tion, for use not only by the Army, but even­tu­ally the Cen­tral and state po­lice forces in a pro­gramme es­ti­mated to ul­ti­mately cost over ` 5,000 crore. Army sources said the car­bine and am­mu­ni­tion trial re­ports were be­ing as­sessed and it was ex­pected that the deal may wit­ness fi­nal­i­sa­tion by 2015.

As­sault Ri­fles

Army is also on the look­out for as­sault ri­fles to re­place the IN­SAS 5.56mm ri­fles with tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior weapons. In the race are as­sault ri­fles of the Czech Repub­lic’s Czeca, IWI, Beretta and Colt and Sig Sauer, all weigh­ing around 3.6 kg. The other re­quire­ments in­clude the abil­ity to con­vert from 5.56x45mm to 7.62x39mm cal­i­bres by merely by switch­ing the bar­rel and mag­a­zine for em­ploy­ment in counter in­sur­gency and/or con­ven­tional of­fen­sive/de­fen­sive op­er­a­tions. They also need to be fit­ted with de­tach­able un­der bar­rel grenade launch­ers and be ca­pa­ble of fir­ing OFB-man­u­fac­tured 5.56mmx45 (SS109) am­mu­ni­tion rounds. This pro­cure­ment will also in­volve trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy to the OFB to li­cence build the as­sault ri­fles. Army’s im­me­di­ate re­quire­ment is for around 2,18,320 ri­fles where as In­dia’s as­sault ri­fles re­quire­ment is es­ti­mated at be­tween two-three mil­lion to arm the large Cen­tral Para­mil­i­tary Forces and the state po­lice. At this scale, In­dia’s as­sault ri­fle ac­qui­si­tions could be one of the world’s

largest small arms con­tracts in re­cent times worth more than $5 bil­lion in due course.

Other Equip­ment

A ba­sic equip­ment of the in­fantry man is the multi-pur­pose tool, akin to a Swiss knife, 3,00,000 of which are needed for each up­graded in­fantry sol­diers’ sur­vival kit. This pro­cure­ment was de­layed by the Army de­spite tri­als in 2010-11 fea­tur­ing ven­dors from Italy, Switzer­land and the United States.

A ma­jor ob­sta­cle per­tain­ing to the F-IN­SAS pro­gramme is the stale­mate over im­age in­ten­si­fier and ther­mal imaging (TI)based sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion sys­tems the lack of which had ren­dered In­dia’s in­fantry largely ‘night blind’. The ini­tial pro­posal is for 45,000 third-gen­er­a­tion night vi­sion de­vices (NVDs) un­der F-IN­SAS. The Army is cur­rently tack­ling the MoD which in­sists that the Army should ac­quire them from Bharat Elec­tron­ics Lim­ited (BEL), the Ben­galuru-based DPSU.

In ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Army, BEL re­port­edly wants the In­fantry Direc­torate to re­duce its ‘fig­ure of merit’ (FoM) scale for the NVDs from 1700 FoM, that en­ables sol­diers to see clearly in to­tal dark­ness to 1400 FoM which pro­vides vis­i­bil­ity only at dusk, dawn and in moon­lit nights and which the DPSU has on of­fer. In­ter­est­ingly, in 2010, the MoD had for ` 100 crore fa­cil­i­tated the trans­fer of highly re­stric­tive ‘su­per­gen’ tech­nol­ogy to BEL from France’s Pho­to­nis. BEL failed to ab­sorb it and de­velop a more ad­vanced ver­sion. Al­ter­nate NVDs with 1700 FoM ca­pa­bil­ity have been of­fered by pri­vate de­fence con­trac­tor Tata Power (Strate­gic Elec­tron­ics Di­vi­sion) in Ben­galuru that re­port­edly meets the Army’s pre­lim­i­nary qual­i­ta­tive re­quire­ments (QRs) and are un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

QR’s for crit­i­cal bat­tle­field com­mu­ni­ca­tion and nav­i­ga­tion equip­ment in­clud­ing dead reck­on­ing mod­ules—a minia­ture, self- con­tained, elec­tronic nav­i­ga­tion unit that pin­points the user’s po­si­tion—dig­i­tal com­passes, as­sorted com­puter, dual-band ra­dio sets and sol­dier-in­di­vid­ual power units are yet to be com­pleted. Re­quests for pro­posal (RFPs) for 1,70,000 mod­u­lar bul­let proof vests weigh­ing around 10.5 kg and an equal num­ber of bal­lis­tic hel­mets had been dis­patched to do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers in June and De­cem­ber 2012 re­spec­tively, four years be­hind sched­ule. Ten­ders for knee and el­bow pro­tec­tion pads are await­ing fi­nal­i­sa­tion.

Need for Quick and Thor­ough Mod­erni­sa­tion

In­dia’s strate­gic neigh­bour­hood is one of the most volatile and dan­ger­ous re­gions of the world. It has all the in­gre­di­ents of be­com­ing a fu­ture bat­tle­ground of treach­er­ous con­flicts. With dis­puted bor­ders in the west, north and north-east, and the for­mi­da­ble in­ter­nal chal­lenges, In­dia faces a wide va­ri­ety of threats and chal­lenges. More­over, this nu­cle­arised re­gion also has the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing in its midst the epi­cen­tre of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, nour­ished and nur­tured by Pak­istan and its sym­pa­this­ers in the Arab-Is­lamic World. There­fore, while the like­li­hood of full scale state-on-state wars may be re­duced, In­dia will more likely face bor­der skir­mishes on its un­re­solved bor­ders and low in­ten­sity con­flict op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing counter-ter­ror­ism and counter-in­sur­gency in the fu­ture. This man­dates a quick and thor­ough mod­erni­sa­tion of In­dia’s in­fantry which is clearly not hap­pen­ing de­spite the rhetoric by the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship and mil­i­tary hi­er­ar­chy. The slow rate of progress of the F-IN­SAS pro­gramme is a re­flec­tion of the larger malaise that in­flicts mod­erni­sa­tion of the armed forces in In­dia, for which the blame lies squarely on the De­fence Min­is­ter and the Min­istry of De­fence.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Beretta, Colt

Beretta ARX160 .22LR ri­fle

Colt M4 5.56mm car­bine

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