Revisiting Indian Army’s Modernisation Programmes
The government, it seems, has now sanctioned the Twelfth Five Year Defence Plan as a result of the severe criticism over delays in the past. However, for the Army, it would be cosmetic paper exercise as even the Eleventh Plan procurements have not materia
The government, it seems, has now sanctioned the Twelfth Five Year Defence Plan as a result of the severe criticism over delays in the past. However, for the Army, it would be cosmetic paper exercise as even the Eleventh Plan procurements have not materialised.
INDIAN ARMY’S 600 ODD modernisation schemes amounting to over R 70,000 crore in the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12) alone have not fructified. The revised Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) over the years has done little to accelerate the pace of modernisation. A dispassionate analysis would indicate that the voids in equipment and munitions in the Army to fight a modern war together with the lack of modernisation of equipment in virtually all fighting arms of the Army, is creating a capability gap vis-à-vis our likely adversaries and this is becoming more pronounced day by day. It is in this context that we should view the letter written by General (Retd) V.K. Singh, the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), to the Prime Minister on March 12, 2012, which was deliberately leaked to the media. It highlighted that the mission reliability of mechanised vehicles was poor, the artillery was obsolete and inadequate, air defence was antiquated, armour was unreliable due to regular barrel accidents caused by mismatch between indigenous barrels and ammunition, nightfighting devices were insufficient, aviation corps helicopters needed urgent replacements; and holdings of all types of missiles, anti-tank and specialised ammunition was critically low. This is pointing at lack of preparedness to fight and win wars on the battlefields of the 21st century.
Following this it seems that the Defence Ministry had asked Army Headquarters to fast-track acquisitions and the list of essentials was prepared and sent. However, the situation has not improved but in fact has worsened in the last one year. On the one hand, nothing has come so far, while on the other hand, missiles and specialised ammunition holdings which have a shelf-life, have dipped further. The government, it seems, has now sanctioned the Twelfth Five Year Defence Plan as a result of the severe criticism over delays in the past. However, for the Army, it would be cosmetic paper exercise as even the Eleventh Plan procurements have not materialised. Thus considering the lack of implementation of the Eleventh Plan, the Army’s modernisation plans, both Eleventh and Twelfth Plans, need to be implemented. The defence budget for 2013-14 grew by five per cent over the previous year, with defence capital acquisitions growing by
Like the F-INSAS project, many other Army modernisation programmes are hardly progressing, thus negatively affecting the operational preparedness of the Army
nine per cent. But with inflation averaging more than five per cent since February and the rupee depreciating by 14 per cent against the dollar over the same period, that modest nominal budget increase is actually a real budget decrease for defence and considering the austerity measures required to be undertaken with a slowing economy, the Army will have to prioritise its requirements. It does however indicate the accumulating voids in our capabilities in various arms which will adversely affect the Army’s fighting capabilities in future wars.
The notable features of arm wise modernisation and the steps been taken in acquisition of equipment are as follows:
The Army had equipped two regiments with Arjun tanks out of the 124 Arjun main battle tanks (MBT) ordered by it earlier. As a result of the satisfactory feedback by the units and from the tank crews, an additional 124 Arjun Mark II tanks have been ordered subject to satisfactory development of the upgraded Mark II version of the tank for equipping two more regiments. These tanks will have substantially upgraded capabilities of firepower, mobility and protection. The development of Arjun Mark I tank with 43 improvements has commenced and limited technical trials incorporating the improvements have been carried out in Rajasthan. The first batch of MBT Arjun Mark II is likely to go in for production by 2014-15 at the Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) in Avadi. As regards the T-90 tanks, 310 T-90S tanks had been ordered from Russia in the first instance. Of these, 124 fully-assembled tanks were directly imported from Russia and 186 kits were imported for assembly in India. The first indigenously assembled T-90S rolled out from the HVF Avadi on January 7, 2004. These tanks have now been fully operationalised. Additional 347 T-90S tanks have been inducted into service which brings the total to 657 T-90s tanks. As per reports, the Army has till now inducted around 780 of the 1,657 T-90S tanks it eventually wants.
The defects in the fire control systems of T-90S tanks due to excessive heat in the turrets during the summers is being remedied through air-conditioning of the interior.
On September 13, 2013, a major deal was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for the manufacturing of 236 additional T-90 tanks for the Indian Army. The order, worth over R 6,000 crore ($940 million), will be executed by the Avadi HVF that already has a license from Russia to manufacture T-90 tanks from kits purchased from Russia. Another contract, worth about $470 million, has been signed for the deliveries of the Invar missiles, which will be installed on Russian-built T-90 tanks. This has to be completed within the next five years. Invar is a laser-guided anti-tank missile with a range of five kilometres and the capability to penetrate explosive reactive armour (ERA). According to local media reports, India plans to purchase 25,000 Invar missiles for its T-90 tanks, including 10,000 to be procured directly from Russia and 15,000 more to be manufactured domestically under a Russian license.
The programme launched to modernise the T-72 M1 Ajeya MBTs is still unsatisfactory and has not progressed much. About 1,700 T-72 M1s have been manufactured under licence at HVF, Avadi. The T-72 M1 modernisation programme under Project Rhino will extend the service life of the MBT by 20 years; enhance their accuracy with new fire control system (FCS) whose trials are under way. This will give night-fighting
capability through a thermal imager integrated with the tank‘s FCS. Three hundred T-72 tanks of the Army had been fitted with thermal imaging stand-alone sights (TISAS). Later 300 more TISAS were added bringing the total to 600 TISAS. Thus the remaining about 1,000 T-72 tanks will be fitted with more modern integrated fire control systems. However, the overall night fighting capability of India’s armour is currently inadequate and operationally unacceptable.
The T-90, the improved T-72 M1 tanks and Arjun tanks, will constitute India’s armour might in the future till a new MBT is chosen or designed indigenously. Meanwhile, light tanks for the Eastern theatre are still being debated.
The mechanised infantry is currently equipped with the BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle (ICV) named Sarath. The ICVs are being equipped with thermal imaging night sights and image intensifiers. The Army had ordered 198 carrier mortar tracked, which have since been delivered. The ICV BMP-2/2K is being modernised by upgrading its existing NBC System, fire detection and suppression system, ERA panels to provide extra protection and a new power-pack. The scheme to fit environmental control for ICV BMP-2 is in an advanced stage of procurement. Additional battlefield surveillance radar (mediumrange) mounted on high mobility wheeled vehicles are also being procured.
The Indian Army has planned for a futuristic infantry combat vehicle (FICV) to replace the BMP-2 with key operational and performance parameters envisaged in the Indian context. A project to build 2,600 FICVs costing approximately
R 60,000 crore has been approved by the government. This project is a pioneer in ‘Make High-Tech’ category where for the first time the defence industry has invited participation by private established agencies. The project is in an advanced stage for development of a prototype.
As part of its artillery modernisation plan, the Army is looking at inducting several types of howitzers through inter-governmental pacts and global tenders. The last major acquisition of towed gun-howitzers was that of 400 pieces of 39-calibre 155mm FH-77B howitzers with a range of 30 km from Bofors of Sweden in 1987, which got embroiled in controversy. This gun proved its mettle in the Kargil conflict. After about 25 years of neglect during which the 100mm and 122mm field guns of Russian origin and the indigenously developed and manufactured 75/24 Howitzer joined the long list of obsolete equipment, the Army still awaits the procurement of about 1,580 Howitzers of 155mm 52 calibre. Out of these, 400 are to be procured outright and 1,180 manufactured indigenously with transfer of technology (ToT).
Trials of a modified Nexter TRAJAN 155mm/52-calibre TGS and Elbit’s refurbished lighter ATHOS 2052 howitzer were to be held during May 2013 as a part of summer trials in the western Rajasthan desert using Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) manufactured ordnance. These tests will be followed by winter firings and the selection of one system by the Artillery Directorate to proceed to cost negotiations (the estimated budget being $2 billion). These trials constitute the fifth attempt to select a suitable 155mm howitzer for the Indian Army.
Nexter is now collaborating with Indian private defence contractor Larsen and Toubro (L&T) while Elbit has partnered with the Kalyani Group, the world’s largest forgings manufacturer headquartered in Pune. The Kalyani Group, better known as Bharat Forge, after one of its more successful subsidiaries has acquired RUAG’s entire artillery manufacturing unit in Switzerland and has set it up in Pune in 2012.
The 145 ultralight howitzers (M777) are being procured from the US through the foreign military sales (FMS) route from BAE Systems. This deal has been cleared by India’s Cabinet Committee on Security and trials have also been conducted but the deal has still not fructified. On September 13, the Defence Acquisition Council headed by the Defence Minister cleared the deal four days before the arrival of the US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Ashton B. Carter.
The Army has inducted the Prithvi and the Agni series of missiles, and the BrahMos missiles in their operational formations. The Prithvi and the Agni series of missiles are nuclear capable missiles also capable of firing conventional warheads. Block III version of the BrahMos missile with the Army is capable of trajectory manoeuvres and steep dive with multiple way points using advance guidance system and software.
Multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) Pinaka has a range of 37.5 km, can be brought into action within three minutes and can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds. Pinaka can neutralise a target area of
As part of its Artillery Modernisation Plan, the Army is looking at inducting several types of howitzers through intergovernmental pacts and global tenders
1,000 m x 800 m. Production of rockets is in full swing. Manufacture of 40 launchers, 16 battery command posts, 40 L and 20 replenishment vehicles have been completed and systems have been handed over to the Army. Five lots of restricted high explosive rockets and 23 lots of pre-formed fragmented warhead rockets have been delivered to the Army.
Air Defence Artillery
The Corps of Army Air Defence holds a large variety of guns and missile systems. It has 40mm L/70, Zu-23-2 Twin gun, ZSU-23-4 Schilka, Tanguska, Kvadrat (medium-range missile system), OSA-AK (short-range missile system) and Igla shoulder fired missile system in its inventory. The 40mm L/70 which is about four decades old, needs immediate replacement. Considering the high costs of new weapon systems, the Army is going in for weapon upgrades for L-70, ZU-23-2 Twin gun and ZSU-23-4 Schilka. Meanwhile, the Army is looking for successors to L-70 and the ZU-23-2. Successor to Schilka (ZSU-234) already exists in the form of Tangushka, but in limited numbers. A request for information (RFI) has already been issued to find a replacement for Schilka.
In the missile systems, Kvadrat (mediumrange) and OSA-AK (short-range) are also at the end of their life cycle. They were to be replaced by Akash and Trishul surface-to-air (SAM) missiles. Trishul has been foreclosed and Akash is being inducted for semi-mobile roles. For air defence of mechanised units, it has been planned to acquire medium-range SAM (MRSAM) and quick reaction SAM (QRSAM) systems. RFP for QRSAM is being issued and there is a joint development venture of the Defence Research and Develop- ment Organisation (DRDO) and Israel for MRSAM for all the three services. Successor to Igla have been shortlisted and trials have been held. However, the results have not been finalised. Shortlisted systems include SAAB RBS-7O, MBDA, Mistral, a Russian SAM system and South Korea’s LIG Nex1.
A major weakness in the overall air defence matrix is the lack of a battlefield management system which is also linked with the national air defence network. The Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has now undertaken the development of such a system.
The future infantry soldier as a system (F-INSAS) has been initiated to make the infantryman a weapon platform with situational awareness, increased lethality and sustainability in the digitised battlefield. F-INSAS is to be effected in three phases: Phase I includes weapons, body armour, clothing and individual equipment; Phase II is the target acquisition system and Phase III comprises the computer sub-system, radio sub-system, software and software integration. F-INSAS will be a part of the battlefield management system (BMS) of the Army.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had approved of a new assault rifle, 5.56mm calibre and a new generation carbine to replace the 9mm carbine which had been weeded out of the Army without getting a replacement. The progress in the field of carbines is that 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 R 2,000 crore was set in motion. The manufacturers in the race were Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) Galil Ace carbine, Italy’s Baretta with its ARX-160 and United States’ 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 Northeast region.
Army is also on the lookout for assault rifles (AR) to replace the INSAS 5.56mm rifles with technologically superior weapons and in the race are ARs of the Czech Republic’s Czeca, IWI, Baretta and Colt and Sig Sauer, all weighing around 3.6 kg. The other requirements include the ability to convert from 5.56 x 45mm to 7.62 x 39mm calibres by merely switching the barrel and magazine for employment in counterinsurgency and/or conventional offensive/ defensive operations. They also need to be fitted with detachable under barrel grenade launchers and be capable of firing OFB-produced 5.56mm x w45 (SS109) ammunition rounds. It will also involve transfer of technology to the OFB to licence build the ARs. Army’s immediate requirement is for around 2,18,320 rifles where as India’s AR requirement is estimated at 2-3 million to arm the large Central Paramilitary Forces and the state police. At this scale, India’s AR acquisitions could be one of the world’s largest small arms contracts in recent times worth over $5 billion in due course.
Request for proposals (RFPs) for some 1,70,000 modular bulletproof vests weighing around 10.5 kg and an equal number of ballistic helmets have been placed with domestic manufacturers in June and December 2012 respectively. These are also four years behind schedule. Tenders for knee and elbow protection pads await finalisation.
Like the F-INSAS project, many other Army modernisation programmes are hardly making any progress, thus negatively affecting the operational preparedness of the Army. It’s a massive task and at the current rate of progress when not even Phase 1 has been completed, it seems it will take exceptionally long to be completed.
T-90 battle tank
ICV BMP-II K