Slug­gish­ness in Army’s Mod­erni­sa­tion Ef­forts

Our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship un­der the UPA Gov­ern­ment had been to­tally ne­glect­ful and in­ept in its ap­proach to mod­erni­sa­tion of the army in the past 10 years, a pe­riod which has been de­scribed as the worst since in­de­pen­dence.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

Our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship un­der the UPA Gov­ern­ment had been to­tally ne­glect­ful and in­ept in its ap­proach to mod­erni­sa­tion of the army in the past 10 years, a pe­riod which has been de­scribed as the worst since in­de­pen­dence.

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 has caused a furore in the army. It is in this con­text that we should view the let­ter writ­ten by Gen­eral V.K. Singh (Retd), the for­mer Chief of Army Staff (COAS), to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012, which was de­lib­er­ately leaked to the me­dia. Con­sid­er­ing the lack of im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, the army’s mod­erni­sa­tion plans, both in the Eleventh and Twelfth Five Year Plans, need to be im­ple­mented. It is ob­vi­ous that the ac­cu­mu­lat­ing voids in our ca­pa­bil­i­ties in var­i­ous arms will ad­versely af­fect the army’s fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in fu­ture wars.

Our po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship un­der the UPA Gov­ern­ment had been to­tally ne­glect­ful and in­ept in its ap­proach to mod­erni­sa­tion of the army in the past 10 years, a pe­riod which has been de­scribed as the worst since in­de­pen­dence. The sit­u­a­tion was so bad that the army lacked even the am­mu­ni­tion for cer­tain weapons that it holds. The NDA Gov­ern­ment has shown some alacrity through ‘Buy and Make’ route but the sit­u­a­tion is far from sat­is­fac­tory. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in the case of ar­tillery, in­fantry and air de­fence ar­tillery are given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs as a sam­ple of the slug­gish­ness among po­lit­i­cal, bu­reau­cratic and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship. The lat­ter de­spite as­sur­ances has been tardy in its im­ple­men­ta­tion of the tri­als and eval­u­a­tions of the weapons sys­tems.

We may rec­ol­lect Gen­eral Bikram Singh’s state­ment shortly after tak­ing over as the Chief of Army Staff in May 2012 when he had em­phat­i­cally de­clared that up­grad­ing the small arms pro­file of his force was his fore­most pri­or­ity. Two years later when he re­tired in July 2014 nei­ther the close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines nor the multi-cal­i­bre as­sault ri­fles that he had promised have been in­ducted.

A sim­i­lar and per­haps even more wor­ri­some case is con­cern­ing the Field Ar­tillery Ra­tion­al­i­sa­tion Plan (FARP). Se­nior ar­tillery of­fi­cers point out that FARP, which was mooted in 1999 en­vis­aged that 5,0007,000 crore would be re­quired to pro­cure of 3,000-3,200 pieces of as­sorted cal­i­bre how­itzers by the end of the army’s Four- teenth Five Year Fi­nance Plan in 2027. This plan has been to­tally wrecked be­cause of in­or­di­nate de­lays in decision mak­ing and pro­cure­ment of ar­tillery guns. The last 10 years have been the worst in this re­gard.

Army Air De­fence (AAD) pro­vides air de­fence to the field army. To carry out this role, AAD is equipped with var­i­ous types of gun sys­tems, mis­sile sys­tems, sen­sors and a ba­sic bat­tle man­age­ment sys­tem. Majority of AAD weapon sys­tems are of erst­while Soviet ori­gin with an av­er­age vin­tage of 30 years. To add to the woes of op­er­a­tional readi­ness, there is short­age of cer­tain types of am­mu­ni­tion which casts its shadow on train­ing. This leads to the di­lu­tion of skills of the gun crew, mis­sile and radar crews be­cause en­gag­ing a fighter jet re­quires con­tin­u­ous hon­ing of skills. De­spite the ex­ist­ing weak­nesses in the AAD very lit­tle progress has been made in this field.

This ar­ti­cle briefly fo­cuses on the ex­ist­ing weak­nesses in ar­tillery, in­fantry and army air de­fence and the mod­erni­sa­tion/ pro­cure­ment re­quired to re­place the ex­ist­ing weapons in th­ese three vi­tal arms of the army.

Ar­tillery

155mm towed guns. 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). Over the last few years, sev­eral RFPs that were floated for this project were can­celled due to var­i­ous rea­sons and then new ten­ders were floated. Tri­als have been un­der­way since Oc­to­ber 2013.

145 ul­tra-light how­itzers (M777) which were be­ing pro­cured from the US through the for­eign mil­i­tary sales (FMS) route from BAE Sys­tems also came un­der a shadow. The deal is re­port­edly stuck for want of agree­ment on the off­sets obli­ga­tions and up­ward re­vi­sion in the price in­ti­mated to Congress by the US Gov­ern­ment from $647 mil­lion to $885 mil­lion.

In­dige­nous ef­forts to man­u­fac­ture 155mm how­itzers by Ord­nance Fac­to­ries Board (OFB) to pro­duce a 45-cal­i­bre/155mm how­itzer based on ToT ob­tained from Bo­fors in the 1980s, are now un­der­way. The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC) ap­proved a pro­posal from the OFB to man­u­fac­ture 144 pieces of 155mm/45cal­i­bre how­itzers with the op­tion to ac­quire another 400 pro­vided the pro­to­types suc­cess­fully meet the army’s GSQR in user tri­als. Mean­while, the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( DRDO) has em­barked on its own ven­ture to de­sign and de­velop a 155mm how­itzer in part­ner­ship with a pri­vate sec­tor company.

The ac­qui­si­tion of 814 truck-mounted guns that has been ap­proved by the De­fence Min­is­ter re­cently will be un­der­taken un­der the ‘Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory with trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy. While the first 100 guns will be im­ported, the re­main­ing 714 will be pro­duced in In­dia. The to­tal project cost is es­ti­mated to be 15,750 crore.

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.

In­fantry

The De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil 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 army’s im­me­di­ate re­quire­ment is for around 1,60,080 CQB car­bines and over 2,20,000 as­sault ri­fles through a com­bi­na­tion of im­ports and li­censed-man­u­fac­ture by the OFB. Some de­tails are given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs.

Car­bines

In Au­gust 2012 the process of procur­ing 44,618, 5.56mm out of a to­tal re­quire­ment of about 1,60,080 CQB car­bines to re­place the out­dated 9mm model was set in mo­tion be­cause the In­dian Army since 2010 was with­out a car­bine as the OFB had ceased man­u­fac­ture of all vari­ants of World War II 9mm car­bines, in­clud­ing am­mu­ni­tion.

The ten­der for the 5.56mm car­bines re­quires each weapon sys­tem to weigh less than 3 kg, fire 600 rounds per minute to a min­i­mum dis­tance of 200 m 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 com­plete their QRs. The se­lected ven­dor will be re­quired to trans­fer tech­nol­ogy to the OFB to li­cence build CQB car­bines and 5.56mm am­mu­ni­tion for use not only by the army but even­tu­ally the Cen­tral and state po­lice forces.

The global man­u­fac­tur­ers in the race for the new CQB car­bine were Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries’ (IWI) Galil Ace car­bine, Italy’s Beretta with its ARX-160 and the United States’ Colt and Sig Sauer. How­ever the United States sub­sidiary of Swiss gun maker Sig Sauer, which was orig­i­nally part of the ten­der with its 516 pa­trol ri­fles, failed to turn up at the on­go­ing car­bine tri­als and hence only three man­u­fac­tur­ers are cur­rently in the race. 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 re­gion. It is learnt that the ink­ing of the im­port of 44,618 car­bines with tech­nol­ogy trans­fer, which have been un­der­go­ing an un­end­ing se­ries of tri­als since Au­gust 2012, may take longer than ex­pected. The car­bine tri­als were ex­pected to con­clude by mid-July 2014 fol­lowed by a staff eval­u­a­tion by the Army to grade the ven­dors on the per­for­mance of their sys­tems. There­after, the MoD will open their re­spec­tive com­mer­cial bids, sub­mit­ted over two years ear­lier and be­gin price ne­go­ti­a­tions with the low­est qual­i­fied bid­der — or L1 — be­fore ink­ing the deal. This process is likely to be pro­tracted, de­spite the high ex­pec­ta­tions of ef­fi­ciency from the Naren­dra Modi Gov­ern­ment. The car­bine con­tract is un­likely to be sealed within the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year. How­ever, once signed, weapon and am­mu­ni­tion de­liv­er­ies are to be con­cluded within 18 months along­side the trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy to the OFB to li­cence build the des­ig­nated car­bine.

As­sault Ri­fles

Army is also on the look­out for as­sault ri­fles (AR) to re­place the INSAS 5.56mm ri­fles with tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior weapons. The MoD is­sued the ten­der for 66,000, 5.56mm multi-cal­i­bre as­sault ri­fles out of a to­tal re­quire­ment of 2,20,000 as­sault ri­fles in Novem­ber 2011 to 43 over­seas ven­dors. Five ven­dors re­sponded pos­i­tively.

The as­sault ri­fles were re­quired to weigh no more than 3.6 kg and to have a sin­gu­lar plat­form with chang­ing parts to con­vert read­ily from 5.56 x 45mm to 7.62 x 39mm merely by switch­ing the bar­rel and mag­a­zine for em­ploy­ment in counter-in­sur­gency or con­ven­tional roles. In the race are the Czech Repub­lic’s CZ 805 Bren model, Is­raeli IWI’s Ace 1, Baretta’s Arx 160, Colt’s Com­bat Ri­fle and Sig Sauer’s SG551. The lat­ter’s par­tic­i­pa­tion, how­ever, re­mains un­cer­tain as Sig Sauer is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI). A trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy to the OFB to lo­cally-build the se­lected ri­fle is part of the ten­der.

Light Ma­chine Gun

Another weapon un­der tech­ni­cal eval­u­a­tion is the 7.62 light ma­chine gun (LMG) which will then be sub­jected to ex­ten­sive tri­als be­fore staff eval­u­a­tion and fur­ther progress. Hence the wait for the new LMG is likely to be longer.

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 Tan­guska, 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 (MR SAM) and Quick Re­ac­tion SAM (QR SAM) sys­tems. RFP for QR SAM was is­sued and eval­u­a­tion of Rus­sian TOR, Is­raeli Spy­der and Swedish As­rad – R is un­der­way. 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. As an in­terim mea­sure up­grade of Schilka, 40mm L-70, and 23mm twin guns was un­der­taken by BEL/ OFB/pri­vate com­pa­nies. The in­duc­tion of up­graded Schilka has al­ready started with 40mm L70 and 23mm twin guns to follow in due course.

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. This has been com­pleted and a test bench has been es­tab­lished in one of the for­ma­tions for eval­u­a­tion.

Sur­face-to-air-mis­sile Akash test fired from ITR Bala­sore

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