Mod­erni­sa­tion of the In­dian Army

The cap­i­tal bud­gets, which are meant for pro­cure­ment of equip­ment, when an­a­lysed for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15, seem to sug­gest that no sig­nif­i­cant changes in equip­ment sta­tus of the Army will come about in the near fu­ture


GEN­ERAL V.K. SINGH (RE­TIRED), the for­mer Chief of Army Staff (COAS), wrote a let­ter re­gard­ing the sta­tus of equip­ment in the Army to the Prime Min­is­ter on March 12, 2012. 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, night-fight­ing de­vices were in­suf­fi­cient, avi­a­tion corps he­li­copters needed ur­gent re­place­ments, and hold­ings of all types of mis­siles, anti-tank and spe­cialised ammunition was crit­i­cally low.

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 two years or so. Adding to the ex­ist­ing short­ages is the new rais­ing of the Moun­tain Strike Corps for our Eastern theatre, which is ex­pected to re­duce the army’s re­serve stocks called “War Wastage Re­serves” in terms of equip­ment and mu­ni­tions fur­ther. The cap­i­tal bud­get, which is meant for pro­cure­ment of equip­ment, when an­a­lysed for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15, seem to sug­gest that no sig­nif­i­cant changes in equip­ment sta­tus of the Army will come about in the near fu­ture.

The no­table fea­tures of arm wise mod­erni­sa­tion re­quired in the army and the steps taken, as known through open sources, are given in the suc­ceed­ing para­graphs with re­spect to ar­mour, mech­a­nised in­fantry, ar­tillery, and in­fantry. Army avi­a­tion and Army Air De­fence (AAD) have been in­cluded in sep­a­rate ar­ti­cles on mil­i­tary he­li­copters and mod­erni­sa­tion of Army Air De­fence re­spec­tively.


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 II tank with 43 im­prove­ments has com­menced and limited tech­ni­cal tri­als in­cor­po­rat­ing the im­prove­ments have been car­ried out in Ra­jasthan. How­ever, due to un­suc­cess­ful tri­als es­pe­cially con­cern­ing the main ar­ma­ment of the tank in which prob­lems are be­ing en­coun­tered in in­te­grat­ing the anti-tank guided mis­siles to fire through the main 120mm tank gun. Fur­ther de­lay is ex­pected in se­ries man­u­fac­ture of the Ar­jun Mk II.

T-90 tanks have now been fully op­er­a­tionalised and in­te­grated in the ar­moured reg­i­ments. As per me­dia re­ports the Army has till now in­ducted around 780 T-90 tanks out of a to­tal 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, worth over ` 6,000 crore ($940 mil­lion). This will be ex­e­cuted by the Avadi Heavy Ve­hi­cles Fac­tory 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, in­stalled on Rus­sian­built T-90 tanks. 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 li­cence.

Im­prove­ments in the Ex­ist­ing Fleet of Tanks

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 fire con­trol sys­tem. This con­tract is in an ad­vanced stage of be­ing fi­nalised. In the mean­while 600 T-72 tanks of the Army have been fit­ted with ther­mal imag­ing stand-alone sights (TI­SAS). Thus about 1,000 re­main­ing T-72 tanks will be fit­ted with more mod­ern in­te­grated fire con­trol sys­tems.

The T-72 tanks are ad­di­tion­ally be­ing equipped with new type of ex­plo­sive re­ac­tive ar­mour (ERA) pan­els which will pro­vide pro­tec­tion against ki­netic en­ergy as well as tan­dem war­head, chem­i­cal en­ergy pro­jec­tiles, along with a laser warn­ing sys­tem and new ra­dio sets for bet­ter and more se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

A new power-pack is also un­der con­sid­er­a­tion to fur­ther en­hance mo­bil­ity in view of the heavy ERA packages that are be­ing strapped on. An aux­il­iary power-pack for en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trol and in­te­grated fire de­tec­tion and sup­pres­sion sys­tem are also be­ing in­tro­duced. Gun bar­rels ca­pa­ble of fir­ing con­ven­tional mu­ni­tions and guided mis­siles are likely to re­place the ex­ist­ing bar­rels.

The mod­erni­sa­tion of the T-72 is way be­hind sched­ule due to com­pli­cated pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures ex­ac­er­bated by de­layed de­ci­sion-mak­ing and in-house dis­agree­ments.

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.

Mech­a­nised In­fantry

The mech­a­nised in­fantry is cur­rently equipped with the BMP-2 in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cle (ICV) named Sarath. Over 1,500 of th­ese have been man­u­fac­tured since 1987. A num­ber of vari­ants in­clud­ing

mor­tar car­ries, com­mand posts, am­bu­lances, ar­moured doz­ers and en­gi­neer and re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing NBC re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cles have been made. The ve­hi­cle’s chas­sis is also mod­i­fied and de­vel­oped into ver­sions such as the Nag anti-tank mis­sile car­rier (NAMICA) and the Akash air-de­fence mis­sile sys­tem.

The In­dian Army will up­grade its en­tire Boye­vaya Mashina Pekhoty-2 (BMP-2)/2K in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cle fleet in an ef­fort to en­hance their ca­pa­bil­ity to ad­dress op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments, then De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony had an­nounced. In a writ­ten re­sponse to the Lok Sabha (Par­lia­ment), Antony said the es­ti­mated ` 800 crore ($140 mil­lion) project in­volved ar­ma­ment up­grade of BMP-2/2K in­fantry fight­ing ve­hi­cle (IFV) to BMP-2M stan­dard, and ac­qui­si­tion of a new power-pack for the IFV. Up­grades in­clude in­te­gra­tion of lat­est gen­er­a­tion fire con­trol sys­tem, twin mis­sile launch­ers and com­man­der’s ther­mal imag­ing panoramic sights, anti- tank guided mis­siles, as well as au­to­matic grenade launch­ers, up­grad­ing its ex­ist­ing NBC Sys­tem, fire de­tec­tion and sup­pres­sion sys­tem, and ERA pan­els to pro­vide ex­tra pro­tec­tion and a new power-pack. The BMP-2 is also called Sarath in the In­dian Army, and is man­u­fac­tured by Ord­nance Fac­tory at Medak un­der li­cence from Rus­sia.

Arty Fire­power

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. 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 ar­tillery mod­erni­sa­tion con­tin­ues to stag­nate.

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 to pro­duce a 45-cal­i­bre 155mm how­itzer based on ToT ob­tained from Bo­fors in the 1980s, are now un­der­way. The 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 In­dian’ cat­e­gory with ToT. 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.

Se­nior Ar­tillery of­fi­cers point out that Field Ar­tillery Ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion Plan (FARP), which was mooted in 1999 en­vis­aged the then ` 5,000-`7,000 crore pro­cure­ment of over 3,200 of as­sorted cal­i­bre how­itzers by the end of the Army’s 14th Five-Year Fi­nance Plan in 2027. This plan has been to­tally wrecked be­cause of in­or­di­nate de­lays in de­ci­sion mak­ing and pro­cure­ment.


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 close quar­ters battle (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


In Au­gust 2012 the process of procur­ing 44,618, 5.56mm out of a to­tal re­quire­ment of about 1,60,080 close quar­ter battle car­bines to re­place the out­dated 9mm model was set in mo­tion be­cause the In­dian Army since 2010 was with­out a car­bine as the Ord­nance Fac­tory Board had ceased man­u­fac­ture of all vari­ants of the WWII 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 USA’s Colt and Sig Sauer. How­ever, the US sub­sidiary of Swiss gun maker Sig Sauer, which was orig­i­nally part of the ten­der with its 516 Pa­trol Ri­fle, 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 North­east 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.

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 coun­terin­sur­gency 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.


It is en­cour­ag­ing to note that In­dia’s se­cu­rity con­cerns have, for the first time, con­verged with in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns which makes global com­mu­nity un­der­stand the need for In­dia to de­velop and mod­ernise its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. De­fence of a na­tion and devel­op­ment are com­ple­men­tary. If In­dia as­pires for high eco­nomic growth and to be a re­gional/global eco­nomic power, its mil­i­tary power must re­flect that de­sire through its abil­ity to pro­tect its in­ter­ests.

MBT Ar­jun MK-I tank

Tank T- 90 Bhishma

M777 A2 How­itzer

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