In­dian Army’s Mod­erni­sa­tion Woes


The army’s ‘crit­i­cal short­ages’ and obsolescence of its cur­rent equip­ment in­clude 155mm how­itzers, light util­ity he­li­copters, at­tack he­li­copters, air de­fence as­sets, var­i­ous cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion, anti-tank and AD mis­sile sys­tems, close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines, as­sault ri­fles, ma­chine guns, sniper ri­fles and anti-ma­te­rial ri­fles

THE PAST DECADE OR so has se­verely de­graded the war-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the In­dian Army. The army’s ‘crit­i­cal short­ages’ and obsolescence of its cur­rent equip­ment in­clude 155mm how­itzers, light util­ity he­li­copters, at­tack he­li­copters, air de­fence as­sets, var­i­ous cat­e­gories of am­mu­ni­tion, anti-tank and AD mis­sile sys­tems, close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines, as­sault ri­fles, ma­chine guns, sniper ri­fles, and anti-ma­te­rial ri­fles.

The ma­jor­ity of its main bat­tle tanks (MBTs) and in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cle (ICV) fleets are night-blind and its light util­ity he­li­copter (LUH) fleet, in­ducted into ser­vice from 1964, is ob­so­lete. En­gi­neer­ing equip­ment, anti-tank guided mis­siles (ATGMs), ar­moured re­cov­ery ve­hi­cles and other spe­cial­ist ve­hi­cles, are ei­ther out­dated, in short sup­ply, or sim­ply non-ex­is­tent.

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 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, air de­fence ar­tillery and in­fantry.


Ar­jun Tank

The army had equipped two reg­i­ments with Ar­jun tanks out of the 124 Ar­jun main bat­tle tanks 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 a large num­ber of im­prove­ments has com­menced and 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.

Presently the army is hard put to main­tain its cur­rent fleet of Ar­jun tanks be­cause of lack of spares. The Ar­jun tank is in­dige­nous in name only be­cause a large num­ber of its sys­tems and parts amount­ing to about 60 per cent are still im­ported.


These 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 feed­ing the bal­lis­tic data of var­i­ous lots of am­mu­ni­tion fired from the tanks has now been brought un­der con­trol.

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), will be ex­e­cuted by the Avadi Heavy Ve­hi­cles Fac­tory that al­ready has a li­cence from Rus­sia to man­u­fac­ture T-90 tanks from kits pur­chased from Rus­sia.

A con­tract, worth about 3,200 crore ($470 mil­lion), has been signed for the de­liv­er­ies of the In­var mis­siles, fired through Rus­sian-built T-90 tanks. Ac­cord­ing to 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 T-72 Tank

The T-72 M1 mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme un­der Project Rhino is in­or­di­nately de­layed. This was in­tended to ex­tend the ser­vice life of the MBT by 20 years; en­hance their ac­cu­racy with new fire con­trol sys­tem (FCS) whose tri­als have been com­pleted. This will give night fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity through a ther­mal imager in­te­grated with the tank’s FCS. 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 (IFCS) which will be fit­ted on the new gun bar­rel, i.e. gun bar­rels of T-90M ca­pa­ble of fir­ing con­ven­tional mu­ni­tions and guided mis­siles. There­fore the prob­lem that is likely to be en­coun­tered is the syn­chro­ni­sa­tion of this gun with the in­te­grated fire con­trol sys­tem as these are from dif­fer­ent ven­dors. Com­man­ders Ther­mal Imag­ing night sight is be­ing ac­quired through BEL Ltd.

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 of 1,000 hp 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. The mod­erni­sa­tion of the T-72 is way be­hind sched­ule due to com­pli­cated pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures ex­ac­er­bated by de­layed de­ci­sion-mak­ing and in­house dis­agree­ments.

The T-90, the im­proved T-72 M1 tanks and Ar­jun tanks, will con­sti­tute In­dia’s ar­mour might in the fu­ture till the FRCV be­comes a re­al­ity.

Fu­ture Ready Com­bat Ve­hi­cle

The army aims to de­velop a multi-pur­pose Fu­ture Ready Com­bat Ve­hi­cle (FRCV) to re­place its age­ing fleet of over 2,200 li­cence­built Rus­sian T-72M/M1 MBTs by 2027.

The pro­posed FRCV will sup­ple­ment the army’s 657 im­ported T-90S MBTs and an­other 1,000 that will be lo­cally built, as well as 242 indige­nously de­vel­oped Ar­jun MBTs, of which around 100 are presently un­der man­u­fac­ture.

Based on the Rus­sian Ar­mata Univer­sal Com­bat Plat­form con­cept, the FRCV will form the base plat­form on which a fam­ily of com­bat ve­hi­cles will be de­vel­oped. These will in­clude am­bu­lance, bridge-lay­ing, mine clear­ing, self-pro­pelled how­itzers, air de­fence, ar­tillery ob­ser­va­tion post and en­gi­neer­ing re­con­nais­sance ve­hi­cles.

Mech­a­nised In­fantry

BMP2 Up­grade

The mech­a­nised in­fantry is cur­rently equipped with the BMP-2 in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cle (ICV) named Sarath man­u­fac­tured by Ord­nance Fac­tory Medak un­der li­cence from Rus­sia. Over 1,500 of these have been man­u­fac­tured since 1987. A num­ber of vari­ants 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 aird­e­fence mis­sile sys­tem.

The In­dian Army will up­grade around 1,000 of its BMP-2 / 2K in­fantry com­bat ve­hi­cle fleet in an ef­fort to en­hance their ca­pa­bil­ity to ad­dress op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. 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 Rus­sian UTD-20 en­gine 285 hp will be re­placed by a 380 hp power pack to en­able the plat­form to carry the ad­di­tional weapon load and tra­verse rough ter­rain, gra­di­ents, and wa­ter. No ven­dor has yet been se­lected for the retro­fit, but the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) is be­lieved to favour the Ord­nance Fac­tory at Medak in Te­lan­gana, that li­cence-builds the cur­rent ICVs.

Fu­ture In­fantry Com­bat Ve­hi­cle Pro­gramme

On Fe­bru­ary 15, six lo­cal com­pa­nies sub­mit­ted their project re­ports for the army’s

1,00,000-crore Fu­ture In­fantry Com­bat Ve­hi­cle (FICV) pro­gramme which was ini­ti­ated in 2008-09 but aban­doned three years later, and res­ur­rected once again in 2014. The FICV project is a ‘test case’ for In­dia’s in­dige­nous weapon-designing ca­pa­bil­ity.

The bids are from five pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies that have tech­nol­ogy tieups with overseas ven­dors and the OFB. They will de­sign and build 2,610 tracked, am­phibi­ous and air-trans­portable 20-tonne FICVs to re­place the army’s age­ing fleet of Rus­sian BMP-2/2K Sarath ICVs un­der the DPP’s ‘ Make (In­dian)’ cat­e­gory. The pri- vate man­u­fac­tur­ers bid­ding for the FICV project in­clude: Ma­hen­dra De­fence teamed with BAE Sys­tems; L&T, which is part­ner­ing with Sam­sung Heavy En­gi­neer­ing; Pipavav De­fence; Tata Mo­tors in a con­sor­tium with Bharat Forge and General Dy­nam­ics of the United States; and Tata Power (SED), which has a joint ven­ture with Tita­garh Wag­ons.

MoD has ap­pointed a 10-mem­ber In­te­grated Project Man­age­ment Team (IPMT), headed by a two-star army general who will eval­u­ate the bids and short­list two devel­op­ment agen­cies (DA) that will build one FICV pro­to­type each within 24-36 months. The OFB gets an au­to­matic nom­i­na­tion for the FICV project, which is be­ing im­ple­mented un­der the ‘Make (In­dian)’ cat­e­gory of the DPP 2008. The MoD will finance 80 per cent of the FICV pro­to­types, one of which will be se­lected fol­low­ing user tri­als around 2020-21.

It is ex­pected that the FICV will be pow­ered by a 600 hp en­gine and armed with fire-and-for­get anti-tank guided mis­siles (ATGMs) with a 4.5-km range, 40mm grenade launch­ers, a sec­ondary ar­ma­ment with a 2-km range, and a 7.62mm coax­ial ma­chine gun. It will be op­er­ated by a three­man crew and ca­pa­ble of trans­port­ing seven in­fantry­men. NBC pro­tec­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions on army’s net­work-cen­tric grid will be a part of the project.


Ar­tillery Fire power

As part of its ar­tillery mod­erni­sa­tion plan, the army is look­ing at in­duct­ing sev­eral types of how­itzers through in house man­u­fac­ture by the De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO)/Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB), 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. De­tails of the ac­tions un­der­way to mod­ernise the ar­tillery are given in a seper­ate ar­ti­cle.

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

The Ar­jun tank is in­dige­nous in name only be­cause a large num­ber of its sys­tems and parts amount­ing to about 60 per cent are still im­ported

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-23-4) al­ready ex­ists in the form of Tan­gushka, but in lim­ited num­bers. A re­quest for in­for­ma­tion has al­ready been is­sued to find a re­place­ment for Schilka. Ac­tions to re­place the ob­so­lete mis­sile sys­tems for mech­a­nised col­umns is also un­der­way.

A ded­i­cated ar­ti­cle on air de­fence ar­tillery is in­cluded sep­a­rately in this is­sue.


The F-IN­SAS project was mooted in 2005 and it aimed at de­ploy­ing a fully net­worked, all-weather, and all-ter­rain in­fantry, with en­hanced fire­power and the mo­bil­ity to op­er­ate in the dig­i­talised bat­tle­field. This in­volved a mix of im­ported and lo­cally de­vel­oped sys­tems, to equip about 400 bat­tal­ions of in­fantry and Rashtriya Ri­fles with a mod­u­lar, multi-cal­i­bre suite of weapons and body ar­mour.

The en­tire ca­pa­bil­ity de­sired in­cludes tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and por­ta­ble sur­veil­lance equip­ment, in­clud­ing third-gen­er­a­tion night-vision de­vices, as well as com­put­ers ca­pa­ble of trans­mit­ting and up­load­ing voice, data and video clips on wrist dis­plays for sol­diers and clip­boards for com­man­ders. Ad­di­tion­ally, in­te­grated bal­lis­tic hel­mets with head-up dis­plays (HUDs), minia­ture ra­dios, global po­si­tion­ing sys­tems, and por­ta­ble power packs com­plete the F-IN­SAS makeover. The point to note is that not even one part of the project has made any progress.

As­sault Ri­fles

Army is 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 about 2,00,000 as­sault ri­fles in Novem­ber 2011 to 43 overseas ven­dors. Five ven­dors re­sponded pos­i­tively. How­ever all five ven­dors com­pris­ing Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Beretta’s ARX160, the Czech Re­pub­lic-based CZ’s 805 BREN, Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries’ (IWI) ACE, and US-based Colt’s Com­bat Ri­fle were re­jected by the army fol­low­ing field tri­als in the west­ern Ra­jasthan desert and in high-al­ti­tude re­gions.

The army has in­stead keep­ing the ‘Make in In­dia’ con­cept in mind has de­cided to do away with its multi-cal­i­bre re­quire­ment and has opted in­stead for the indige­nously de­signed Ex­cal­ibur 5.56 x 45mm as­sault ri­fle. Around 200 Ex­cal­ibur pro­to­types, made at the OFB’s Ri­fle Fac­tory Isha­pur (RFI) in east­ern In­dia, are sched­uled to un­dergo user eval­u­a­tion tri­als later this year in var­ied ter­rain. Once ap­proved, the army plans to in­duct over 6,00,000 Ex­cal­ibur ri­fles for around 26,000 crore (`3.6 bil­lion).

The Ex­cal­ibur is an up­graded ver­sion of the DRDO-de­signed In­dian Small Arms Sys­tem (IN­SAS) 5.56 x 45mm as­sault ri­fle, which the army re­jected in 2010 for be­ing ‘op­er­a­tionally in­ad­e­quate.’ The gas-op­er­ated, fully au­to­matic ri­fle has a fold­able butt, a Pi­catinny rail for sights, sen­sors, and bipods, and its poly­car­bon­ate mag­a­zine is su­pe­rior to that of the IN­SAS ri­fle, known to fre­quently crack in ex­treme hot and cold cli­mates. The Ex­cal­ibur’s bar­rel is 4mm shorter than the IN­SAS model and its hand guard is smaller.

The DRDO is also designing a sec­ond ver­sion of the Ex­cal­ibur, the AR-2 that fires 7.62 x 39mm rounds used by AK-47. The AR-2 will be of­fered as an al­ter­na­tive to the AK-47, Rus­sian ori­gin, ri­fle.


For over five years the In­dian Army has op­er­ated with­out a CQB car­bine, a ba­sic in­fantry weapon, essen­tial to a force which claims to be among the best and most op­er­a­tionally com­mit­ted in the world, ever ready to take on any chal­lenge.

The cur­rent situation is the ver­dict on the out­come of the 2010 ten­der for 44,618, CQB car­bines (5.56mm), tri­als for which con­cluded in 2013, af­ter which Beretta’s ARX160 and IWI’s Galil ACE mod­els were short­listed, is yet to be given. The se­lected weapon sys­tem will be li­cence-pro­duced by the OFB to meet the re­quire­ment of three to four lakh CQB car­bines for the army, para­mil­i­tary, and state police forces. The army has been with­out a car­bine since 2010, af­ter the OFB dis­con­tin­ued the li­censed pro­duc­tion of the Ster­ling 1A1 9mm sub-ma­chine gun it had em­ployed for decades.

Army Avi­a­tion Corps—He­li­copters

Presently the Army Avi­a­tion Corps (AAC) has in its in­ven­tory the light ob­ser­va­tion class (Chee­tah and Chetak) mostly. These he­li­copters are ob­so­lete and have been in ser­vice since the 1960s and re­quire im­me­di­ate re­place­ment. As per the lat­est in­for­ma­tion in this field the AAC is likely to re­ceive li­cence-built Rus­sian Kamov Ka-226T ‘Hood­lum’ light multi-role he­li­copters from 2018 on­wards. HAL is likely to form a joint ven­ture with Rus­sian He­li­copters to li­cence­build 200 Kamov Ka-226T ‘Hood­lum’ light multi-role he­li­copters. The pub­lic sec­tor Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL) is sched­uled to pro­duce the first of 140 twin-en­gine Ka-226Ts within two years for the AAC and the In­dian Air Force (IAF) at a new fa­cil­ity in Tu­makuru, 74 km north of Ben­galuru. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, HAL will grad­u­ally in­crease the plat­form’s in­dige­nous con­tent to a max­i­mum 30 per cent. The first 60 Ka-226Ts will be im­ported di­rectly to meet ur­gent op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments, un­der a $1-bil­lion in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal agree­ment (IGA) an­nounced dur­ing Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s Moscow visit in De­cem­ber 2015.

The Tu­makuru com­plex is also ex­pected to man­u­fac­ture 187 HAL-de­signed sin­gleengine light util­ity he­li­copters (LUHs) for the AAC and the IAF.


The list of voids and obsolescence of army’s ma­jor weapon sys­tems is alarm­ing. This hap­pens to a force when it is ne­glected by the gov­ern­ment for a long pe­riod of time as it has hap­pened in the case of the army.


Akash AD Weapon Sys­tem

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