Priority Areas for Army Modernisation — The Current Scenario
It is high time that a Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC)/Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is established as first among equals to provide single point military advice to the political leadership and to prioritise the entire capability build-
INDIAN ARMY AS IT moves through the first quarter of the 21st century is likely to face four types of challenges/threats including traditional threats from China and Pakistan, contemporary threats in the form of terrorism (including home grown, state sponsored and international terrorism), internal challenges including home-grown insurgencies and contingency threats which may demand military action in the wider neighbourhood. In essence India faces a far greater threat than any other country in the world because of a highly volatile strategic neighbourhood. However in view of nuclearisation of the region, in the interim, we are most likely to be called upon to fight low intensity conflict operations that include insurgency/counterinsurgency operations, terrorism, proxy wars and limited border wars. Full scale conventional conflicts seem unlikely at present. Yet it is evident that India, given its size and geographical location and the type of challenges and threats that it faces, its armed forces have to be organised, equipped, trained and prepared to fight any type of a conflict covering the entire spectrum of war ranging from low-intensity conflicts to full-scale conventional wars under the nuclear shadow. Moreover with India’s vibrant economic growth, it would naturally have to assume additional responsibility as a stabilising force in the region. 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.
Chairman COSC/CDS for Prioritising Defence Expenditure
Defence of a nation and development are complementary. If India wishes to secure itself against the dangers looming on the horizon
and wishes global recognition as a strong and responsible nation who is capable of looking after its own national interests, it has to modernise its military to be prepared to fight future wars on digital battlefields and confront future challenges whose contours presently are vague and uncertain. Therefore the defence budgets must be reflective of the transformation and modernisation required by the Services. However, not withstanding this aspect, considering the inadequacy of defence budgets currently, the army has to prioritise its modernisation to achieve time bound capabilities as per perceived threats and challenges. This prioritisation must also take into account capabilities being acquired by the other two Services namely the Indian Air force and the Indian Navy. In view of these considerations it is high time that a permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC)/Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is established as first among equals, to provide single point military advice to the political leadership and to prioritise the entire capability build-up plan for the three services by ruthlessly cutting down on duplicate and overlapping capabilities and weaponry including superfluous manpower, both civilian and military, and to ensure judicious and timely expenditure of allocated funds.
India is already a regional/global economic power, and has aspirations of sitting on the high table in the UN Security Council. This itself mandates that its military power must reflect its ability to protect its national interests both within and outside the country. In this context, the transformation of the Indian military for the future, through technological improvements and modernisation coupled with new doctrines and innovative operational art should aim to give India a dis- tinct advantage over its potential adversaries, which is vital for preserving India’s sovereignty and furthering its national interests.
In the absence of a permanent COSC or a CDS, the publication of a Joint Air Land Battle Doctrine in the June 2010, by Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff at best represents a minimal consensus between the two Services in integrating air power with land power. It is believed that another document of joint airnaval operations also exists, however what is missing is a pragmatic joint approach to warfighting by the three Services, a vital necessity for the future. A joint doctrine dating back to 2006 exists; but the tranquillity that followed and lack of adequate debate and the fact that additional/supplementary doctrines have been necessitated reflects on the lack of credibility of the 2006 publication. The scope for doctrinal integration in undeniable and would be among the high priority tasks of the Chairman COSC/CDS as when he is nominated. From the joint war-fighting doctrine of the three Services must flow the short- and long-term perspective plans to ensure that priority is given to building up those capabilities that are required early based on the existing and estimated threats and challenges.
There is a need for understanding the requirement of a Joint Military Doctrine. In this respect we can study the experience gained by the US armed forces who have ostensibly achieved a high degree of jointness in planning and executing such operations.
Joint Military Doctrine of US Armed Forces: Definition and Purpose
US Military describe the purpose of joint doctrine as: Joint doctrine serves as a common perspective.
It is an authoritative guidance for US forces.
It provides focus for systems application and technology.
It fundamentally shapes the way US armed forces plan, think and train for military operations.
The new (joint) operational concepts provide the foundation for evolution.
It is a critical ingredient for success because the organisational synergies to be gained from joint endeavours would be as important as the technology used for future operations.
The definition of joint doctrine as given out by the US DOD (Department of Defense) dictionary for military and associated terms is “fundamental principles that guide the employment of forces of two or more services in coordinated action towards a common objective. It will be promulgated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (in US context), in coordination with the Combatant Commands, Services, and Joint Staff.” In a larger sense, it is a reservoir or a pool of distilled wisdom gained from history of warfighting, lessons learnt and the factors considered which went into losing or winning of a war. It assists the military commanders in “how best to employ the national power.”
lt also help us in designing our future capabilities and our long-term perspective and procurement plans thus ensuring that capabilities required are built-up in a timely manner and also avoiding wasteful expenditure in duplication and overlap in our weapons procurement. Our past experience has been that each of our Service plans on its own and then asks the other Service for assistance but without consulting the other service during the planning stage. The common perspective is missing. This type of planning is dangerous for future conflicts because it would mean delayed decision making and delayed execution.
One example of single service planning is the Cold Start doctrine of the army which envisages early launch of limited offensives which are within the capability of the pivot/ holding corps of the army. However, would the air force be in a position to ensure air superiority in the sector of early launch? The air force on the other hand sees a strategic
India is already a regional/ global economic power, and has aspirations of sitting on the high table in the UN Security Council. This itself mandates that its military power must reflect its ability to protect its national interests both within and outside the country.
role for itself by wanting to achieve air dominance in the entire region through attrition of opponents, assets first which would take considerable time thus relegating the support to the land forces to a lower priority in the beginning. On the other hand, the army feels that if it does not achieve its laid down objectives across the border at the earliest it would imperil the entire mission. These issues can be resolved amicably when there is a supervisory authority on top, directing the doctrine towards a common perspective for achieving national aims and objectives and not parallel wars for achieving individual service perspective which would amount to suboptimal use of military/national power. Moreover, wars are national efforts in which many agencies/establishments would assist in the war effort. It would start with the political leadership spelling out the political aims of war and thus political aims would require to be converted to military aims and objectives of war. This would entail coordination of diplomacy, intelligence operations, psychological operations, information operations and deception operations with the military effort. So our doctrine must be holistic and not constrained by a single service perspective.
Priority Areas for Modernisation & Transformation in the Army
Some priority areas for modernisation, for reform and for induction of new technologies are:
Doctrinal Changes. in the method of war-fighting necessitating a new Joint War Fighting Doctrine tailored to the Indian conditions.
Long Range Precision Firepower.
– 155mm howitzers, comprising the towed, mounted and self-propelled variety are required to replace the medium guns held at present in the field formations (divisions) which are more than three to four decades old. Induction of 155mm howitzers is at various stages of indigenous development and procurement. – Government has placed an indent on Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for procurement of Qty. 114 155mm Dhanush artillery guns.
– 155mm, M777, ultra light howitzers (145) for the mountains is being procured from the US in a direct government-to-government deal. The deal has been finalised by both the governments and the first two guns are expected to arrive in the early part of 2017 so that the army can generate its own range tables based on India ammunition that it is going to fire ultimately. The deal has an important ‘Make in India’ component with Mahindra expected to bag a share of the contract. Under the terms of the letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) signed with the US Government for supply of 145 ULH, 25 guns will be inducted in fully formed condition and the balance 120 guns will be assembled in India.
Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS). This was initiated to make the infantryman a weapon platform with situational awareness, increased lethality and sustainability in the digitised battlefield. F-INSAS was to be effected in three phases: Phase I included weapons, body armour, clothing and individual equipment; Phase II comprised the target acquisition system and Phase III comprised the computer subsystem, radio subsystem, software and software integration. None has been achieved so far. In fact the project has not even started and the infantry modernisation is in a pathetic state and even the first phase has not been completed. Special Forces (SF).
– They conduct special operations as they are trained and imparted special skills to conduct such operations. Such operations are usually small scale, covert or overt operations of the unorthodox and frequently high-risk nature, undertaken to achieve significant political or military objectives in support of national policy.
– In the future they would be the most appropriate instrument for wielding force selectively and discriminately to achieve operational and strategic (political) aims of a conflict with least amount of collateral damage. – Organisation of a Special Operations Command would increase India’s strategic flexibility and options for dealing with future settings. – Specialised weaponry for the SF must
be procured on priority. Replacement of current fleet of light observation and utility helicopters.
– A 6,800-crore project to manufacture 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters has not picked up momentum and the project is yet to kick off while the pilots and passengers of the old Cheetah and Chetak are meeting with accidents frequently due to the obsolescence of these machines. This is well known to the government which needs to be more dynamic in this sphere of modernisation.
– The army is also looking at inducting attack/armed helicopters. However, a major shortcoming with the Rudra, the current armed helicopter and the under development light combat helicopter (LCH), is that in their current configuration they do not have a suitable anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the main weapon system of an attack/armed helicopter. The air version of the indigenously developed Nag ATGM, the Helina being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is not likely to be ready in the near future leaving a critical void in the operational capability of these two helicopters. As an interim measure the MoD had cleared the fitment of three initial Rudra units with an ATGM ex import. Accordingly trials were conducted and completed about three years back but nothing seems to have come of it — in contention were the PARS 3 of MBDA France and Spike of Israel. This issue needs to be addressed on priority. Upgrading of T-72 tanks. These tanks presently constitute the mainstay of Indian armour. They need to have new upraded engines, better protection, integrated fire control systems with nightfighting capabilities. Future Infantry Combat Vehicles. A project to build 2,600 future infantry combat vehicles (FICV) costing approximately ₹ 60,000 crore has been approved by the government. The 22/24-tonne FICV will be indigenously designed and manufactured. Among others, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), the Mahindras and the Tatas have shown interest.
Air defence guns and missiles. The guns and missiles currently held by the army are obsolescent. Kvadrat (medium-range) and OSA-AK (shortrange) ground-to-air missiles are at the end of their life-cycle. They were to be replaced by Akash and Trishul surfaceto-air (SAM) missiles. Trishul has been foreclosed and Akash is being inducted for static and 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. However, none of the projects has started.
– These are totally lacking on the infantry weapons held currently. All future procurements and those envisaged through ‘Make in India’ projects must look into the night-fighting capability of infantry soldiers and SF personnel who will otherwise be severely handicapped for operations by night. The current status is operationally unacceptable.
– T-72 tanks, the mainstay of the armour in the army have now started getting modified with thermal imaging night sights integrated with the new fire control systems procured from Elbit of Israel. The process needs to be hastened. T-90 are already fitted with integrated fire control systems with thermal sights. Arjun Mk II must be kitted similarly.
CIDSS. or Command Information and Decision Support System (CIDSS) is in effect the hub of Tactical C3I Systems (tactical command, control, computers and intelligence system) and is the most important component located at the Headquarters. This system will comprise all sensor and shooter systems at each level of hierarchy which will be connected to it. The major subsystems which will get connected as and when they are completed are:
– Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS). for automation of all artillery tasks in the field which includes preparation and execution of fire plans, direction, control and correction of fire, and functions at the artillery command post and at the gun end. This system has been fielded and has been introduced in a large number of formations already.
Tactical Communication System
(TCS). is a vital communication link which will connect the corps headquarters forward to the battalion headquarters and will have the ability to reach down to subunits also. Thus the Tactical C3I system will ride on the tactical communication system. TCS is a ‘Make in India’ project that has been given to a consortium of L&T and Tata Power who have submitted the draft project report which is currently being considered. In the interim the TCS will rely on satellite communications, and upgraded AREN communications which rely on radio relay equipment and other modes of communications which will allow for static and mobile operations. Battle Management System (BMS). The important link forward of the TCS will be the BMS which is being designed to operate at the unit level and below and will synthesise the battle picture for the unit commander whether it be an infantry unit or an armoured regiment. Tanks and selected infantrymen will become situational awareness platforms. This project has been allocated to two consortiums. L&T and Tata Power is one of them and Rolta and the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is the second one. BMS is in a more advanced stage of development and the government is funding the production of the prototype to the extent of 80 per cent. This project is being pushed at a faster rate as this constitutes the cutting-edge of the army’s CIDSS programme. F-INSAS, which is a part of this project, is being progressed by the Infantry Directorate but will be a part of the overall BMS.
BSS. Battlefield Surveillance System will integrate all surveillance resources of the army, including, radars, UAVs, electro-optical systems, photographic and visual systems to provide a coherent picture to the commander. This project is in the test bed stage currently. AD C&R. Air Defence Control and Reporting System will automate the detection, identification, designation and destruction tasks of the Army Air Defence Artillery. This project is called Akash Tir and is currently underway as a ‘Make in India’ project by BEL. The project is in the test bed stage of development.
The work on the Army’s CIDSS and many of its projects had started few decades ago. However, a fresh impetus needs to be injected into the above projects. We could seek the experience of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the combined effects of digitisation of the battlefield with the stand-off, multi-spectral sensors that give situational awareness about enemy and own troops. This will lend greater clarity to our capability and equipment development in this field.
The overall progress of modernisation in the army is extremely slow despite some dynamism shown by the present Defence Minister. Considering the challenges and threats posed to India presently and more so in the future, the necessity of hastening the process of modernisation through increased budgets and dynamic policies is vital. Moreover the need for establishing a seamless digitised communication network within the army which is capable of picking up information from the sensors deployed in the battlespace and passing it on a need-toknow basis to all concerned commanders in the field, is critical to successful conduct of network-centric operations in the future.
T-72 tanks have now started getting modified with thermal imaging night sights integrated with the new fire control systems
Ka-226T light multi-role helicopter