In­fantryI De­prived of Ba­sic Weaponry

In­fantry is in­deed the most vi­tal com­bat arm of In­dian army whose roles range from coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gen­cies in peace and in war, con­duct­ing de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions in the moun­tains, plains, and deserts and when re­quired be an im­por

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

In­fantry is in­deed the most vi­tal com­bat arm of In­dian army whose roles range from coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gen­cies in peace and in war, con­duct­ing de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions in the moun­tains, plains, and deserts and when re­quired be an im­por­tant part of an out of area con­tin­gency force.

THE PAST DECADE AND a half or so has se­verely de­graded the war fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the In­dian Army due to com­plete ne­glect and ap­a­thy on part of the of the lead­er­ship, po­lit­i­cal, bu­reau­cratic and mil­i­tary, to speed up the process of mod­erni­sa­tion and pro­cure­ment of vi­tal equip­ment and mu­ni­tions. The army’s ‘crit­i­cal short­ages’ and ob­so­les­cence of its cur­rent equip­ment in­clude155mm ar­tillery 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 list is end­less. To make mat­ters worse the author­i­ties that be, in­stead of has­ten­ing the process of ac­qui­si­tion and man­u­fac­ture is busy scrap­ping/can­celling the on­go­ing pro­cure­ments. The lat­est one which has been axed is the pro­cure­ment plan for over 44,000 light ma­chine guns (LMGs) for the sol­diers in the in­fantry. It has been scrapped by the de­fence min­istry on the ground that it had be­come a “sin­gle-ven­dor sit­u­a­tion” with only the Is­raeli Weapon In­dus­tries (IWI) left in the fray af­ter pro­tracted field tri­als from De­cem­ber 2015 to Fe­bru­ary 2017.

The sorry state of af­fairs as far as pro­cure­ments of “small arms” mean­ing as­sault ri­fles, car­bines, light ma­chine guns, and other in­fantry weapons for the army, will be clar­i­fied as we go along in this ar­ti­cle. Let us first deal with the over­all is­sue of mod­erni­sa­tion of the in­fantry.

F-INSAS

The Fu­ture In­fantry Soldier as a Sys­tem (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 dig­i­tal­ized bat­tle­field. This in­volved a mix of im­ported and lo­cally de­vel­oped sys­tems, to equip all bat­tal­ions of in­fantry and Rashtriya Ri­fles with a mod­u­lar, multi-cal­i­bre suite of weapons and body ar­mour.

The en­tire ca­pa­bil­ity de­sired in­cludes tar­get ac­qui­si­tion means, 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 con­cern is that not even a sin­gle part of the project has made any progress.

As­sault Ri­fles

Army is on the look­out for as­sault ri­fles (AR) to re­place the INSAS 5.56 mm ri­fles with tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior weapons. The MoD is­sued the ten­der for 66,000, 5.56mm multi-cal­i­bre as­sault ri­fles (with in­ter­change­able bar­rels of 5.56mmand 7.62 mm cal­ibers) 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 Repub­licbased CZ’s 805 BREN, Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries’ (IWI’s) 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 above re­quest for pro­posal ( RFP) for the as­sault ri­fles was scrapped in May 2015 be­cause of the Army’s over­am­bi­tious ex­per­i­ment to in­duct ri­fles with in­ter­change­able bar­rels, with a 5.56x45mm pri­mary bar­rel for con­ven­tional war­fare and a 7.62x39mm sec­ondary one for counter-ter­ror­ism.

The mil­i­tary wis­dom till re­cently was that the 5.56mm ri­fle was bet­ter for con­ven­tional war be­cause it gen­er­ally in­jured an en­emy soldier, ty­ing down at least two of his col­leagues to carry him in the bat­tle­field. Con­versely, the 7.62mm ri­fle was bet­ter for counter-in­sur­gency since ter­ror­ists had to be killed at the first in­stance, elim­i­nat­ing the risk of “sui­cide bomb­ing”. Sol­diers largely use the 7.62mm AK-47 ri­fles for counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions in Kash­mir and the north­east, even though the in­fantry is sad­dled with the indigenous glitch-prone 5.56mm INSAS (In­dian small arms sys­tem) ri­fles. The fully-au­to­matic DRDO de­signed Ex­cal­ibur, which fires 5.56x45mm am­mu­ni­tion, is an im­proved ver­sion of INSAS ri­fle that en­tered ser­vice in 1994-1995. But the Army now wants 7.62mm ri­fles for greater lethal­ity. Thus the Army has re-launched its quest for a mod­ern im­ported as­sault ri­fle, af­ter re­cently re­ject­ing the indigenous Ex­cal­ibur, in or­der to plug a vi­tal op­er­a­tional gap. The army has once again sent out its global re­quest for in­for­ma­tion (RFI) for 7.62x51mm as­sault ri­fle.

The is­sue that was dis­cussed in April 2016 dur­ing the Army Com­man­ders’ con­fer­ence was whether the force re­quired a 7.62mm ri­fle that could kill the en­emy or a 5.56mm ri­fle that could in­ca­pac­i­tate the en­emy sol­diers and the de­ci­sion was in favour of the former cal­iber. The Army Com­man­ders unan­i­mously opted to im­port the more pow­er­ful 7.62x51mm ri­fle for its in­fantry bat­tal­ions and its 100 odd counter-in­sur­gency units (both Rashtriya Ri­fles and As­sam Ri­fles).

The indigenous Ex­cal­ibur is an up­graded ver­sion of the DRDO-de­signed In­dian Small Arms Sys­tem (INSAS) 5.56x45 mm as­sault ri­fle. The INSAS was re­jected by the army 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 4 mm 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 7.62x39 mm rounds used by AK-47. The AR-2 will be of­fered as an al­ter­na­tive to the AK 47, Rus­sian ori­gin, as­sault ri­fle. Till the new as­sault ri­fle be­comes a stan­dard weapon it was ru­moured that the Ex­cal­ibur may be used in the in­terim to re­plen­ish stocks.

Car­bines

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 in the world, ever ready to take on any chal­lenge.

In­dia’s Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) can­celled the De­cem­ber 2010 ten­der for 44,618, 5.56mm close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines and 33.6 mil­lion rounds of am­mu­ni­tion on Septem­ber 29, 2016. Of­fi­cial sources said the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) now aims to ‘fast track’ the long-de­layed CQB pro­cure­ment for the In­dian Army (IA) via an ‘em­pow­ered com­mit­tee’, within the next 12-14 months. des­ig­na­tors that will be ac­quired sep­a­rately.

The orig­i­nal pro­cure­ment, for which Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries (IWI) ACE car­bine was short­listed along with the ri­val Ital­ian Beretta’s ARX-160 model fol­low­ing the 2011-14 tri­als, was ter­mi­nated fol­low­ing dif­fer­ences over the weapon sys­tems sights and ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the eval­u­a­tion process. The MoD’s Direc­torate Gen­eral of Qual­ity As­sur­ance (DGQA) had cer­tain ob­jec­tions which scut­tled the pro­cure­ment process.

It is re­ported that the pro­posed CQB car­bines RFP has been is­sued on the same lines as the ear­lier one in which the car­bine was re­quired to weigh less than 3kg, fire 600 rounds per minute to a dis­tance of 250-300m and be ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing in ex­treme cold and hot tem­per­a­tures. It would also need to be fit­ted with a Pi­catinny rail for the sights, which would be pro­cured sep­a­rately, and multi-pur­pose de­tach­able bay­o­nets. The weapons will be ac­quired un­der the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure (DPP)-2016 ‘ Buy and Make’ cat­e­gory. The se­lected CQB ven­dor would be re­quired to trans­fer tech­nol­ogy, in all like­li­hood, to In­dia’s state-owned Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB) to li­cence build some 300,000-400,000 car­bines. These would equip the IA’s 400-odd in­fantry bat­tal­ions and its spe­cialised Rah­striya Ri­fles or counter in­sur­gency units and even­tu­ally In­dia’s paramil­i­taries and pro­vin­cial po­lice forces.

Light Ma­chine Guns

On Au­gust 9, 2017, In­dia’s Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) has ter­mi­nated its three­year old global ten­der to pro­cure 9,462 light ma­chine guns (LMGs) of cal­iber 7.62 x 51mm for the In­dian Army (IA). It was re­ported that the ten­der was can­celled af­ter Is­rael Weapon In­dus­tries (IWI) emerged as the ‘sole ven­dor’ with its Negev NG7 model of the LMG. There were two con­tenders in the field namely the NG7 of IWI and the LMG fielded by Bul­garia’s Arse­nal in user tri­als be­tween 2015 and early-2017. NG7 be­came the fron­trun­ner.

The pro­posed LMG’s were aimed at re­plac­ing the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO)de­signed 5.56x45mm LMG that was in­ducted into IA ser­vice in the 1990’s, but found to be in­ef­fi­cient.

Con­clu­sion

In­dia’s De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure has been re­vised on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions. The De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure 2016 (DPP 2016) was un­veiled by the former Union De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar on the side­lines of the De­f­expo-2016 which was held in Goa. The DPP 2016 re­placed the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure 2013 (DPP 2013) and has come into force on 1 April 2016.

In a ma­jor de­par­ture from the ear­lier DPPs, DPP-2016 has al­lowed the pro­cure­ment process to con­tinue in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions where only one bid is re­ceived in re­sponse to an RFP. The con­tin­u­a­tion of the process is, how­ever, sub­ject to the ap­proval of the DAC, which must cer­tify that there is no scope for change of the RFP con­di­tions.

The can­cel­la­tion of the global ten­der to pro­cure LMGs is third such project, af­ter the cases for new as­sault ri­fles and close-quar­ter bat­tle car­bines which were can­celled sim­i­larly. The elab­o­rate process which man­dates fir­ing and main­te­nance tri­als in all types of ter­rain ex­ist­ing in our coun­try in­volv­ing ex­ten­sive move­ments and ar­range­ments across var­i­ous the­atres of op­er­a­tions which in­volves a large amount of man­power, and a long pe­riod of time and there­fore scrap­ping tenders af­ter the tri­als only wastes pre­cious time, en­ergy and money of the ven­dor and the gov­ern­ment. We won­der why the sin­gle ven­dor is­sue could not be tack­led un­der the dis­pen­sa­tion of the above clause of the DPP2016. If the clause is am­bigu­ous then it must be amended based on our ex­pe­ri­ences so far.

In­fantry is in­deed the most vi­tal com­bat arm of In­dian army whose roles range from coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gen­cies in peace and in war, con­duct­ing de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions in the moun­tains, plains, and deserts and when re­quired be an im­por­tant part of an out of area con­tin­gency force. And last but not the least, aid civil author­i­ties, in­clud­ing tack­ling nat­u­ral and man­made dis­as­ters for which the civil author­i­ties are cer­tainly not shy in seek­ing this as­sis­tance if only to hide their own weak­nesses and in­com­pe­tence. Hence de­priv­ing this in­dis­pens­able arm of the army from its ba­sic weapons which it needs to ful­fill its mis­sions is not only shock­ing but may prove dis­as­trous for the na­tion in the fu­ture. Here we have not added the de­fi­cien­cies of other equip­ment of the in­fantry like ra­dio sets at pla­toon and com­pany lev­els, sol­diers web equip­ment, body ar­mour etc. For this sorry state of af­fairs we have to ac­cept that apart from po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic lead­er­ship, the uni­formed com­mu­nity is equally to blame for not be­ing de­ci­sive and for not pur­su­ing the in­fantry equip­ment re­lated projects with ad­e­quate en­ergy and zeal.

Of­fi­cial sources said the MoD now aims to ‘fast track’ the long-de­layed CQB pro­cure­ment for the In­dian Army via an ‘em­pow­ered com­mit­tee’

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