In­fantry Mod­erni­sa­tion Ne­glected

The mod­erni­sa­tion of in­fantry has lagged be­hind due to com­plete ne­glect and apa­thy on part of mil­i­tary, bu­reau­cratic and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to speed up the process of mod­erni­sa­tion of the In­dian Army


The mod­erni­sa­tion of in­fantry has lagged be­hind due to com­plete ne­glect and apa­thy on part of mil­i­tary, bu­reau­cratic and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship to speed up the process of mod­erni­sa­tion of the In­dian Army.

Lt Gen­eral V.K. Kapoor (Retd)

THE PAST DECADE AND a half or so has se­verely de­graded the war fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the cut­ting edge of In­dian Army, namely the In­fantry due to com­plete ne­glect and apa­thy on part of the of the, po­lit­i­cal, bu­reau­cratic and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship, to speed up the process of mod­erni­sa­tion and pro­cure­ment of vi­tal equip­ment and mu­ni­tions in the Army. The sorry state of af­fairs as far as pro­cure­ments of “small arms” for the In­fantry which in­cludes as­sault ri­fles, car­bines, light ma­chine guns, sniper ri­fles, anti – ma­te­rial ri­fles 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.


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 was on the look­out for as­sault ri­fles (AR) to re­place the INSAS 5.56 mm ri­fles with tech­no­log­i­cally su­pe­rior weapons. The Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) is­sued the ten­der for 66,000, 5.56 mm multi-cal­i­bre as­sault ri­fles (with in­ter­change­able bar­rels of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm cal­ibers) out of a to­tal re­quire­ment of 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 5.56x45 mm pri­mary bar­rel for con­ven­tional war­fare and a 7.62x39 mm sec­ondary one for counter-ter­ror­ism proved to be im­prac­ti­cal.

The is­sue that was dis­cussed in April 2016 dur­ing the Army Com­man­ders’ con­fer­ence was whether the force re­quired a 7.62 mm ri­fle that could kill the enemy or a 5.56 mm 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 7.62x51 mm ri­fle for its in­fantry bat­tal­ions and its100 odd counter-in­sur­gency units (both Rashtriya Ri­fles and As­sam Ri­fles).

On Jan­uary 16, 2018, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil (DAC), chaired by Rak­sha Mantri Nir­mala Sithara­man, met and cleared pro­cure­ment of 72,400 as­sault ri­fles and 93,895 car­bines on fast track ba­sis for 3,547 crore to en­able the De­fence Forces to meet their im­me­di­ate re­quire­ment for the troops de­ployed on the bor­ders.

On Tues­day, Fe­bru­ary 13, 2018, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil, presided over by the Rak­sha Mantri Nir­mala Sithara­man, cleared 15,935 crore worth of pro­pos­als including the one to pro­cure 7.40 lakh ‘Buy and Make (In­dian)’ as­sault ri­fles at a cost of 12,280 crore for the three ser­vices.

In the mean­while the DRDO has pro­duced Ex­cal­ibur as an up­graded ver­sion of the In­dian Small Arms Sys­tem (INSAS) 5.56x45 mm as­sault ri­fle. The INSAS was re­jected by the army in 2010 for be­ing “op­er­a­tionally in­ad­e­quate”. Ex­cal­ibur, the gasop­er­ated, 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.


For over seven 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 MoD can­celled the De­cem­ber 2010 ten­der for 44,618, 5.56 mm close quar­ter bat­tle (CQB) car­bines and 33.6 mil­lion rounds of am­mu­ni­tion on 29 Septem­ber 2016. Of­fi­cial sources said the MoD now aims to ‘fast track’ the long-de­layed CQB pro­cure­ment for the In­dian Army.

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.

On Jan­uary 16, 2018, the DAC has cleared the pro­cure­ment of 93,895 car­bines on fast track ba­sis along with the above stated 72,400 as­sault ri­fles.

Light Ma­chine Guns

On Au­gust 9, 2017, MoD ter­mi­nated its three­year old global ten­der to pro­cure 9,462 light ma­chine guns (LMGs) of cal­iber 7.62x51 mm for the In­dian Army. 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 5.56x45 mm LMG that was in­ducted into IA ser­vice in the 1990’s, but found to be in­ef­fi­cient.

On Fe­bru­ary 13, the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil, presided over by the Rak­sha Mantri Nir­mala Sithara­man, cleared

15,935 crore worth of pro­pos­als. This clear­ance also in­cluded 1,819 crore worth of Light Ma­chine Guns which will also be pro­cured through the fast-track pro­ce­dure to meet the op­er­a­tional re­quire­ment of the troops de­ployed at the bor­der.


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 April 1, 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.

Notwith­stand­ing the pro­pos­als now sanc­tioned by the DAC on Jan­uary 16 and Fe­bru­ary 13, the can­cel­la­tion of the global ten­ders to pro­cure LMGs, as­sault ri­fles and close-quar­ter bat­tle car­bines af­ter com­ple­tion of tri­als showed that the govern­ment was not se­ri­ous about its own pro­pos­als. Such de­ci­sions would cer­tainly not send pos­i­tive sig­nals to the sol­diery of front­line in­fantry units and global equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers who bring their weapons for tri­als on their own ex­pense. More­over 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 and in­volv­ing a large amount of man­power, and over 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 DPP-2016.

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, it aids civil au­thor­i­ties which in­cludes 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.

On Jan­uary 16, 2018, the DAC cleared pro­cure­ment of 72,400 as­sault-ri­fles and 93,895 car­bines for

3,547 crore for the army. On Fe­bru­ary 13, the DAC cleared ‘Buy and Make’ pro­cure­ment of 7.40 lakh as­sault ri­fles for 12,280 crore for three ser­vices.


In­dian Army sol­diers in ac­tion

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