- Modernises speedily with precision
By Major General (Dr) P K Chakravorty, VSM,(Retired)
New Delhi. 13 January 2021. The Indian Army has been Forever in Combat ever since Independence. 2020 has been a crucial year for the Indian Army. The clash in Galwan in Eastern Ladakh with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has compelled the Indian Army to accelerate the modernisation process to match the Armed Forces of China. The clashes resulted in preemptive moves to occupy the Kailash Ranges South of Pangong Tso on the intervening night of 29 and 30 August by the Indian Army which surprised the Chinese and provided India a strong position on the negotiating table. It is indeed creditable that the entire force is positioned with stability in the cold winters of Eastern Ladakh. The Indian Army also maintained its operational efficiency despite the COVID 19 pandemic. Wherever required it provided voluntary assistance to the Government in all spheres. The Army Day of 2021 will be conducted in the backdrop of these issues.
The celebration of Army Day takes place traditionally on 15 January to mark the taking over of the first Indian Commander-in-Chief by General (later Field Marshal) K M Cariappa, from General Francis Robert Bucher. This occurred on 15 January 1949. The Army Day in 2021 would be the 73rd parade to commemorate the historic event. The parade would display the equipment and soldiers of the Indian Army. The celebrations are held across the Indian Army and are an occasion for awarding personnel and units for their bravery and distinguished service. On this occasion it would be appropriate for us to know that the Army is currently modernising its equipment to be prepared to meet its operational challenges. The ceremonies will be held under precautions to be maintained for COVID.
India faces a two front collusive hybrid threat from China and Pakistan as also encounters a half front created by insurgency. Currently equipment held by the combat arms is dated and has been gainfully optimised to its ultimate durability. Apart from this both China and Pakistan are undertaking a Revolution in Military Affairs with regard to their Armed Forces. China has a focussed plan on modernisation of its Armed Forces which has resulted in the Peoples Liberation Army transforming itself to a well equipped force with state of the art weapons. The current President and Commander-in- Chief has introduced reforms to make the PLA a professional organisation. A case in point is that China is currently exporting drones to 18 countries. Pakistan on its part has left no stone unturned to modernise its forces with assistance from China. The current strategic situation has witnessed complex situations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan. Further President Xi Jinping has tweaked laws to make him more powerful with regard to the defence of the country. War is an irrational act which occurs without any warning. Accordingly there is a dire need to modernise our forces to enhance their capabilities to meet challenges.
To match the PLA implies that Indian Army must move its modernisation programme in top gear. Indian Government, in 2019 finalised a road map to spend $ 130 billion in the next five to seven years to modernise the Armed Forces and bolster their capabilities to effectively counter the challenges from the adversaries. The plan includes acquisition of a wide variety of weaponry to include missiles, warships, drones, fighter jets, surveillance equipment and creation of architecture for Artificial Intelligence. The Indian Army will also receive its due share and undertake its ongoing modernisation at a deliberate pace. The Indian Army has undertaken effort to restructure and optimise its manpower for greater finances to be available for procurement. The process of restructuring the Indian Army is taking place after obtaining necessary approvals.
Despite problems, tremendous efforts are being made to modernise the infantry at a deliberate pace. A lot of progress has been made to acquire a modern rifle, Machine Gun and Carbine. The Army began the process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44000 Light Machine Guns (LMGs) and nearly 44600 Carbines. A contract was signed by the Ministry of Defence and the US firm Sig Sauer for procurement of 72400 assault rifles. The Army would receive 66400 units, while the Navy will get 2000 and the Air Force 4000. The first batch of 10,000 SIG 716 Assault Rifles arrived in India on 11December 2019. The rifle fires a 7.62×51 mm Cartridge. Apart from these the AK 203 Kalashnikov rifle will be the mainstay of the Indian Army. A Joint Venture between Ordnance Factory Board and Russia will be made at the factory in Amethi which will receive an indent of over 6 lakh rifles from the Indian Army. In all probability the Carbine and the Light Machine Gun (LMG) will be manufactured in the same factory. A limited quantity of LMG would be imported possibly from Israel and Carbine from UAE. In June 2019 finally India and Israel signed a deal for the Spike Missile. This entailed a purchase of 12 launchers and 210 missiles. As the DRDO man pack missile would be available by 2022, a repeat order for the equipment has been placed. This would enhance our capability to undertake pin point engagement of targets.
Digitisation is an important element of Non-Contact Warfare. The heart of the system is Command Information Decision Support System (CIDSS) which comprises Tactical Command Control Communications and Information System (Tac C3I). the Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS), Battlefield Surveillance System (BSS), Air Defence Control & Reporting System (ADC&RS), Electronic Warfare System (EWS) and Electronic Intelligence System (ELINT). The Tac C3 I is to provide state of the art connectivity from the Corps HQ and below. Upward connectivity from Corps HQ to Army HQ is to be provided by the Army Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS). However, there is a lacuna as no connectivity exists at unit and sub unit level. Accordingly there is a requirement to provide an automated Battle Management System (BMS) for the sub units to enable them to have sensors, platforms, weapon systems integrated with individual soldiers, to enable them to exploit their assets and translate plans into synergised operations at the lowest level. This must be accorded priority.
As regards sensors we have currently acquired Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Battle Field Surveillance Radars, Weapon Locating Radars, Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS), Thermal Imaging Intensification Observation Equipment (TIIOE), N Cross night vision equipment, Hand Held Thermal Imaging (HHTI) equipment, night vision binoculars and Unattended Ground Sensors. The quantities held are minimal and greater numbers are needed for improved Battle Field Transparency. Apart from these the Indian Army needs satellites as also Aerostats for wider coverage of its Area of Influence.
Artillery is the predominant arm as regards Firepower. The induction of 155 mm Dhanush, Ultra-Light Howitzer, Self Propelled 155 mm Vajra and BrahMos Cruise Missile has added punch to the Army. Further the Long Range Pinaka would be on user trials and possibly inducted by 2022.The Artillery is moving on to Precision Guided Munitions and possibly undertaking trials of state of the art PGMs. Further Hypersonic BrahMos may possibly be inducted in about 2 years.
High Technology aspects concern Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Nano Technology, Lethal Automatic Weapon Systems Directed Energy Weapons, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare. Research in all these fields are moving at a steady pace. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are in a nascent stage of development. Rapid strides are needed to be taken in the field of Nano technology as it would lead to reduction of size and weight which would be suitable for our High Altitude and Glaciated regions. Direct energy weapons are being developed by China and there is a need to expedite their development. We need to build up our credible deterrence in the field of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare.
Threats from China and Pakistan leave us with no option but to undertake modernisation at a fast pace. The Indian Army is currently involved in meeting challenges at the Line of Control (LoC) and Line of Actual Control. All out efforts must be made by all concerned to expedite modernisation optimising the process initiated by the present Government
Issues Meriting Importance
As one is aware the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 has been enforced with effect from 01 October 2020. In comparison to DPP 2016, DAP 2020 lays the procedure for improving the indigenous content of defence products. The next aspect pertains to Long Term Integrated Perspective Planning (LTIPP) which has been renamed as Integrated Capability Defence Plan (ICDP), covering 10 years instead of 15 years. The DAP enables Time Bound Defence Procurement Process and Faster Decision Making by setting up a Project Management Unit to support contract management and to streamline the acquisition process. The other important aspect is the Revised Offset Guidelines. As per the revised offset guidelines, there will be no offset clause in Government to Government dealings, Single Vendor and Inter Governmental Agreements. The offset policy was first adopted in 2005. As per the policy, for all defence capital imports above Rs 300 crores, foreign vendors with at least 30% of the value of the contract in India, were required. To ensure that trials are rationalised, the process would be restricted to physical evaluation of core operational parameters only.
All these aspects impact the Indian Army’s Procurement process. The LTIPP 2027 would possibly be applicable only up to 2022 and thereafter a new 10 years Integrated Defence Capability Plan (IDCP) would have to be prepared for the next 10 years. Further, the Government has introduced a negative list of 101 items which will not allow imports of these up to end of 2025. This will boost the Atmanirbhar process. These items include missiles, artillery guns, ammunitions, assault rifles, radars, helicopters and transport aircrafts. It is pertinent to note that these items are currently being developed or manufactured indigenously. The items are briefly enumerated below:-
As can be observed, practically all these items on the negative list are developed in India and many of them are on ‘limited series production’. The other equipment is under product improvement after undergoing user trials. Further, products like BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, tanks, helicopters and artillery guns have already being requisitioned for induction into the armed forces. As the Chief of Defence Staff has said, the initial numbers will be from abroad while the remaining would be ‘Made in India’. The armed forces will procure these items from the Indian manufacturer once the same is cleared for induction. Such a regulation will energise our companies and be of great benefit to the defence sector. Items applicable to the Army are listed below:-
• Helicopters. Manufactured by HAL with collaboration with Russia.
• Light Combat Helicopter. Manufactured by HAL. 155 mm Ammunition. Manufactured by Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
• Small Arms and Ammunition. Manufactured by OFB.
• Simulators. Manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited and Private sector industries.
• 155 mm Ultra-Light Howitzer. Manufactured by Mahindra Defence in collaboration with BAE Systems.
• Radars. Manufactured by DRDO and Bharat Electronics Ltd.
• Land Attack Cruise Missiles. Manufactured by DRDO and BrahMos Aerospace Ltd.
• Tanks –. Manufactured by DRDO and Heavy Vehicles Factory of OFB.
• Communication equipment. Manufactured by DRDO and Bharat Electronics.
• Artillery Guns 155 mm ATAGS, K 9 Vajra. Manufactured by DRDO, TATA, L&T and Bharat Forge.
• Anti-Tank Guided Missile. Manufactured by DRDO and VEM technologies.
Measures to Expedite Procurement
The procurement process is likely to pick up speed despite the formulation of a new DAP 2020. For quicker response and effective results a level playing field must be created between the private and the public sector. This would require the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Army to play a fair game to enable the best person is selected. Further timelines are adhered and decisions taken on cases which land up in a single vendor situation. In addition Project Management Units function effectively.
The next aspect pertains to the field of technology. It would be extremely difficult to start from scratch. It would be prudent to form Joint Ventures or co development as has been done by DRDO in the case of BrahMos missile, Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LRSAM) and Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM). It is interesting to note that currently Russia, Israel and to some extent France and the United States are keen to provide technology which is needed for critical areas.
Viewing the requirements of the Indian Army practically all the items can be easily procured provided the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Army work as a unified team which can take decisions speedily by frequent interactions. It is heartening to have the Army Defence Bureau formed which is infusing a whiff of fresh air into Army’s interaction with technology. All cases stated ibid are in the pipeline and vigorous pursuit would lead to positive results. As regards ammunition deficiencies, this is a critical area and inescapable amount must be acquired by direct purchase from the Original Equipment Manufacturer while the technology absorption process is on for the indigenous manufacture by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
The difficult areas are the new technologies pertaining to robotics, nano technology for miniaturisation and direct energy weapons to including multifarious uses of laser and Microwave. These are areas where the DRDO must focus to make a dent by research with assistance from countries willing to share expertise. More often technology is available but the absorption and conversion to a workable model takes time. DRDO must actively involve with the user and the industry to find avenues through critical technologies. Synergising all these agencies will enable us to find innovative answers to these problems.
DAP 2020 will enable the Indian Army to modernise speedily with precision. The indigenisation would be possible by great interaction with the private sector. Further the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will provide better synergy. All this would make the Army improve its combat readiness.
(Major General(Dr.)(Retd.) P K Chakravorty, VSM is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a Former Additional Director General Artillery. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at email@example.com)