Revolution In Military Affairs: Indian Army In Sync With Digital Reality

New Delhi | Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
A Rs 3,000-crore modernisation plan, approved by the defence ministry in 2003, seeks to increase the infantry mans firepower at least tenfold with about 250 Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile launchers, light bullet-proof vehicles, 4,000 new carbines, 200-plus battlefield surveillance radars, 4.5 lakh rounds of multi-purpose ammunition and more.

The newly acquired capabilities and weapons have changed the thinking of the Indian Armys brass. They now feel that the revolution in military affairs (RMA) can be theirs, too. The Pentagon defines RMA as a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organisational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.

This now means that there will be much more than merely weapon improvement. It means fighting in a futuristic digital technology spectrum with laser-guided munitions, satellite surveillance, and a lot more 21st-century gadgetry.

The RMA knock has woken the Army up to a new realisation: they still do not have a war doctrine. The Army training command was given the charge of drafting a doctrine half a decade ago. Points out Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, director of the Centre for Air Power Studies, if there is a single lesson of warfare for the past 100 years, it is that land forces cannot achieve their military, strategic, operational and tactical tasks effectively without synergy between land and air operations.

The infantryman today is gradually acquiring the kind of firepower and precision that was once with the artillery and the armour. As many senior army officers believe, it is this firepower, coupled with high-tech sensors, surveillance equipment and night-fighting capability, that has made infiltration almost impossible.

Today, the Indian infantryman has become a night-stalker, with about 5,000 hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs), 8,000 night-vision goggles and hundreds of long-range reconnaissance and observation systems (LORROSs) in his hands. He can see deep, and strike, in the dark.

After years of neglect, when shopping meant only big-ticket items like tanks and artillery guns, the infantryman is getting empowered. Field battle equipment, like the Israeli-designed and Bharat Electronics-assembled battlefield surveillance radars, are also effectively used in non-conventional situations like counter-insurgency. It can pick up a walking man from 15 km, a group of men from 18 km and a moving helicopter 25 km away, said a senior army official.

To put it in the Line of Control (LoC) context, this means the infantryman can see the enemys staging posts just as he sees his buddy next to him. In the valley behind him, militant hideouts have also become vulnerable. In the night, the 84-mm Carl Gustaf Mark-2 would fire illuminating ammunition to light up the target area. In that light, Dragunov sniper rifles, multi-grenade launchers, AGS-30 automatic grenade launchers and the 84-mm rocket launchers Mark-3 would start a devastating fire on the built-up hideouts.

The chief of Army Staff Gen NC Vij says, total firepower has increased multi-fold in the last few years. And, the most notable sign of modernisation has been the elimination of the infantrymans night-blindness, he said.

A good number of these lethal toys have been bought off the shelf from Russia, Israel, France, South Africa, Sweden, Germany and the US. Technology is happening in India too. For instance, Bharat Electronics is now making hand-held thermal imagers, while the Tata-owned Nelco is making unattended ground sensors.

Short-range battlefield surveillance radars were imported from Israel; now Bharat Electronics plans to make them with homegrown DRDO technology. Also, the Army is busy upgrading not only the infantry but also other combat (armour and artillery) and support arms (signals, engineers, etc.), which hold the key to victory in a conventional land battle. Total firepower has increased multi-fold in the last few years, said Gen. Vij.

The 155-mm Bofors guns and Grad multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL), stole the show in the Kargil war, but the Army is already thinking of the next generation of these weapons. So the Russian offer of Smerch MBRL, which can pulverise Skardu in Pakistan from the Indian side of the LoC, is being considered. There is also a proposal to buy more self-propelled guns.

The contest is between Bofors FH-77 BD SPH and South Africas Denel G-6. Complementing them are Fire Finder radars, already acquired from the US.

The upgraded infantry fighting vehicles with their Konkurs missiles, the T-90s with anti-tank guided missiles, Grad BM-21 multi-barrel rocket launchers (whose one salvo of 40 can plough out a football ground) and the newly-acquired Krasnopol ammunition with passive homing device have increased the Armys firepower as never before. The Army is talking of 90 per cent hit probability with every round it fires.