Indian Army has finally got bullet-proof helmets – after an over two decade wait! A total of 1 lakh 58 thousand bullet proof helmets will be provided to the Indian Army over a span of three years – 7500 of which have already been delivered. As a part of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, Indian company MKU Systems is manufacturing these bullet-proof helmets at its Kanpur facility. The new light-weight bullet-proof helmets will give a definite leg up to soldiers’ protection – especially in light of the persistent tension along the LoC and the standoff with China.
Indian Army has been making do with outdated patkas till now. Patkas not only weight extra (around 2.5 kg), but also provide limited protection, especially at short ranges. The weight of the hi-tech helmets varies from 1.2 kg to 1.4 kg depending on the size. “These provide all round protection to the head unlike the patkas which do not protect the top and back of the head. These helmets give protection against fragments and 9mm ammunition,” MKU Systems told FE Online. According to MKU, the helmets have been “specially designed for the Indian Army to address their concerns regarding protection for the soldier”. “These are modern, world class, light weight helmets that are being used by the armies globally,” MKU Systems said.
Neeraj Gupta, Managing Director at MKU says that the Rs 180 crore order is “extremely important”. “Our endeavor has always been to provide the best protection equipment to the soldiers. We feel privileged and proud that we have been chosen by the government,” he said.
“We hope to deliver on the order of 1 lakh 58 thousand bullet-proof helmets within three years,” Rajesh Gupta, Senior Sales Manager at MKU Systems told FE Online. MKU Systems exports a variety of protection gear, but this is its first order for the Indian Army. “These helmets that we are making for the Indian Army are the best in their class and easily comparable to the best of international standards,” Gupta said.
Defence experts are of the view that the government is focusing on counter insurgency operations and the provision of bullet-proof helmets is a step in the right direction. Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) tells FE Online, “Bullet-proof helmets are a definite improvement especially given the fact that currently there is a lot of focus on counter-insurgency operations. Yet another thing that should get immediate attention is the need for light weight bullet-proof jackets,” Kanwal says.
Agrees Colonel (retd) KV Kuber, who adds that the Indian Army needs all terrain vehicles, drones and better rifles as well. “Bullet-proof helmets are just the beginning, we need light-wight advanced bullet-proof jackets. The ones that are in use right now are outdated and more than that so heavy that they are cumbersome to wear. This is specially true for Jammu and Kashmir, where operations involve chasing terrorists,” Kuber tells FE Online. “Also, with indigenisation and Make in India in focus, the idea should be to Make in India, using indigenous components,” he adds.
Recently, the Narendra Modi government empowered the Indian Army directly to procure “critical weapons systems and military platforms”. This move was aimed at ensuring that the Indian Army maintains its combat readiness for short duration “intense wars”. The step means that now, the Vice chief of Indian Army has the financial power to procure spares and ammunition for as many as 10 types of weapons systems and equipment. Meanwhile, Indian Army is also carrying out extensive trials of its new M777 Howitzer guns – yet another acquisition that has been delayed for decades.
The soldier at the border needs the best of equipment and protection – there’s no two ways about it. The order for bullet-proof helmets is the first step – more needs to be done to ensure that precious lives are not lost for lack of better protection and defence preparedness.