1/2010SP’S LAND FORCES
ill equipped to handle the burgeoningdefence expenditure. Several eminentanalysts have recommended that qualita-tive upgradation should be accompaniedby quantitative downsizing of personnelstrength of the army to generate fundsfor modernisation. However, given itsresponsibilities for border managementand the manpower-intensive sub-conven-tional operations that the army is involvedin—this is easier said than done.Future conventional conflict on theIndian sub-continent will in all probabil-ity result from the ongoing low-intensitylimited war on the Line of Control (LoC)with Pakistan or the unresolved territo-rial and boundary dispute with Chinaand will be predominantly a land conflict.The Indian Army lacks a potent firepowerpunch, especially in the mountain sec-tor. Precision-guided munitions (PGMs)have still to enter service in numbers largeenough to make a real difference. Thereconnaissance, surveillance and targetacquisition (RSTA) assets necessary forthe optimum exploitation of even theexisting firepower assets are grossly inad-equate. Automated command and controland decision support systems have beenon the drawing boards for several decadesbut are yet to mature.According to former Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General (Retd)Noble Thamburaj, the modernisationfocus of the 11th Defence Plan is on“precision fire power, air defence, avia-tion, Future Infantry Soldier as a System,infrastructure development, networkcentricity and achieving battlefield trans-parency through improved surveillance,night vision and target acquisition...Considering the receding span of techno-logical cycle, (the) right balance has to bemaintained between state-of-art, currentand obsolescent technologies”.
Main Battle Tanks: T-90Sreplaces Arjun
On Army Day 2010, Chief of the ArmyStaff General Deepak Kapoor admittedthat a large number of India’s battletanks are “night blind”. The indigenouslydesigned Arjun main battle tank (MBT)has been in the pipeline for over twodecades. Though the tank has manygood features, it has consistently failed tomeet the army’s General Staff QualitativeRequirements for an MBT and ordershave been placed for only 124 tanks to bemanufactured. The Defence Research andDevelopment Organisation (DRDO) hadbeen repeatedly pressing for comparativetrials of the Arjun with the T-72M1 andthe T-90S. Success in these trials has ledto orders being placed for another 124Arjun MBTs.Since the lack of progress on the ArjunMBT had significantly slowed down thepace of armour modernisation, in 2000,India signed a deal with Russia to acquire310 T-90S tanks and assemble 1,000 inIndia. In 2008, the Ministry of Defence(MoD) decided to acquire another 347T-90S tanks. The first India assembledT-90S (Bhishma) rolled off the produc-tion line on January 8, 2004. Ultimately,according to Brigadier (Retd) ArunSahgal, “The army’s future armour profilecould comprise approximately 1,700 T-90S, 1,800 upgraded T-72M1 and 250 to500 Arjuns.”Almost 1,800 T-72M1 (Ajeya) tanksare still awaiting modernisation. The lackof a suitable fire control system and nightfighting capability are major handicaps.The upgradation of 500 to 600 of thesehas now commenced “at the rate of 200tanks per year”. The upgrade packageincludes a new fire control system com-prising a TISAS (thermal imaging standalone systems) night sight and TIFCS(tank integrated fire control system), newTADIRAN radios, a gyro-based naviga-tion system and a Laser warning system.The ability to fire on the move is beingimproved with a better stabilisation sys-tem. An add-on ERA (explosive reactivearmour) package will enhance protec-tion against APFSDS and HEAT rounds.Eventually, the T-90S 1,000 hp powerpack, de-rated to 850 hp, will be retro-fit-ted. The problem of defective indigenousammunition is still to be resolved.The DRDO has commenced concep-tual stage development of Future Mainbattle Tank and Future infantry Combatvehicle for the 2020-25 time frame. T-90SRussian tanks have provided new teethto India’s strike formations in the plainsand corrected the imbalance that hadresulted from Pakistan’s acquisition of T-80 UD from Ukraine and the Al Khalidtanks jointly designed with China. Hence,armour modernisation is proceedingapace but cannot yet be classified as asuccess story.
In a future conventional war that willbe fought under the nuclear shadow,manoeuvre will be extremely limited.This restriction will lead to much greateremphasis being placed on firepowerto achieve the laid down military aim.Hence, it is imperative that artillery mod-ernisation is undertaken with alacrity soas to generate firepower asymmetries onthe future battlefield. After a long spell of keeping the powder dry, action on mod-ernisation of the Indian artillery is liven-ing up once again. Beginning in January2008, the MoD issued three global tendersfor 155mm guns and howitzers for themountains, the plains and self-propelledguns for the deserts. Summer and wintertrials were expected to be held over thenext one year and it was anticipated thatcontracts would be awarded as early asin the first half of 2010. However, noneof the manufacturers have as yet beeninvited for trials.It is a well-established fact that potentartillery firepower had turned the tideand eventually paved the way for victoryduring the Kargil conflict. Despite the les-sons learnt in Kargil, modernisation of the artillery has continued to lag behind.The last major acquisition of towed gun-howitzers was that of about 400 piecesof 39-calibre 155mm FH-77B howitzerswith a range of 30 km from Bofors of Sweden in the mid-1980s. This gun hadproved its mettle in the Kargil conflict.After two decades of neglect during whichthe 100mm and 122mm field guns of Russian origin and the indigenously devel-oped and manufactured 75/24 IndianMountain Gun joined the long list of equipment bordering on obsolescence butstill in service with the army, tenders werefloated and trials were held for a 52-cali-bre 155mm gun to replace all field andmedium guns. Just when a contract for 120 trackedand 180 wheeled self-propelled (SP)155mm guns was about to be concludedafter years of protracted trials, SouthAfrican arms manufacturer Denel, aleading contender for the contract, wasalleged to have been involved in a cor-ruption scam in an earlier deal for anti-material rifles (AMRs). The other twohowitzers in contention, from Soltam of Israel and BAE (Bofors) of Sweden report-edly did not meet the laid down criteriaand Army HQ recommended fresh trials,setting the programme back at least threeto four years. Another bone of conten-tion was that the howitzers that had beenoffered were technology demonstrationmodels and not guns that were in actualservice with the home country armies.The probability of the next conven-tional war breaking out in the mountainsis far higher than that of a war in theplains. With this in view, the artilleryrecently conceptualised a requirement fora lightweight towed howitzer of 155mmcalibre for employment in the mountains.Neither the present Bofors howitzer norits 52-calibre replacement will be capableof effective operations in the mountains.A lightweight 39 or 45-calibre 155mmhowitzer weighing less than 5,000 kg,with a light but adequately powered primemover, is ideal for the mountains. Thegun-train should be capable of negotiat-ing sharp road bends without the need tounhook the gun from the prime mover. Itis now learnt that India would be acquir-ing 145x155 mm M777 light weightHowitzer from the US (BAE System) in adirect government to government transac-tion through the Foreign Militory Sales(FMS) route.145 pieces of ultra-light 39-calibre155mm towed howitzers will be used bythe Indian Army’s mountain formations.Presumably, these will also be employedby the army’s rapid reaction divisions—asand when these are raised—as these how-itzers will be easy to transport by air. 145howitzers will be adequate to equip sevenmedium Artillery regiments and will costapproximately Rs 3,000 crore.The MoD has also floated a global ten-der for the purchase of 400, 155mm, 52calibre towed Artillery guns for the Army,to be followed by indigenous manufactureof another 1,100 howitzers, in a projectworth a whopping Rs 8,000 crore. TheRFP was issued to eight prospective bid-ders including BAE, General Dynamics,Nexter (France), Rhinemetall (Germany)
The Indian Army lacksa potent firepowerpunch, especially inthe mountain sector.Precision-guidedmunitions have still toenter service in numberslarge enough to make areal difference
Nishant UAVSkyshieldIndian Infantry soldiers during the Army Day parade