Defence ProAc met with the Director General of Mechanised Forces Lt Gen AB Shivane AVSM, VSM, to get his views on the latest development on modernisation in Mechanised Forces. He spoke candidly on the variety of relevant issues. Here are some excerpts—
Defence ProAc (DPA): Mechanised Force's assets are one of the most important segments of Indian Army's offensive capability. In keeping with the evolving nature of war fighting, what are the areas of focus for the Mechanised Forces?
Director General Mechanised Forces (DGMF): My vision is to “Transform the Mechanised Forces into a Ready, Relevant, Technologically enabled and versatile force of military decision, empowered by capable leadership for prosecuting decisive operation at short notice, based on a multi front, multi spectrum orientation.
The utility of a force is based on its deployability, employability and capability. Thus my focus areas to ensure highest levels of operational readiness are:-
- Capability Development - Force revitalization and modernization through comprehensive and pragmatic capital acquisition for technological superiority and sovereignty, long term fleet management and sustenance, fleet upgradation to address obsolescence and addressal of voids/hollowness.
- Force Structure - Ensure a right sized and balanced Mechanised Forces structure to meet future operational requirements. This would require an optimum mixture of medium and light platform based on tracks/wheels in keeping with the required deployability and employability operational dynamics.
- Training - 'Train to fight and fight to win' based on integrated and contemporary training philosophy in hue with our operational environment, duly supported by modern and theaterised training infrastructure.
- HRD - To train Mechanised Forces Yodhas as to be a Scholar Yodha reflective of 5C's - Character, Competence, Courage, Commitment and Compassion. Mechanised Forces must be a family of proud, respected and cohesive top rate professional leaders of the Indian Army.
Our vision and focus areas must ensure that the Mechanised Forces bring into effect their superior combat potential to achieve decisive victory at least cost and in minimum time. Thus, they would be reflective of being an instrument of deterrence in peace and force of decision in war.
DPA: What initiatives are being taken to adapt the Mechanised Forces for future conflicts?
DGMF: In tune with the Indian Army (IA) threat cum capability approach Mechanised Forces need to retain the combat edge in the future conflict spectrum and scenarios. The initiatives in place are focused on deterrence capability based on Medium Main Battle Tank (MMBT) and Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs) while technology enabled lighter and versatile profile Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) and attack helicopters need to be inducted for enhanced deployability and employability in certain restricted terrain conditions and specialist operational requirements.
In sync with our visualization of the requirements in future conflicts, a holistic approach to include all three facets of war-fighting viz. organizational effectiveness, human resource and equipment enablement, has been articulated for implementation. A number of initiatives to modernize the tanks & Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) fleet are in the pipeline. Salient aspects of capability augmentation involve next gen equipment with contemporary technology like Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV), revolutionary design and development like the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), technological upgrades like the Battlefield Management System (BMS), high power engines, more lethal ammunition, firing capability, Fire Control System and Active Protection Systems.
DPA: How relevant would the Mechanised Forces be in the 4GW/conventional warfare?
DGMF: Tanks world over have been successfully employed in hybrid wars and 4GW environments. Mechanised Forces have the distinct advantage of identifying the threat, surviving the hit, closing in with the threat to contain it and subsequently neutralize the threat with minimum collateral damage. Thus, world over tanks and Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICVs) along with their integral Aerial Maneuver Component of attack helicopters are the logical choice for leading the advance to contact in such an environment.
The Indian Mechanised Forces are adequately trained and suitably equipped for both conventional and sub conventional warfare and continue to evolve modern concepts to fight both in 4GW and conventional wars. Suffice to mention that the Mechanised Forces are aptly geared up to respond adequately in case called upon in a Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorism (CI/CT) scenario. The continued relevance and domination of “Boots and Tracks” on ground over the entire spectrum of conflict cannot be disputed. Further, both enablement of the soldier and equipment to function in the both conventional and unconventional wars is a continuous and ongoing process.
DPA: Considering the large fleet of Tank and ICVs, how is fleet reliability, mission effectiveness and battle readiness ensured?
DGMF: Ensuring operational readiness of the Tank and Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) fleet is a challenge. Towards ensuring high state of equipment readiness at all times holistic policies with well defined roles of various stakeholders are in place. Timely and regular modernization and sustenance initiatives are periodically undertaken to ensure both operational effectiveness and preparedness. Further adequate checks and balance are in place to safeguard and minimize slippages. Prudent to mention, that in the Mechanised Forces we pride ourselves with the rich ethos of continuous and relentless focus towards equipment maintenance and upkeep.
DPA: How is Mechanised Force exploiting the technology for ensuring platforms potency and capability development?
DGMF: Mechanised Force effectiveness in a conflict largely depends on leveraging technology to retain an edge over the adversary. Our Mechanised Forces are continuously looking at RMA technology to upgrade the weapons platform, important initiatives towards capability development which includes Thermal Imagers Sight, Missiles etc. to improve potency in the battlefield. Further the adoption of Active protection systems, Auto Target Tracker, Battlefield Management Systems, improved situational awareness systems etc are aimed at improving the potency in the battlefield.
In particular the mid life platform upgrades for T-90 Tanks, modernization of T-72 Tanks with state of the art technology, comprehensive upgrade of ICV BMP2, induction of FRCV, FICV, Wheeled Recce Vehicles etc. are planned. Further the operational requirement of induction of futuristic light tanks and wheeled ICVs are being analysed. Thus the focus is to provide enhanced lethality, agility, network centricity and survivability by technological enablement.
DPA: How the Mechanised Force contributing to “Make in India” initiative of the Government?
DGMF: The Mechanised Forces are amongst the pioneer in the Indian Army (IA) to promote the “Make in India” initiative. Both the FICV and FRCV projects (and their numerous variants) are being progressed under “Make in India” initiatives. In addition plans to collaborate with the Private industry for R&D and manufacture in India have also been set in motion by various other equipment Viz Wheeled Armoured Platforms, Mine Ploughs etc. Technology sovereignty and indigenization under 'Make in India' will pave the course of future force modernization and force expansion of the Mechanised forces.
DPA: given the diversity of terrain along the Western and Northern border coupled with the diversity of conflict spectrum, is there a need for variants of tanks to fulfill the diverse/conflict operational requirement rather than only a universal MBT?
DGMF: Yes, 10-12 variants of “A” vehicle are planned in the FICV and FRCV projects each. These would cater to varied terrain and operational environment including HAA, mountains etc. in the Indian-context. Important variants which are planned are CBRN recce vehicles, BLTs, Trawls, Mortar Carriers, Missile Platforms, Ambulances, Arty & AAD platforms, ARV and Light tank requirement. In addition these variants can also be effectively utilized in the Out of Area Contingency as and when required.
DPA: Are the aspirations of Mechanised Forces w.r.t equipment and Force structuring being adequately addressed to keep them future ready and relevant?
DGMF: Equipping of the Mechanised Forces has been planned duly factoring the entire spectrum of conflict in the future. Due diligence is periodically done on the likely threat scenarios, technological advancements and the capability requirements in synergy with the emerging world order. Thus it is always ensured that Mechanised Forces are future ready and relevant at all times.