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INFANTRY MODERNISATION: WHEN IT WILL TAKE OFF?

Infantry soldiers are the first line of protection; therefore, they need to be equipping with best weapons and arms. Presently, Infantry is still struggling with the small arms shortage and most of its inventory is outdated. Moreover, half hearted efforts have failed to equip them with adequate and latest technology equipment. Therefore, there is a need to encourage public and private to work in partnership with the aim to fulfill the requirement.

The technological advances with developments of better material, technology such as improved future weapons, case less ammunition and precision bursting munitions, integration of night vision devices have effectively enhanced Small Arms capabilities. These facilitate the foot soldier to execute the mission to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver. Infantry role is to close in with and destroy the enemy and is the final arbiter of battle, despite above its weapons and equipment have seldom received the attention it deserves. Weapons with a higher kill probability are preferred in anti-terrorist operations for combat infantrymen who are directly in contact with the enemy.

Despite the current prolific increase in the availability of lightweight personal small arms world over, Indian defence services are still struggling with the World War -II vintage inventory. Indian Military Small Arms (SA) inventory is mostly of foreign design, in the absence of own design/development capability with the exception of 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm Rifles. The 5.56 mm Rifle a DRDO design and produced by OFB and in service in late 1990. The inability of the Indian government to provide its soldiers with their most basic fighting weapons is a severe indictment of how broken the defence planning and procurement system is.

Futuristic Infantry Soldier-As-A-System (F-INSAS)

Futuristic Infantry Soldier-As-A-System (F-INSAS) was conceived as a Indian Army (IA) program to enhance lethality, survivability, mobility, sustainability and situational awareness for future soldiers in the digitized battlefield yet to start.

The $5 Billion worth was designed to equip Indian infantry soldiers with most modern weaponry and equipment, including an advanced lightweight rifle, GPS receiver, helmet-mounted night-vision devices and handheld computers.

The army has now split the F-INSAS initiative into two distinct parts  the acquisition of personal weapons and separately, a digitisation project termed the “Battlefield Management System” that is being pursued as a “Make” project in India. Unfortunately none of the part has taken off. In this article we deliberate mainly on the personal weapons procurement.

 

 Rifle

The Indian Army is using INSAS, or Indian Small Arms System rifles, which were inducted around 1988. Earlier, the Army had floated tenders for the supply of multi-caliber assault rifles to replace its existing INSAS.

The GSQRs (General Staff Qualitative Requirements) for the new assault rifles, with an effective range of 500-metre, and approval is being sought under the `Buy & Make (Indian)'.

The procurement of assault rifles has witnessed significant delays due to a variety of reasons including the Army's failure to finalise the specifications for it. DAC had accorded AoN for procurement of Assault Rifles under 'Buy& Make' category with ToT to OFB in 2009. The Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued for procurement of dual calibre Assault Rifle in November, 2011. However, as the equipment fielded for trials did not fulfil General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQRs), the RFP was retracted in June, 2015. The Army has now finalized the QR for a new 7.62 mm assault rifle and the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), is likely to approve the procurement soon. The Army needs around 7 lakh 7.62x51 mm assault guns to replace its INSAS rifles. In June 2017, the Army had rejected an assault rifle built by the state-run Rifle Factory, Ishapore, after the guns failed the firing tests. Some of the recent half baked attempt made in the recent past for Rifle procurement are as under:-

Issue Date Detail Response Date Issued By Remarks
Jan 2011 Multi Caliber Assault Rifles180000 Jul-11 IA Withdrawn in July 2015.
2014 Underwater Assault Rifles 2014 IA No RFP Issued
22 Oct 2014 Assault Rifles, Quantity 32,000.  02 Jan 2015 IAF --
26 Sep 16 7.62mm Assault Rifle  TBD 7 Nov 2016 IA No RFP Issued
07 Dec 2016 8.3mm Sniper Rifle 5000 Jun 2017 IA           No RFP Issued
Mar 2017 Light weight Anti-Material Rifle TBD 01 Mar 2018  IA No RFP Issued
06 Apr 2017 Expression of Interest for 7.62x39mm Assault Rifle --- IA  RFI
4 May 2017 Rifle 7.62mm with sights and accessories and 200 UBGL for Rifle 7.62mm, approximate Qty. 600 for IAF along with its associated equipment from Indian and Foreign vendors. 8 June 2017 IAF --
20 May 2017 Assault Rifles 7.62 x 39 mm, Qty 7150, with Accessories, CRPF 27 June 2017 CRPF RFP
10 July 2017 Corner Shot Weapon System for IA 15 July 2017 IA RFI
28 July 2017 Assault Rifles (7.62 X 39 MM), Qty-14659 Nos (Fixed Butt, Qty-10994 Nos and Folded Butt, Qty-3665 Nos)  26 Sep 2017 BSF RFP
16 Aug 2017 Corner Shot Weapon System, Qty 08 nos. for IA 5 Sep 2017 IA RFP

Indigenous Effects

India's DRDO build EXCALIBUR Gun was derived from the famous INSAS weapon systems, ergonomically designed with folding butt and can fire 20-30 rounds magazines. It is also fitted with picatinny rails for mounting of opto-electronic devices. The gun was rejected by Army as it did not meet the required standards.

Indian Army also rejected another indigenous weapon built by the Ishapore Rifle Factory after it failed firing tests. The AK-47 based rifle, called the Trichy Assault Rifle, have been tested and did not meet the requirement.

The OFB was directed to develop and produce a prototype for Army's requirement. OFB is in the process of development of Small Arms and issued expression of interest as under:-

 

MCIWS

In December 2012, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced that it was testing a multi-calibre rifle. The prototype rifle named Multi Caliber Individual Weapon System (MCIWS) was unveiled in 2014 by Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE).

The MCIWS is capable of being fitted with a barrel which can fire 5.56×45mm, 6.8×43mm or 7.62×39mm ammunition. The gun is made up of high grade aluminum alloy. The modular design of MCIWS helps the soldier to strip and assemble the gun much more easily by removing a pin. The rivet-less design helps it to withstand stress in combat environment. The ARDE 40 mm under barrel grenade launcher can be attached to it. It has some ambidextrous features make which makes it comparable to other modern assault rifles.

Carbine

 The procurement of 5.56 x 45mm Close Quarter Battle (CQB) carbines, was initiated in 2006, and was scrapped last year being a single vendor case, as only Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) being selected after confirmatory trials. In June this year, the Army had kick-started the initial process to procure around 44,600 carbines, nearly eight months after a tender for it was retracted, also due to single-vendor situation. Around half a dozen firms including a few global arms manufacturers have responded to the RFI.

Issue Date Detail Response Date Issued By Remarks
22 Sep 2014 Sub Machine Carbine, Qty- 1500-1900 (RFI) 21 Oct 2014 IAF No RFP Issued
4 May 2017 Sub Machine Gun, approximate Qty 1800 for IAF along with its associated equipment from Indian and Foreign vendors. 8 July 2017 IAF RFI
16 Aug 2016 Carbine (SMG) 9mm with access. spares, Qty. - 3123 Nos. ITBP (RFP) 20 Oct 2016 ITBP TBD
09 Jun 2017 Close Quarter Battle (CQB) Carbine for Indian Army (RFI) 31 Jul 2017 IA ---
Jun-17 5.56mm Carbine 200,000 15-Jul-17 IA No RFP Issued
4 Oct 2017 Addendum to Supplementary RFI for CQB Carbine, Qty: approx 83,000 Carbines for Indian Army (IA) 25 Oct 2017 IA RFI

Light Machine Guns (LMG)

The story of the 7.62 x 51mm caliber light machine guns is similar, with the Army back to square one after a long-winded procurement process. The defence ministry in August "retracted" the tender or RFP because only IWI was left in the fray after protracted field trials from December 2015 to February 2017.

A fresh RFI to procure the LMGs is likely to be issued shortly. The plan is to initially procure around 10,000 LMGs.

Infantry Modrenisation and Make

The oft repeated infantry modernisation plan to bolster the overall capability of the foot soldiers does not seem to be taking off for various reasons. It is understood that specifications for these basic weapons have now been tweaked to ensure that the previous problems are not reoccur.

Infantry is the largest Arms with about 450 battalions including the Rashtriya Rifles units with over 5 Lakhs persons on roll and each battalion authorized about 440 Rifles, 220 Carbine, 36Light-Machine Guns, 10 sniper rifles, 13 grenade-launchers &109 Pistol. In addition  about 2 million strong, Paramilitary Forces and State Police forces require Small Arms in hand to the tune of 2 Million of different variants. The immediate procurement plans to acquire around 7 lakh Rifles, 44,600 Carbines, 44,000 Light Machine Guns (LMGs) for infantry modernisation cost of nearly Rs 40,000 crore to replace its ageing and obsolete weapons. The requirements are not only from Army, but the paramilitary forces, especially CRPF, BSF and NSG requires small arms to not only safeguard the borders but to safeguards the infrastructure.

With strained procurement budget Army is considering aoptimized effective solutions with two different weapons i.e, to equip about 250000 infantry soldiers with a world-class assault rifle costing about Rs 200000/- per piece from the international market, the indigenous rifle INSAS IC or Ghatak, costing around Rs 50000/- for approximately 550000 troops.

The requirement for creating technical and production capability need no emphasis. In the absence of indigenous design the induction plans envisages purchase of some quantity of weapons from OEM and simultaneous establishing indigenous production with technology transfer. Now the focus is on “Make in India” initiatives, where private and public sector is allowed to form joint venture with foreign OEM to manufacture them in India. There is a opportunity for private sector and small & medium sector to contributor. The above issues can be overcome only by way of active participation of all the sectors jointly, with the aim to fulfill the requirement and not the competition amongst them. The technology involved in manufacturing of small arms is neither critical nor a rocket science, however, the Government should  emphasize and promote public-private partnership which would not only create the much needed defence industrial base but also generate economic spin-offs.

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