INDIAN ARMY MODERNISATION NEED MAJOR PUSH By Brig (Retd) Gurmeet Kanwal New Delhi. Military strength is a pre-requisite for peace and stability on the Indian Sub-continent. Indiaâ€™s socio-economic development, and that of its neighbours, can continue unhindered only in a secure environment. No nation can afford to be complacent about and to take unmanageable risks with its security. In the rapidly changing geo-strategic environment, comprehensive national strength hinges around modern armed forces that strive constantly to keep pace with the ongoing technological revolution. The changing nature of warfare, the existential threat from Indiaâ€™s nuclear-armed military adversaries and new threats like terrorism spawned by radical extremism, require a quantum jump in the Indian Armyâ€™s operational capabilities. Despite all the tensions confronting it, India has maintained its coherence and its GDP is now growing at an annual rate in excess of eight per cent, except for the dip suffered during the financial crisis. Growth at such a rapid rate would not have been possible but for the sustained vigilance maintained by the Indian armed forces and their many sacrifices in the service of the nation over the last six decades. The Indian Army has fulfilled its multifarious roles with admirable valour and in a spirit of sacrifice and selfless devotion to duty. Modernisation Dilemma With personnel strength of approximately 1.1 million soldiers, the Indian Army has performed remarkably well to keep the nation together through thick and thin for over six decades since independence. It is a first-rate a Army with large-scale operational commitments on border management and in counter-insurgency operations. However, many of the Armyâ€™s weapons and equipment are obsolescent and need to be modernised. In order to successfully defeat future threats and challenges, the Army has to modernise its weapons and equipment and upgrade its combat potential by an order of magnitude. The shape and size of the Indian Armyâ€™s force structure a few decades hence merits detailed deliberation and quick decisions as capabilities take several decades to create, test and experiment with till they finally mature. It has been well said that there are no prizes for the runners up in war. War is a gruesome affair and, as Napoleon put it so eloquently about two centuries ago, â€œGod is on the side of the battalions with the bigger cannon.â€ To afford the â€œbigger cannonâ€ there is a need to make adequate budgetary provisions. The present defence budget, which is pegged at less than 2.0 per cent of Indiaâ€™s GDP, is grossly inadequate to support genuine modernisation as against the replacement of obsolete equipment. Lt Gen J P Singh, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, said in a recent interview with the CLAWS Journal, â€œThe critical capabilities that are being enhanced to meet challenges across the spectrum, include battlefield transparency, battlefield management systems, night-fighting capability, enhanced firepower, including terminally guided munitions, integrated manoeuvre capability to include self-propelled artillery, quick reaction surface-to-air missiles, the latest assault engineer equipment, tactical control systems, integral combat aviation support and network centricity.â€ While the army has drawn up elaborate plans for modernisation and qualitative upgradation of its capabilities, the pace of modernisation has been rather slow due to the lack of adequate funding support. Indiaâ€™s defence budget is pegged at less than 2.0 per cent of the GDP at present. Notably, according to Defence Minister A K Antony, "New procurements have commencedâ€¦ but we are still lagging by 15 years.â€ Unless immediate measures are taken to speed up the pace of modernisation, the present quantitative military gap with China will soon become a qualitative gap as well. Also, the slender conventional edge that the Indian Army enjoys over the Pakistan army will be eroded further as Pakistan is spending considerably large sums of money on its military modernisation under the garb of fighting radical extremism. Armour Modernisation Pakistan has acquired 320 T-80 UD tanks and is on course to add Al Khalid tanks that it has co-developed with China to its armour fleet. The Indian armour fleet is also being modernised gradually. The indigenously developed Arjun MBT has entered serial production to equip two regiments. 310 T-90S MBTs have been imported from Russia. In December 2007, a contract was signed for an additional 347 T-90 tanks to be assembled in India. A programme has been launched to modernise the T-72 M1 Ajeya MBTs that have been the mainstay of the Armyâ€™s Strike Corps and their armoured divisions since the 1980s. The programme will upgrade the night fighting capabilities and fire control system of the tank. Approximately 1,700 T-72 M1s have been manufactured under license at the Heavy Vehicle Factory (HVF), Avadi. The BMP-1 and, to a lesser extent, the BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles, which have been the mainstay of the mechanised infantry battalions for long, are now ageing and replacements need to be found soon. The replacement vehicles must be capable of being successfully employed for internals security duties and counter-insurgency operations in addition to their primary role in conventional conflict. Artillery and Air Defence: Lagging behind Despite the lessons learnt during the Kargil conflict of 1999, where artillery firepower had paved the way for victory, modernisation of the artillery continues to lag behind. The last major acquisition of towed gun-howitzers was that of about 400 pieces of 39-calibre 155 mm FH-77B howitzers from Bofors of Sweden in the mid-1980s. The artillery needs large numbers of 155mm/ 39-calibre light weight howitzers for the mountains and 155mm/52-calibre long-range howitzers for the plains, as well as for self-propelled guns for the desert terrain. The acquisition plan for these has suffered one setback after another. The artillery also must acquire large quantities of precision guided munitions (PGMs) for more accurate targeting in future battles. A contract for the acquisition of two regiments of the 12-tube, 300 mm Smerch multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRL) system with 90 km range was signed with Russiaâ€™s Rosoboronexport in early-2006. The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile (Mach 2.8 to 3.0), with a precision strike capability, very high kill energy and maximum range of 290 km, was inducted into the army in July 2007. These terrain hugging missiles are virtually immune to counter measures due to their high speed and very low radar cross section. It is also time to now consider the induction of unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) armed with air-to-surface missiles into service for air-to-ground precision attacks. The Corps of Army Air Defence is also faced with problems of obsolescence. The vintage L-70 40 mm AD gun system, the four-barrelled ZSU-23-4 Schilka (SP) AD gun system, the SAM-6 (Kvadrat) and the SAM-8 OSA-AK need to be replaced by more responsive modern AD systems that are capable of defeating current and future threats. The indigenously developed Akash surface-to-air missile has not yet been inducted into service. The short-range and medium-range SAM acquisition programmes are also stagnating. Infantry and Other Combat Arms The modernisation plans of Indiaâ€™s cutting edge infantry battalions, aimed at enhancing their capability for surveillance and target acquisition at night and boosting their firepower for precise retaliation against infiltrating columns and terrorists holed up in built-up areas, are moving forward but at a slow pace. These include the acquisition of shoulder-fired missiles, hand-held battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRs), and hand-held thermal imaging devices (HHTIs) for observation at night. Stand-alone infra-red, seismic and acoustic sensors need to be acquired in large numbers to enable infantrymen to dominate the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan and detect infiltration of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. Similarly, the operational capabilities of army aviation, engineers, signal communications, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) branches need to be substantially enhanced so that the overall combat potential of the army can be improved by an order of magnitude. Modern strategic and tactical level command and control systems need to be acquired on priority basis for better synergies during conventional and sub-conventional conflict. Plans for the acquisition of a Tactical Communications System (TCS) and a Battlefield Management System (BMS) are not making much headway. Despite being the largest user of space, the army does not have a dedicated military satellite to bank on. Other Modernisation Imperatives The army must reduce its deployment timings by upgrading the logistics infrastructure for mobilisation so that it can facilitate the execution of its Cold Start doctrine. A modern intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (the â€˜sensorsâ€™) system is required to reduce the number of troops needed to man the borders. The army needs to enhance its capabilities for carrying offensive operations into the territories of Indiaâ€™s military adversaries so as to deter them from waging war. Firepower assets (the â€˜shootersâ€™) â€“ artillery, missiles, rocket launchers, unmanned combat air vehicles, attack helicopters, ground strike aircraft â€“ must be increased substantially, particularly precision strike capabilities. Command and control systems should be automated and synchronised with the sensors and shooters to exploit the synergies provided by network centric effects based operations. Rapid reaction and air assault capabilities need to be developed to intervene militarily in Indiaâ€™s strategic neighbourhood whenever the national interest so requires. The armyâ€™s internal security, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism capabilities also need to be modernised as most of the emerging challenges will lie in the domain of sub-conventional conflict and operations other than war. The time has come to seriously consider a â€˜third forceâ€™ for internal security duties. Doctrinal concepts, organisations structures and training methodologies must keep pace with technological advancements. The army must train its personnel for certainty and educate them for uncertainty. Re-structuring and modernising the Indian army will require political courage, military astuteness, a non-parochial approach and a singularity of purpose. Only a future-ready army can march into the coming decades with confidence, well prepared to tackle the new challenges looming over the horizon. The Government of India must appoint a bipartisan National Military Commission to go into the whole gamut of re-structuring and modernisation. The commission should comprise eminent political leaders, armed forces veterans, civilian administrators, diplomats and scholars who are capable of dispassionate reasoning and are familiar with the current military discourse. It should be given no more than six months to complete its work so that the re-structuring exercise can begin early and be completed by 2020-25. Finally, the Indian Army of the future must be light, lethal and wired; ready to fight and win Indiaâ€™s future wars jointly with the Navy and the Air Force over the full spectrum of conflict, from sub-conventional conflict and operations other than war to all out conventional war; so as to ensure regional stability and internal security. The nation must get a modern force that can fight and win Indiaâ€™s future battles with the least number of casualties and minimum collateral damage through surgical strikes. It should be a force capable of carrying the battle into enemy territory. It is the time the bogey of the Panipat Syndrome is laid to rest. Only then will the nation get a peaceful environment for socio-economic development. The aim should be to ensure peace through conventional deterrence so that India can achieve all round prosperity and join the ranks of the worldâ€™s developed nations.