NEW DELHI: The Army's futuristic programme to transform its infantry soldiers into high-tech, self-contained killing machines is gathering some steam, after a long delay, under the F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) project. Having issued global tenders for new assault rifles, "close-quarter battle'' (CQB) carbines and light-weight ballistic helmets with internal communication gear, the defence ministry is preparing similar RFPs (request for proposals) for light-machine guns, modular bullet-proof jackets, holographic reflex weapon sights, soldier-wearable computers, communication and surveillance equipment. The first phase of F-INSAS itself will cost upwards of Rs 25,000 crore, with the 1.13- million strong Indian Army having 359 infantry battalions, each with 800-1,000 soldiers. The programme, which will be implemented in phases, is spread over the 12th, 13th and 14th five-year plans (2012-27), say sources. Somewhat similar to US Army's "land warrior" and "objective force warrior" programmes, F-INSAS is aimed at converting foot-soldiers into fully-networked, all-terrain weapon platforms by enhancing their "lethality, survivability, mobility, sustainability and situational awareness". F-INSAS is divided into five sub-systems - modular weapons; body armour and individual equipment; weapon sights and hand-held target acquisition devices; communication equipment to make soldiers capable of transmitting and receiving complex voice, data and video systems; and portable computers in the shape of "wrist displays" for soldiers and "planning boards" for commanders. Take the weapon systems, which include CQB carbines, assault rifles and light machine guns equipped with third-generation night-vision devices, laser designators, detachable under-barrel grenade launchers and the like. The Army is examining the bids submitted by armament majors to acquire around 44,000 CQB carbines off-the-shelf for over Rs 4,500 crore. This will be followed by the indigenous manufacture of a large number of similar modular carbines by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) under transfer of technology. Then, the global tender for direct acquisition of around 66,000 advanced assault rifles was floated in November, which will be followed by licensed manufacture to equip the armed forces as well as the 8-lakh Central paramilitary forces. This mega project for new assault rifles, with interchangeable 5.56mm and 7.62mm barrels and holographic reflex sights to replace the 5.56mm INSAS rifles being used, could alone run over Rs 20,000 crore. "Soldiers will use the 7.62 x 39mm barrels for counter-insurgency operations since they are more effective for that role. But if deployed for conventional warfare, then they will use the 5.56 x 45mm barrels," said a source. The Army is shopping for tripod-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine guns (HMGs), which can fire high-explosive, incendiary and armour-piercing rounds at a rapid clip, to further boost the high-volume firepower of its infantry battalions.