Indian Army: Reminiscences of a Soldier

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  1. ghost

    ghost Senior Member Senior Member

    Dec 16, 2013
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    in the dark
    Indian Army: Reminiscences of a Soldier

    By Col Danvir Singh

    No matter how hi-tech the modern battlefield gets. No matter how powerful the Drones and the Robots become. The mission of the Infantry will continue to close-in and destroy the enemy, through close quarters violent combat in any war operation. This old Infantry saying will never be outdated, “When it was victory, the Cavalier claimed it outright, the Gunner boasted of his calibre but the Infantryman stood silent with victory at his feet.”

    I had an implausible career spanning of over twenty years as a hard core Infantry soldier. I commanded 9 SIKH LI, the same battalion that I was commissioned into. Like most of the Infantrymen, I hold a distinction of serving in almost all types of terrain that India has to offer. My operational career include tenures at the world’s highest battlefield, the Siachen Glacier, Eastern Ladakh opposite the Chinese on the Line of Actual control (LAC), two active Line-of-Control (LoC) tenures against the Pakistanis; one at Tangdar in Kupwara district and another at Mendhar in Poonch district. My soldiering skills were honed in the years 1998 to 2000. It was a battle of nerves playing the deadly cat and mouse game day in and day out with the Laskar-e-Toiba and the Hizbul Mujahedeen in the Kashmir valley.

    During the command of my battalion, my unit pioneered the conversion of the 91 Infantry Brigade to an amphibious Brigade. We showcased India’s new offensive amphibious capabilities to the world in 2009 by successfully conducting joint services Exercise “TROPEX” off the Gujarat coast.

    From mid-2009 to early 2011, I commanded a battalion in lower Assam in the North East and fought the pugnacious ULFA insurgents. As a battalion during this period, we participated in a number of exercises on the LAC in the desolate mountains of Arunachal Pradesh. I also had an exposure to the Desert Warfare during my service. In the offensive role, I have participated in desert military war games or the exercises as we call them.

    As I scroll through my memory and reminisce about my military past, recollecting various roles and tasks performed in the length and breadth of India’s landmass, there was always a desire for specialised equipment and weapons. As I read about various modern military weapons and equipment available today, I wonder if I had a few of those wonder tools, my task would have been far easier.

    During my military service, on a number of occasions I measured strength with my Pakistani counterparts on the LoC and their trained terrorists in both the troubled parts of the state that is the Jammu region and the Kashmir valley. I will share my experiences on the LoC, in CI, Deserts, Siachen Glacier and the amphibious role highlighting some of the shortcomings and suggesting possible options available in the world market today.

    The Line Of Control

    If I could put it simply, then the tasks an Infantry battalion has to perform on the LoC are of three kinds:

    Maintaining territorial integrity by holding defences on the LoC.
    Counter Infiltration to ensure sanctity of the LoC; ahead of the defences between the gaps and behind own defences.
    Counter Insurgency and counter terrorism in the rear areas.

    On the LoC, there exists a state of ‘No War, No Peace’ always. Effective and precision firepower with integrated 24×7 all-weather surveillance holds the key to success in any challenge on the LoC. While performing various tasks an Infantry soldier would rely on special capabilities of different types of weapons and equipment under different conditions to beat the opponent. For example, the importance of company support and battalion support weapons is very high in the domination of LoC. In counter infiltration tasks, the night visions and the Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTI) played a vital role. In counter insurgency tasks, the soldier’s personal weapon, light machine gun, hand grenades, sniper rifle and rocket launchers – all played an important role.

    While carrying out the LoC domination, I found the Gun Machine 7.62mm (MAG) 2A1, the most versatile weapon that is effectively and extensively used. We have used it effectively against the Pakistani patrols, their administrative links and forward defended posts. During our tenure at Tangdar, we once used these machine guns effectively in ambushing a Pakistani light military vehicle on the Nausheri – Jura road killing a few enemy khaki soldiers. We ambushed this vehicle across the Neelum River opposite our Tithwal post. This ambush was in retaliation to the enemy’s raid on our post in the Keran Sector.

    This machine gun is light weight (11 Kg), its ruggedness, easy handling, high reliability, low maintenance, having a rate of fire adjustable between 600 to 1,000 rounds per minute, engaging targets up to 1,800 metres – are what makes it the most preferred company support weapon. Though this weapon has proved very effective against the light skinned vehicles and personals, it was not so effective due to limited penetration in inflicting damage to an enemy concealed in a bunker.

    On the LoC, generally an Infantry battalion is issued with some special weapons categorised as sector stores. We had M2 .50 Calibre Browning Heavy Machine Guns (HMG) and 14.5 KPVT Heavy Machine Guns as sector stores. These weapons looked impressive and intimidating. They were very bulky, heavy and definitely not at all Infantry friendly in terms of man-portability.

    The M2 .50 HMG weighed 58Kg with the tripod, it had an impressive 1,200 rounds per minute of rate of fire with an effective range similar to the MMG 2A1. They had very high rate of stoppages largely due to frequent breakages in moving parts. These weapons produced a very large flash this generally attracted accurate retaliatory fire from the enemy’s fixed lines. These HMGs, I found, were not very effective in inflicting any worthwhile damage to the enemy’s bunkers.

    The most effective fire that I found was of the modified Russian 14.5 KPVT Heavy Machine Gun but it had some serious limitations. I remember the great satisfaction that we got when a Pakistani bunker collapsed due to our KPVT fire. It took almost four hours to do so, firing single shots from a temporary location concealed under thick forest cover. This is basically an armament used on the tanks for use against light armoured vehicles at ranges up to 3,000 metres and in anti-aircraft mode up to a height of 2,000 metres.

    We were given these guns mounted on modified RCL mounts. This whole setup weighed almost 100 kg. Its length is 78 inches or 6.5 feet and the heavy weight made this gun a very unwieldy proposition. While under fire, quick movement of the KPVT to an alternate position was literally out of question. It did not fit in the regular bunkers and special emplacements had to be constructed which constrained the soldier to fire on different targets rapidly by changing locations. The enemy could easily suppress a KPVT or an HMG since they gave away very large signatures both by the size of the bunker that housed them and the flash and sounds they produced upon firing.

    I must admit that the Pakistanis have constructed formidable fortifications on the LoC. They have solid cement bunkers interconnected by equally well-made communication trenches. Our MMG, HMG and 84 MM Rocket Launchers were not very effective on their field fortifications. The KPVT was the only direct firing weapon in small arms category that proved effective, but its size and weight imposed many restrictions in optimum utilisation. What we required was a weapon that could fire as effectively as a KPVT and was as light as an MMG.

    A weapon suitable to carry out this task appears to be the Austrian Anti Material Rifle (AMR), the Steyr IWS 2000. It weighs just 18 kgs and fires 15.2mm APFSDS effectively up to 1,000 metres. Though the range is less, the enemy’s post on the LoC were generally within this distance. The Indian Anti Material Rifle “Vidhwansak” appears to be an effective weapon. However, it weighs 25 kg impinging operational flexibility due to the man-portability factor.

    Just to put things in perspective, whenever the Pakistanis attempted infiltration, they would start firing on our post to cover the movement of these Jihadis. In retaliation we also fired at them. This type of cross LoC small arms firing generally caused no harm to the either side; on the contrary it appeared to me that we wasted our ammunition aimlessly. As for the Pakistanis, the firing and the echo so generated drowned the sound created by the infiltrating column. If there was no firing then the probability of a sentry picking up these sounds and alerting the parties to counter them was relatively higher.

    I think under these circumstances two things would have made a difference, stand-alone surveillance devices and weapons like the Corner Shot. These days surveillance devices such as the LORROS, BFSR, HHTI, PNVD AND PNVG and Unattended Ground Sensors are available and their effective use in conjunction with the counter infiltration fence has made a tremendous difference in our favour. It will not be an incorrect statement to make, that this LoC fence along with hi-tech surveillance devices with the Infantry, has resulted in a near zero infiltration success.

    If Corner Shot is made available to the troops in the forward posts, then a soldier can fire a grenade even at a right angles taking cover behind the wall or a boulder straight in to the loophole of the enemy’s bunker without risking an exposure at all. It is a collapsible post to which a 40mm grenade launcher or a standard long range pistol can be mounted along with a camera and a LCD screen. Our troops could neutralise the enemy’s automatics right at the start as they begin to provide infiltrators the covering fire.

    The famous quote by the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wesley in the nineteenth century “The whole art of war consists in getting at what is on the other side of the hill” holds true even in the twenty-first century. I recall our intelligence sources would tell us all sort of stories from across the LoC, the other side of the hill feature. They would give us details of how the Pakistanis get their rations, the route taken by the mule train or the porter link, from where they filled their water along with various other administrative activities. They would also refer to a hut just behind the hill where the ISI vehicle would come and hand over the militants to the army for further crossing of the LoC.

    I always dreamed of having special equipment under my command that would go across and relay real time information of the enemy activities otherwise obscured by the feature ahead. For a Company Commander deployed on the LoC, the answer to this famous quote lies in the Raven RQ 11 Hand Launched UAV.

    The Raven RQ 11 Hand Launched UAV is the equipment that I feel could have made a huge difference in the way we did our job. It just weighs 1.9 kg and is hand launched. It can operate up to 150 metres above the ground level and over 4,600 metres above Mean Sea Level. This plane can fly up to ten kilometres for up to 90 minutes. It can carry out surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance both by day and by night. Targeting the enemy by 81mm Mortar and AGLs would be a lot easier. This equipment alone would have proved to be a major force multiplier on the LoC.

    While carrying out the counter infiltration tasks, our troops found the existing night vision goggles very soldier friendly. The HHTIs were the most effective tool in detecting any movement from across.

    In Counter Insurgency (CI) tasks that we performed during our LoC tenure, we preferred the AK 47 and the good old 7.62 LMG over the INSAS family which was considered to be a poor demonstration of research and production by our DRDO and the Ordinance Factories, so much so for developing our indigenous capabilities. Here the effort was to ambush the transient terrorists who, after crossing the LoC, would attempt crossing the Shamsabari or the Pir Panjal ranges into the Kashmir Valley.

    Counter Insurgency

    The most memorable days of soldiering are the ones that I spent in the Kashmir Valley from 1998 to 2000 when insurgency was at its peak. Contrary to my previous LoC tenures, the militants in the valley were resident terrorists and their territories, well-defined. For each area, there was an area commander with a few militants under command. They would stay in hide-outs close to a village in the forest or made them in the houses in villages and towns. We conducted counter insurgency operations such as the Cordon and Search, Seek and Destroy, Area Domination, Road Opening to eliminate these so called Pak-supported Non State Actors.

    Though we largely conducted intelligence-based operations, the chance encounters were quite common. As we were apprehensive of the IEDs the most, the militants feared the 84mm Carl Gustav rocket launcher. The famed AK 47 was an ultimate choice for both soldier and militant and this continues to be the case till date. What I feel would have made that difference was having a weapon with day and night sight light in weight, which could fire accurately at longer ranges and was convenient to carry and operate during a room entry or a raid on a hideout, basically in the urban settings firing at close quarters. In my opinion, the SCAR-LIGHT assault rifle is the most versatile weapon. This assault rifle is a multi-calibre weapon system giving a choice of the calibre to the soldier. This weapon has different length barrels for close quarter battle and for longer-range engagements.

    I would like to recall an incident where a senior officer was fired upon by a militant the moment he entered while carrying out room intervention. It was a clear weather day bright and sunny when on specific intelligence this operation was launched. Without wasting any time, the officer led his party to the target house and kicked the door open. Since it was sunny outside and the house inside was totally dark the officer got virtually blacked out on entry. On the other hand, the militant was waiting with his vision well-adjusted to the light inside, he fired a well-aimed burst from his AK 47 and managed to escape. This officer was grievously injured and he was air evacuated to Srinagar Base Hospital immediately. He survived but continues to live with serious disabilities.

    If this officer had had a reconnaissance robot like the Scout Throwbot, the story would have been different. It is a 1.2-pound dumbbell-shaped rolling UGV that soldiers can throw into hazardous areas to gather video information. The Recon Scout Throwbot and its derivatives can adjust themselves after they have been thrown into dangerous areas like roof tops, basements, and into the windows of suspicious buildings and relay video back to operators located at safe distances. The micro robots can take visible-light or infrared video for daylight or night time operations.

    These reconnaissance robots could manoeuvre inside a building and transmit the exact location on the hiding terrorist. In such a scenario if a soldier is equipped with a weapon like the Corner Shot grenade launcher supported by information transmitted by Scout Throwbot, he could effectively clear the building with minimum collateral damage and eliminate unnecessary risk to himself and others.

    Another game changer could be the availability of Light Mine Protected Vehicles (MPV). We have MPVs but then they are huge and bulky. Moving these mammoths through the lanes of a Kashmiri village is difficult and at many a place, impossible. On specific intelligence, troops would move in a MPV, dismount outside the village and dash to the target house, giving away a lot of lead time to the militants in making an escape. A light MPV like the Oshosh Sand Cat can carry up to six soldiers. It could take the troops directly to the target house providing protected mobility to the last metre, cutting down the lead time for the militants and enhancing the possibility of success.

    Siachen Glacier

    The world’s highest battlefield ‘The Siachen Glacier’ is extreme in many ways. It is located at a super high altitude over 18,000 feet with the Bana Top (forward post) at 22,000 feet. Temperature here falls to -50 C. It is the weather that is the major cause for many casualties on both sides and not any military action per se. Sudden shooting up of blood pressure, High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema and frostbite are some of the health problems that a soldier may face during his tenure. In all such cases, the patient has to be evacuated to a hospital at lower altitudes the fastest. The evacuation is possible only by the helicopters which depend upon fair weather condition and firing if any between the two sides. By inducting All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) such as the Viking BVS10 we can provide surface mobility on the Glacier for carrying troops, logistics and casualty evacuation from Camp One right up to Chaman, the farthest post approximately 60 km away.


    During my exposure to the amphibious warfare, I participated in a rather intense conversion process in entirety of an Infantry Brigade in to an amphibious formation. We carried out a number of joint exercises with the Indian Navy and the Air Force and also with the foreign Armies. I realised that there were two major issues that bothered the commanders, first was the issue of fire support in the initial phase of the land operation and second was the challenge of getting the, artillery guns and engineer stores on the beach in time for supporting the subsequent phases of these operations.

    In the Indian context, an amphibious assault would entail Infantry and the Armoured elements getting realised from the Landing Platform Dock (LPD) seven nautical miles from the shore racing in the Landing Crafts Mechanicals (LCM) towards the beach. When this flotilla of LCMs is 1.5 nautical miles from the shore they would come across Landing Ship Tank Large (LSTL) who would release the mechanised infantry’s BMP-II. These LCMs loaded with Infantry troops and tanks moving in the wake of floating BMPs, all in two parallel extend lines. This land force hits the beach while the fighter aircraft from the aircraft carrier provide the close support. The tanks and the BMPs run over the forward beach defences and race for the objective in depth, Infantry assaults the forward defences and clears the beach of any resistance making way for the LSTLs to carry out hard beaching for landing the Artillery guns, reserve Infantry troops, the Engineers along with ammunition and other stores.

    In any other type of operation, apart from the close air support by the fighter aircraft, the artillery guns and infantry mortars play a vital role in providing close fire support to assaulting echelons. Though the Naval guns can provide this fire support, the modern warships do not have such guns in that desired number. It was felt that a weapon system like the AV-LM-12/36 light weight 70mm could be a suitable answer in providing this much needed fire support in the initial phase of the assault by firing from the modified platforms on LSTLs that are stabilised to cater for the rolling and pitching of a ship. This MBRL which fires a salvo of 36 rockets at a range of 12 km, if integrated with the infantry, can be very effective in providing fire support in the initial phases as well as in subsequent battle.

    Once the initial beach head is established, the LSTLs move up for hard beaching. These LSTLs carry out a hard beaching and the ALS loaded with stores and arty guns get down the ramp and wade through the water to get to the shore. These vehicles lack fording capabilities, the risk of engine ceasing while fording is quite high and one such instance can impose an unacceptable delay on rest of the vehicles queued up in line to get off the ramp. However favourable operational situation and suitable wave conditions are necessary or else the hard beaching is abandoned. The whole operation at hand to overcome enemy friction inland could be jeopardised without the artillery, Infantry reserves and stores.

    The ideal vehicle that is available today which can do a wonderful job is the Russian DT-10PM Vityaz All Terrain Vehicle. This vehicle has a load carrying capacity of ten tonnes. With little preparation, these vehicles can swim in deeper waters at speeds of five to six kilometres per hour. This implies that these ATVs can be released from a distance if possibility of a hard beaching is difficult due to any reason.

    Desert Warfare

    Just like the high altitude area, the desert also presents a tough challenge to a sun-bruised foot soldier in the desiccated climate of the scorched sandy wastes. Simmering heat with high temperatures up to 50 C in featureless topography and similar looking sand dunes all around, presents to an Infantry soldier, a dreadful scenario that he must conquer before meeting the enemy.

    The fast pace of the mechanised warfare over vast frontages is a great challenge for the Infantry in keeping abreast with the Armoured and the Mechanised columns. Infantry needs High Mobility Vehicles for cross country movement across the sand dunes.

    Mobility with an Infantry battalion in deserts is an apology in face of operational obligations. The Infantry urgently requires HMVs in the Light, Medium and Heavy category for moving troops, weapons, equipment and the commanders across the desert. It is mandatory to have light HMVs platforms for Reconnaissance and Surveillance equipment and the ATGMs. The availability of medium HMVs for carriage of troops, the heavy HMVs for moving ammunition, engineer stores and logistics cross country is the only solution to bridge this huge gap.

    The indigenous Super Stallion 8×8 and the 6×6 HMVs can meet the requirement of heavy and medium HMV for the Infantry. The British MWMIK Long Range Patrol Vehicle, US army’s High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWVY) or the Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV) could meet the operational requirements of an Infantry battalion in the deserts.

    In the desert, another modern battlefield challenge is of real time situational awareness for the Commanders right from the Section Commander to the Battalion and the Brigade Commander. The Commanders at all levels have to be fully aware of all the actions under hand, ahead, on the flanks and at the rear to orchestrate a smooth build up for an assault.

    The indigenous effort to create integrated battle computer Situation Awareness and Tactical Hand-held Information (SATHI) failed the field trials. My unit was one such unit that field tested this equipment. Today, when all the functions in this SATHI equipment can be performed by any of the smart mobile phones, then why get encumbered by this oversized unfriendly gadget. One of the successful examples of such a system almost the size of the mobile phones is the H2, DRS Tactical Systems. H2 is of the Scorpion family of rugged hand-held computers to improve command and control and situational awareness for the frontline Infantry soldiers.

    Wrapping Up

    There may be many more shortcomings with the equipment and weapon systems held by the Infantry. These are just some and few of the major deficiencies at the surface that I felt needed to be highlighted. It is not just the issue of weapons and equipment but also the way our system thinks and goes about procuring them. The whole system needs to be evolved in favour of a soldier fighting on the ground and set course towards a fast speed research or procurement of weapons and equipment that will prove battle winning and save precious lives of young men fighting for the motherland.

    Indian Army: Reminiscences of a Soldier » Indian Defence Review
  3. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 29, 2010
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    To improve mobility perhaps we should fit the KPV 14.5mm guns on armoured trucks.

    High Indian army units firepower is bolstered.

    Perhaps we should consider the same structure US Marine for a typical Indian army squad.


    * Team Leader (TL) The team leader executes instructions from and assists the squad leader in the performance of a task. The TL controls the movement of his fire team and directs areas of fire. The TL is typically a lance corporal or corporal and is a rifleman.

    * Rifleman (R): The rifleman is armed with with a carbine or assault rifle. (INSAS Carbine or the Baretta that BSF uses)

    * Grenadier (G): The grenadier is armed with a carbine or assault rifle with an attached underbarrel grenade launcher. (UBGL attached to INSAS)

    * Automatic rifleman (AR): The automatic rifleman is armed with a squad automatic weapon (machine gun). The high stopping power and rate of fire of the SAW make it ideal for confronting bunched groups.
    (Provide INSAS LMG or M-249 SAW type weapon?)

    Any room for marksman in a typical squad?
    @Kunal Biswas please advise better structure and weapons
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

    May 26, 2010
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    Please read this part :


    There is a officer / JCO / NCO, Rest are Rifleman, Machine gunner and Marksman so does with Heavy suppressive weapon such as MGL ..

    These are given based on situation and terrain or according to there Mission profile ..

    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  5. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

    Feb 17, 2009
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    it is possible to make them, at much less cost then corner shot.

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