Army aims to turn soldiers into 'terminators' by 2020
NEW DELHI: Arnold Schwarzeneggers they may not be, but the aim certainly is to make them ‘‘terminators’’. The Army wants to transform its 3.5 lakh infantry soldiers into high-tech, self-contained killing machines by 2020.
The Army’s futuristic modernisation programme for foot-soldiers, the F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system), in the pipeline for the past three years, as reported earlier by TOI , has finally taken concrete shape now.
The infantry commanders’ conference chaired by General J J Singh, which kicked off at Mhow on Monday, discussed in detail the F-INSAS project, akin to US Army’s ‘‘land warrior’’ and ‘‘objective force warrior’’ programmes.
F-INSAS basically aims at ‘‘converting an infantryman into a fully-networked all-terrain, all-weather, weapons platform with enhanced lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and situational awareness’’ for the digitised battlefield of the future.
Sources said the Army will approach the government with the ‘‘firm’’ F-INSAS project, along with the ‘‘costing’’, before the end of this year since it wants ‘‘systems development and integration by 2010’’.
‘‘The aim is to equip up to 10 infantry battalions (each with 800-1,000 soldiers) by 2010-2015 for F-INSAS user trials. By 2020, the project will be fielded for the entire infantry, which with 359 battalions is the largest arm of the 1.13-million strong Army,’’ said a source.
Though F-INSAS will primarily be developed through a military-DRDO-indigenous industry partnership, senior officers like Gen Singh have visited countries like US, Israel and France for a first-hand look at the programmes they have undertaken for their infantry soldiers.
In the coming years, Indian infantry soldiers will progressively get equipment like light-weight integrated ballistic helmets with ‘‘heads-up display’’ and miniaturised communication systems; portable visual, chemical and biological sensors; hand-held computer displays, GPS and video links; ‘‘smart’’ vests with sensors to monitor vital body signs; and of course lethal firepower with laser-guided modular weapon systems.
There are plans to also equip each infantry section of 10-12 soldiers with a ‘‘robotic mule’’, which apart from helping them carry additional load will also be mounted with remotely-activated weapon systems for concentrated firepower.
‘‘F-INSAS aims at integrating cutting-edge composite material sciences, information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology as well as robotics to make a soldier into a versatile and potent sensor and shooter platform in a fully-networked battlefield environment,’’ said a senior officer.
All this, of course, will take a lot of doing. But the defence ministry, led by A K Antony, has assured the Army of full support for its around 600 modernisation schemes, worth about Rs 70,000 crore in the 11th Plan (2007-2012) period. The infantry, consequently, will be one of the major thrust areas.