By Gulshan Luthra
The Indian Army has initiated certain “fast–track endeavours” to make up for the delays to fill critical gaps in equipment within two to three years, its chief has said.
Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag told the defence magazine India Strategic in an interview that it was imperative to maintain the “highest standards of operatiol preparedness to meet present and emerging challenges” and that “making up for critical deficiency of weapons and equipment is on fast track”.
He identified towed artillery, reconissance & surveillance helicopters, 3rd generation missiles, air defence, mechanised forces, assault rifles and protection equipment for infantry soldiers as the key areas requiring immediate attention. The government, he said, was giving full support.
About the much–delayed acquisition of modern artillery guns, Gen Suhag said the army will have only 155 mm medium–bore guns from now on as part of the artillery “mediumisation” effort. Both “global and indigenous routes are being adopted to hasten the process and ensure that self–sufficiency in gun manufacture is achieved”.
The existing Bofors FH 77 guns, acquired nearly three decades ago, are also being upgraded along with the Soviet–origin M 46 130mm towed guns first inducted some four decades ago.
“Improved firepower in terms of quality and quantity is a pre–requisite for any success in any battle. To this end, mediumisation of the artillery has been on since 2012, with major projects of the 155mm towed gun, 155mm Dhanush (upgraded Bofors) and 155mm tracked (self–propelled) guns at the fil stages of evaluation. In addition, the existing 130mm guns are being upgraded indigenously.”
He said the government had already cleared the procurement of 814 155mm mounted gun systems (MGS) through the Buy and Make Indian route. This “mediumisation is likely to commence by 2017–18”.
The army chief also stressed the importance of jointmanship between the three services as also development of capabilities and infrastructure, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country, and enhancement of human resource development.
“There are numerous initiatives at the macro and micro levels to streamline capital procurement procedures to ensure that the capability building of the army is progressed,” Gen Suhag told the magazine, adding that to keep up with modernisation and indigenisation, there has been regular interaction with the public and private sector industry.
“Interaction in the form of semirs and exhibitions is conducted periodically” and “liaison with industry at all levels of hierarchy is being encouraged to ensure seamless integration with the industry.”
About the much–needed new helicopters to replace the legacy machines, Gen. Suhag observed that “armed helicopters (AH) provide the requisite punch in a short and intense battle with enhanced ability to the commander to look, move and strike deep”.
The defence ministry has “vested their responsibility with the army” and their induction will be carried out in due course. Significantly, said the army chief, “plans to cater for training support and infrastructure for operatiol and maintence requirements are already under way.” It may be noted that the army has projected a requirement of 39 Boeing Apache AH64E helicopters, 13 each for its three strike corps. The Army Aviation Corps is working out the detailed proposal and once approved by the defence ministry, the formal process for their acquisition will start.
Incidentally, the first lot of 22 Apaches are being acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF), and their order is likely to be placed around mid–2015. According to sources, the army will follow the IAF parameters, or Staff Qualitative Requirements (SQRs), and place a follow–on order to cut short the acquisition time.
Gen Suhag disclosed that the replacement process for the vintage HAL–made Chetak and Cheetah helicopters is already on and a Request for Information (RFI) was recently floated to identify probable Indian companies for their licensed production or indigenous manufacture.
The Army is also looking for newer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence and surveillance role and proposals are under consideration “to enhance the Indian Army holdings”.The chief pointed out that modernisation of the Infantry Soldier is being accorded top priority to increase weapon lethality, night vision capability, survivability and battlefield mobility in a network centric environment. Critical voids are being filled and procurement of close quarter battle carbines, assault rifles and light machine guns is in an advanced stage. Image intensifiers for night fighting and situatiol awareness are being acquired and a Request for Proposals (RfP) – or tender – for image intensifier sights for carbines was issued on November 7.
Procurement of body armour items like ballistic helmets and bulletproof jackets is also at an advanced stage.
About air defence, which has a heavy obsolescence, Gen Suhag said that action is on to upgrade its guns, missiles and radar systems.
Efforts were also on to upgrade the in–service equipment of the mechanised forces for night fighting and have better power packs. A key development under way is for induction of future combat vehicle platforms, Gen Suhag said. IANS
(Gulshan Luthra is the editor of India Strategic, www.indiastrategic.in. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)