MILITARY MODERNISATION: ARMY PERSPECTIVE

The Indian Army needs to move forward with the modernisation process. It is something we have been longing for, we have waitedlong enough and now we are on the right track. India, as a nation, is being seen as a net security provider by all countries in the South  Asian  sub  continent  and  in South East Asia. If we are being viewed from  this  strategic  perspectivein our neighbourhood, then we cannot be found wanting in our efforts, be they be diplomatic, informational, economic or military. When we speak of national power it is viewed in today’s modern day environment, as somehow become synonymous with economic power. Any nation which wants to be economically strong cannot however, afford to have a weak military. Consequently, economic development and enhancing military capability must go hand in hand. This is the model followed by China, which developed itself economically and at the same time, gave due impetus to development of military power. That is the way we have to go.

Defence expenditure in India is for some reason, always viewed with suspicion as to what are we spending are money on. We have a very large standing armed forces, and it is obvious that a country like ours,  which has unsettled borders on the East and West, needs to have a strong army. And if people have to feel safe in an environment that exists in our country, where we have unsettled borders with two of our neighbours, and we also have internal security problems as well, then we have to give some kind of assurance to investors, both Indian and abroad, that in case they want to invest in India, then their investments would be secure. That can only happen if we have strong military. Therefore, the development of the military and its modernisation, must go hand in hand along with our economy.

We are at present going through a phase in the army where we need to modernise our weapon systems, imbibe technologies now available the world over, and I daresay, the Indian industry has also come of age. We need to take advantage of how the Indian industry, with support of defence industries from abroad can collaborate together to give us the best that can be offered by them in terms of what we want. modernise our weapon systems, imbibe technologies now available the world over, and I daresay, the Indian industry has also come of age. We need to take advantage of how the Indian industry, with support of defence industries from abroad can collaborate together to give us the best that can be offered by them in terms of what we want.

Over the past few years, major changes have taken place in our system. The Defence Procurement Policy 2016 (DPP- 2016) has been issued, which has underlined procedures in the manner in which we need to move forward with our procurement processes. We have recently added another chapter to DPP-2016—Chapter 7: Strategic Partnership—which is identifying countries or industries around the world that can collaborate with the whole industry and develop systems that we need for the Indian Armed Forces.

The Indian Army is now scouting for weapon systems which need upgrades.   These include artillery guns, air defence systems, modernization of our mechanised forces, infantry and engineers and above all our Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems. Electronic warfare and early warning systems and even our logistic systems, all of them too require upgrades. There is a great deal that the industry can offer to the Indian Army and a great deal that we can absorb within ourselves. But then, we have to balance this out with the budget that will be made available to us. It is not that we have not got our share of the budget, but where probably we too have erred is a lop-sided procurement that we have carried out. I accept this error. Where we were able to get something that was easily available, we went for it. If we found that the procurement procedure for a particular item was becoming difficult, we avoided that system, instead of finding ways to ensure that we must procure what we need.

In our procurement process, we now must look at the holistic development of all arms and services of the Army. Adequate attention also needs to be paid to the logistic support systems as a component of war-fighting. We need to ensure that if the mechanised forces have to operate in the western or the northern theatre, then each and every element of the combat group/combat command must have matching capability. We cannot have a state where the air defence elements, the artillery support or the logistic support elements cannot keep pace with the mechanised columns. They must all have matching capability so that they can be employed synergistically and holistically. Therefore, we need to relook at our modernisation to ensure that wherever our forces have to operate, all the combat elements required by the force are in place and all have matching capability.

To ensure that industry knows what we need, we have come up with the Army Design Bureau (ADB). This is something which the Indian Navy had done years ago. The IAF too has its own systems. The ADB acts as a central repository of technical know-how for the Indian Army and is a contact point for the industry. We have come out with our problem statements identifying where our weaknesses lie, or where we need to move forward in the years ahead. With the ADB, we have reached out to the industry and told them that they are welcome to see how our weapon systems operate, and thereafter, see if they can help us in imbibing better technologies. Therefore, while we are looking at ways to develop our modern systems, we want these to be developed in a manner that they are manufactured in our own country.

For too long we have depended on imports for a large part of our requirements. This dependency on imports forces us to keep huge quantities of reserves in our inventory as war reserves, because, in times of war, there is no guarantee that the items required by us will be delivered by the manufacturing country. However, if we start manufacturing all these items, in house in our country, then we know that we can always ratchet up the production of those items in our defence industries when the need so arises, which will then obviate the necessity of keeping war reserves in the numbers that they are held today.

We need to be prepared to fight wars in different sectors. Our operating requirements in the Northern and Eastern borders, consist for the most part of high altitude areas and steep and rugged mountains. On the Western borders, we have to operate in low lying hills, fertile plains, deserts and marshlands. The requirements of the forces are thus different in each sector in which they have to operate.

However, as the primacy is there for the Northern theatre, we have to ensure that whatever we have for employment in the Western sector, should be compatible in case we have to move and use them in the Northern front. That is where the focus is now shifting in the sense that we are trying to ensure that while the primacy remains in the Northern sector, we cannot neglect the Western sector, but at the same time large amount of the equipment that we are utilising on the Western front, should be able to operate on the Northern borders. We thus need equipment that can work in temperatures that can go down to minus 30 degrees Celsius, and also operate in conditions of extreme heat where temperatures can cross 55 degrees Celsius. That remains the challenge for manufacturers to meet both these criteria. Earlier, we were trying to ensure that the GSQR we formulate caters to our requirements, both in the Western and Northern borders, which in turn poses a huge challenge to industry. Now, however, we are coming up with GSQRs which are specific to sectors. We therefore have some equipment which is exclusively for the northern borders, some equipment which is exclusively for the western borders and some equipment only for use at both places. If we insist on equipment that can be used for both the sectors, we would not only end up spending more money getting that equipment but we may find that industry may not be able to give us the equipment according to our needs.

The primary requirement where the Army needs to modernise is in surveillance and reconnaissance systems. We are looking at developing technologies through satellites and in launching our own defence satellites to keep under watch, our areas of interest. As of now, while we do have satellites, their long turnaround time necessitates that we use other means to get the information we need. We also need to develop capacities at the ground level to download those technologies, get the information we want and disseminate the same in an acceptable time frame to those who are required to use it.

The other surveillance sources that we are looking at is the UAVs, to provide the ground commander immediate information of the area of interest we want to keep under surveillance. In today’s world, the adversary will use airwaves, either for communication or for any other purpose. We must have the capability and capacities to monitor these airwaves, and get our information through the electronic warfare systems that we need to introduce in our country. At the same time, we should be able to disrupt the surveillance and reconnaissance systems of our adversaries, and this can only happen if we have systems which can carry out such disruptions. This remains the focus for developing our ISR capabilities.

The commanders on the ground in the battle field, who are responsible for the conduct of the operations, want a clear and transparent picture of the battle field that is in front of them. This is a huge challenge. We need these kinds of capabilities, but if we wait for this kind of information to come and then plan our course of action, it will be too late. Therefore, we need to make sure we are able to integrate all the information that we have. We have to develop battlefield management systems where all the information that is available to a commander, is made available to him under one roof. At the same time, it is unrealistic for a commander to expect that he will get all the information that he desires. We are taught and trained to conduct operations through our experience, either during training or in actual combat. That is also the reason why commanders have a lot of advisors with them as they will have to operate in an environment where complete battlefield transparency may not be present and operations will have to be conducted based on assessments and experience.

The next area of focus is to develop the kind of weapon systems that we want. We are looking at the modernisation of our artillery, which fortunately is proceeding well. We have started procuring the M 777 Ultra Light Howitzer from the US. We have also got our own indigenous guns that are being manufactured in-house. Some are under trial, some are coming in through imports and the numbers are huge.

The Infantry too is being modernised. We are looking at giving the infantryman better weapon capabilities, in terms of the basic weapon plus night fighting capabilities. We are also looking at protective systems for the soldiers, both for conventional combat and for operating in an internal security environment.

We are also looking at modernisation of the mechanised forces. We have got the T72and T 90 tanks but the former is ageing and needs replacement. We need to look at new technologies available in the world as the T 72 will need to be replaced in the next 7-10 years. The only tank that will then remain with us is the T 90 and the Arjun which is the indigenous tank. We therefore have to identify the replacement tank now, as the procedure for replacement itself takes about a decade.

Next is the air defence systems and the third dimension that is the Army Aviation. The government has allowed us to get some Apache helicopters from the U.S which would become the very versatile and strong air arm for the army. The mechanised forces do need support from the air because the adversary now has got obstacle systems and our mechanised forces may also have to operate in built up areas. The attack helicopters thus need to operate very closely with the mechanised forces.

Electronic warfare systems too are very important to monitor the air waves that the adversaries are using. We must have the capacity and the capability to read through the air waves as to what the adversary is doing. At the same time, we need the capacity and capability to disrupt the airwaves. I daresay, another issue that is coming up and is a cause for concern is cyber warfare. Our adversaries have developed very good capabilities and we need to ensure that our systems are protected. At the same time, we need to develop deterrence in this field against our adversaries.

Artificial intelligence too is gaining increasing traction and is very important for us. We need to ensure that we have trained manpower that can benefit from artificial intelligence. The way forward therefore is to have integrated systems and ensure that the modernisation of the Army happens in a way that all elements of combat power, maybe in smaller numbers, move forward progressively in modernisation, and we do not look at modernisation Arm and Service wise. We have to look at all elements as one integrated system.

No army can win a war by operating in isolation. The time has come when we have to rely very heavily on air power. We also need a strong navy to ensure that our coast line is safe and has the capability to carry out disruptive actions through the sea lanes of communication. Future battle will hence be fought in all dimensions, employing the might of the three Services in an integrated manner. For that we would have to reorganise ourselves to best fight future wars and that is being looked at very seriously.

We also have to look at developing systems indigenously. Therefore, the government has taken a call to identify defence corridors, where defence industry can come up, one in North India and one in the South. We are confident that the Indian industry has come of age and is willing to support the defence effort in areas where we would like that support.

Finally we are looking at indigenous manufacture of our ammunition. The ordnance factories have helped us but we are still unable to produce most of the high technology ammunition like ammunition used in tanks, missiles, air defence systems and even small arms. We are looking at Indian industry to collaborate with foreign partners to manufacture this ammunition for us. The defence corridors which are coming up will hence support us in the manufacture of weapons, ammunition and equipment. We also have our own systems which carry out maintenance and repair of our weapons and equipment through our base workshops and ordnance factories. We are looking to see if we can adopt the GOCO (Government Owned Corporate Operated) model. We hope that industry can step in and see how best to improve their performance, capabilities and technological threshold.

We need to work closely with Indian industry so that we can fight Indian wars with Indian solutions. This is what we need to accomplish.

This address was delivered By General Bipin Rawat, UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, Chief of Army Staff, at the Military Modernisation Seminar co hosted by SALUTE Magazine and Businessworld at the India Habitat Centre on 27 July 2018.

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