The future of the F-INSAS today is at the crossroads where the Weapons Sub-System and Body Armour and Individual Equipment Sub-System have made tangible progress and gradually, the basic weapons and BPJs, Ballistic Helmets along with other accessories over a horizon of two to five years would find their way in to Infantry Battalions. But the same may not be true for its Night Enabled Operations capability and its ability to operate seamlessly in a net-centric operational scenario; which is still a distant reality. The progress of Project F-INSAS is being carefully monitored by most advanced armies and it needs to be pursued by the Indian Army as an integrated, not piecemeal, effort.
Pursuance of the Soldier Modernisation Programmes is necessitated as the modern battlefields are becoming more and more multi-dimensional…
The basic concept behind all Infantry Soldiers Modernisation Programmes (SMPs) in the modern and evolving armies is that the Infantry soldier continues to be the focal point in all operational scenarios under varying terrain conditions. Infantry mission spectrum is wide and complex; that warrant enhanced capabilities, to sustain him in high tempo mobile operations, in difficult unfamiliar terrain conditions and while he operates in urban areas under extreme climatic conditions and ever present asymmetric threats.
The most significant of the Solider Modernisation Programmes are the Land Warrior of USA, IdZ-ES of Germany, FIST of UK and FELIN of France. At this juncture, most of these programmes are still in nascent stages of implementation and only some of them are in the stage of advanced planning of design and implementation.
- SMPs commenced in 1993-1994 with USA, UK and France as pioneers, as on date more than 21 armies world over including India are pursuing these programmes.
- After R &D of almost 20 years even the pioneers are still developing prototypes and upgrading their original system architectures.
- Close to 1,000 Land warrior systems were deployed with Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan from 2009 onwards for evaluation.
- One Field Formation (Division) each of UK, France and Italy likely to be equipped by 2016-2018.
- While the main challenges are weight reduction and power consumption, the interoperability with various other systems operating in the same theatre of operation is of great concern.
All “Soldier Modernisation Programmes” seek to empower the dismounted soldier with every conceivable piece of electro-optical situational-awareness enhancing kits…
Pursuance of the Soldier Modernisation Programmes by global armies is necessitated as the modern battlefields are becoming more and more diverse, multi-dimensional, highly lethal, characterised by high tempo of operations that are transparent and net-centric. All this happens against the backdrop of ever increasing threat of the looming asymmetric warfare. While operating under these complexities a soldier definitely needs to be empowered with emerging technologies.
All seemed poised for rapid development, at least in some countries but the process and the pace of modernisation was an arduous one. Some of the main reasons that retarded this process are the need to wait for the advent of certain technological breakthroughs and the usual financial constraints combined with the more recent emergence of the so-called ‘urgent operational requirements’ for contingents deployed in various theatres of operation slowed down many of those programmes.
Contrasting approaches have been adopted in pursuing these programmes; while most the Europeans have selected one leading agency responsible for integration, but the others, especially the United States, left this task to the military. Various SMPs have reached different levels of maturity taking different developmental routes. Indeed, some involve full integration of all the sub systems that have been developed from the ground up, while others chose a more conservative approach, contemplating integration of existing or the legacy equipment. Most of them, however, agree with the necessity of integrating dismounted soldier through vehicle platforms to the overall architecture of Command and Control.
All “Soldier Modernisation Programmes” seek to empower the dismounted soldier with every conceivable piece of electro-optical situational-awareness enhancing kits along with the much required lethality, sustainability and ever needed protection.
- Situational Awareness.
Conceived in April 2005 as part of the Infantry Vision 2020, the Indian Army’s Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS) aims to harness the advanced cutting edge military technologies that would enhance the operational capabilities of the Infantry soldier and enable him to operate across the entire spectrum of conﬂict. The F-INSAS perceives a multi-mission, multi-role war fighter who is part of the system that contains numerous modular integrated sub-systems.
The future Infantryman will be provided with effective sensor-shooter interface…
Objectives of the F-INSAS Programme
The concept focuses on the need to provide infantry soldier with enhanced capabilities in terms of lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility, communications and situational awareness. The future Infantryman will be provided with effective sensor-shooter interface; each soldier is integrated with his Section, Platoon and Company. Needless to say, the entire soldier system would be user friendly, not only with regard to what is delivered but how each component is used in conjunction with other components.
With the ultimate aim that infantry soldiers are equipped with the best of the weapons and equipment, have the best of the Battlefield Support Systems that would connect the soldiers 24×7, all weather in a network-centric battlefield of tomorrow and enable the soldiers to sustain themselves in a challenging tactical environment in the dynamic battlefield with a matching mobility to move about the battlefield with accompanying load to execute assigned missions.
- Light Weight, Small Size Systems.
- Consistent Performance in All Weather, All Weather, All Terrain and Day & Night.
- Low Power Consumption to increase Sustainability.
- Cost Effectiveness of the System.
F- INSAS: System Of Systems
Project F-INSAS has conceptualized sub-systems that are in various stages of fructification:-
- Weapons Sub-System.
- Body Armour and Individual Equipment.
- Target Acquisition Sub System.
- Computer and Communication Sub System.
Robust, highly reliable, modular and simple weapon systems to include CQB Carbine, Multi-Calibre Assault Rifle and LMG. The weapons would to required modular, scalable with capability to take on various attachments like UBGL and the latest generation of weapon sights.
Today, the troops engaged in Low Intensity Conflict are without a Close Combat Weapon…
Body Armour And Individual Equipment
- Modular Bullet Proof Jackets to provide protection to vital parts of the body. It will have add-on inserts to protect front, sides, back, throat and groin. The ballistic helmet will be lightweight and comfortable, made of advanced materials to provide ballistics protection to neck and ears as also facilitate use of headset for communication radio.
- The Modular Individual Load Carrying Equipment (MILE) would include a Harness, Rucksacks and Hydration Pack.
- The survival kit comprising the Soldiers Personal Kit, Elbow and Knee Pads, Multipurpose Tool and First Aid Kit shall form part of the sub-system.
Target Acquisition Sub-System
- Night Vision Device.
- Weapon Sights.
- Hand-Held Target Acquisition Device.
Computer and Communication Sub-System
- Shall comprise a soldier wearable computer, which is lightweight and battle rugged with a display and the Software Defined /IP based Radios for communication. It will also facilitate power management and integration of all sub-systems of F-INSAS.
- The essentials of a Computer and Communication sub-system would be a soldier-wearable computer, Single/Dual Band IP/ Software Defined Radio, Sensors for Blue Force tracking and Power Management.
- The soldier will not be overburdened with needless amount of data. He will only get what is needed in the format that he understands without any delays and rest would get automatically discarded.
Going by the current trends, the earliest the Infantry can receive the first lot CQB Carbines maybe some time in 2017…
Reality Check: F-INSAS
CQB Carbine: The Indian Army’s authorisation of the number of carbines is approximately 3,85,000 which is divided into CQB Carbines and the Protective Carbines. The CQB Carbines, mainly for the frontline troops are authorised approximately 1,68,000 and Protective Carbines – about 2,17,000. The five versions of good old Carbine Machine 9 mm were rendered obsolete more than ten years ago. Today, the troops engaged in Low Intensity Conflict are without a Close Combat Weapon. Despite the operational void of a critical weapon for close combat battle, the global tender for CQB Carbines issued in December 2010 is yet to see the light of day.
Approximately 45,000, CQB Carbines and its ammunition along with Reflex/Holographic Sights and Visible and Invisible Laser Spot Designators are under procurement at an estimated outlay of Rs 4,000 crore; the procurement is with ToT of the CQB Carbine and ammunition being purchased. Leading global arms manufacturers are vying with each other and despite the fact trials going on for almost three years. No decision is forthcoming on the outcome of the trials. It is learnt that all types of trials have been concluded more than six months back but the Army HQ has not been able to complete the last stage of the trials namely the General Staff Evaluation.
There could be many impediments that are delaying the GS Evaluation but procrastination is not going to offer any solutions. The Infantry Soldier deserves a CQB Carbine without any further delay. It is safe to assume that going by the current trends, the earliest the Infantry can receive the first lot CQB Carbines maybe some time in 2017 and the indigenous production by OFB will not commence before 2020. The CQB Carbine would therefore not be complete without Night Sight which is still a distant reality.
The Protective Carbine being co-developed by DRDO/ARDE and OFB for the rest of the Army is a distant dream. Such combined developmental route is always fraught with dangers. This Carbine being co-developed is, in fact, a hybrid of many prevailing designs. Lack of synergy between the two agencies has resulted in the Carbines not being ready for field trials.
Multi-Caliber Assault Rifle: The failure of the INSAS Rifle 7.62 mm has been highlighted in many fora. The Indian Army views it as an operational necessity to have an Assault Rifle that would enable its soldiers to combat the menace of counter insurgency operations as well as have an Assault Rifle for conventional roles. This has led to the concept of an ambi-dextrous Assault Rifle that was Multi Caliber – 5.56 X 45 mm & 7.62X39 mm, firing NATO SS-109 and 7.63X39mm ammunition, with modular inter-changeable parts in the field without usage of tools with facility to mount breach loaded UBGL. The Assault Rifle is being procured along with Reflex/Holographic Sights, Telescopic Sight, Visible Laser Pointer and the UBGL. The weight of the Rifle less optical sights and bayonet will not be more than 3.6 kg and the UBGL will not weigh more than 1.5 kg.
The total requirement of Assault Rifles for the Infantry is approximately 1,85,000, out of which about 60,000 were approved for procurement by the DAC in November 2009 at an outlay of Rs.1,800 crore; this procurement was with ToT for indigenous manufacture. The RFP for procurement of 65,000 Assault Rifles and 4,600 UBGLs was issued two years later in 2011.
It is learnt the while first round of the trials was over towards the end of 2014 but there is still need to confirm a few more facets wherein certain minor issues of non-compliances were noted against all participating vendors. The Army HQ needs to expedite the process of Field Trials so that the troops get the long-awaited Assault Rifle. Under the prevailing circumstances, the Infantry can consider itself to be lucky if at all it gets any Assault Rifle by 2017-2018.
The Protective Carbine being co-developed by DRDO/ARDE and OFB for the rest of the Army is a distant dream…
Light Machine Gun: The performance of the current 5.56 mm LMG is far from satisfactory, the OFB has not been able remove various defects it suffers from, to the satisfaction of the field army. The holding state is critical and above all, it suffers the deficiency of the volume of effective fire because its caliber and single barrel. Globally, LMGs are lighter now and have longer ranges with great accuracy and heavy volume of firepower.
An RFP for procurement of 9,500 LMGs along with the ToT for indigenous production of LMG with caliber 7.62×51 mm which is belt-fed through attachable ammunition box or drum or pouch, firing in service ball and tracer ammunition with an effective range of 800 m, weight 9.3 kg, length not more than 1200 mm, with a telescopic sight, spare barrel and Mil STD picatinny rails.
The RFP was responded once again by world class global weapon manufacturers and the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) has been completed but the participating vendors have not been able field the equipment for trials as they have not been able to self-evaluate their LMGs with OFB manufactured 7.62×51 mm ammunition before they offer their LMGs for trials in India. The LMGs once introduced in service will fire the Indian OFB manufactured ammunition, so it is critical for the participating vendors to check the vital parameters of their LMGs with Indian ammunition before offering for trials. The red tapes at the OFB end and their inability to make available on payment couple of thousands of rounds of ammunition to these vendors is delaying the kick-start of commencement of LMG Field Trials. The trials of the LMGs can only commence early 2016 and may take up to two years to conclude.
Body Armour and Individual Equipment
Bullet Proof Jacket: The total authorisation of Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJ) for the Indian Army is 3,50,000 and current holdings are very dismal. In October 2009, the DAC approved the procurement of 1,86,000 BPJ at an estimated cost of Rs. 900 crore. This approval was to make up the deficiencies as they existed in 2008. The BPJ would be modular with enhanced covered area, designed to give protection to vital parts of the body. It will have add-on inserts to protect front, sides, back, throat and groin. The RFP issued in March 2011 had to be retracted in December 2011 as the Army HQ and DRDO/TBRL Chandigarh could not evolve a trial methodology with which they could evaluate the BPJ.
The RFP was issued again in December 2012 after resolving a host of issues raised by DRDO and DGQA. Almost three years later the Ballistic Trials at TBRL have just begun. The ballistics resistance of body armor internationally is evaluated by the NIJ (American) and STANAG (NATO) standards. Unfortunately, the TBRL is not geared to conduct such a large scale ballistics trials. Once the ballistics trials are completed the successful vendors would then undergo Field Trials. All this is likely to take up to two more years – the BPJ may appear on the horizon in 2017.
Ballistic Helmet: The DAC approved procurement of 3,28,000 Ballistic Helmets at a cost of Rs. 380 crore in November 2009 and the RFP for the same was issued in August 2011. The Ballistic Helmet will be lightweight and comfortable, made of advanced materials to provide ballistics protection to neck and ears as also facilitate the use of headset for communications radio.
The Helmet envisages two versions – the Commanders Version which would have a provision for attaching the headphones and the other, for Soldiers without provision for headphones. The trial evaluation of Ballistic Helmets has been completed and is awaiting the completion of the General Staff Evaluation. If all goes well, the Indian Army will start getting the supply of Ballistic Helmet by the end of 2016.
Knee and Elbow pads are also on the wishlist of the Infantry soldier but again, they would have to follow the MGO route…
Modular Individual Load Carrying Equipment (MILE)
The MILE would include a Harness, Rucksacks and Hydration Pack. Although very basic and rudimentary, they are essential and vital for an Infantryman. The question is – when does he get it?
The stringent guidelines laid down by the procurement process saw that world-famous Swiss-made multi-purpose tool/knife could not be procured by the Army HQ. A similar tool was part of an Indian soldier’s Kit in the Army earlier. Most of the global armies have their soldiers authorised such a ‘knife’. The Indian Army purchases the same Swiss Knife for its soldiers deployed on the Siachen Glacier. It is learnt that this ‘tool’ will now be procured by MGO through the revenue route because of the cost implications. Knee and Elbow pads are also on the wishlist of the Infantry soldier but again, they would have to follow the MGO route.
Target Acquisition Sub-System
Passive Night Vision Binoculars and Goggles: The current scaling of both these devices is grossly inadequate and scaling needs to be done as per operational requirements and procurement action needs to be initiated at the earliest possible.
Reflex/Holographic Sights and Red Dot LASER Pointer
The Reflex/Holographic Sights and the Red Dot LASER Designator/ Pointer would be procured along the CQB Carbine and the Assault Rifle.
Image Intensifier-based Passive Night Sights
The Indian Army evolved a Night Vision Philosophy which laid down a roadmap that would enable night operations by 2015. However, nothing seems to have moved as per the philosophy, Bharat Electronics Ltd. had received the ToT of Image Intensifier tubes from Photonis France for manufacture of II devices based on XD-4 Third Gen II tubes.
The XD-4 Tubes with a Figure of Merit of 1,200 are deemed more than sufficient for short-range weapons like carbine whose effective range is only 100 metres. However, the Indian Army took almost two years to decide that it needed a much superior II Sight for its CQB Carbine based on XR-5 II tube with a Figure of Merit of 1,700, the XR-5 II tubes come at very high cost as compared to XD-4 II tubes while offering only marginal increase in range detection capability. The RFP for the procurement of XR-5 II tube-based Night Sights for CQB Carbine was issued in December 2014 and categorised as Buy-Indian, it may take anything up to three to four years before Nights for CQB Carbine get into the service.
Thermal Imager Sights
The Assault Rifle and the LMG would have Uncooled TI Night Sights. The assault rifles will be authorised a judicious mix of II and TI based Night Sights based on the operational requirements. Procurement action is yet to take off and it may take anything up to five years, possibly by 2020, to procure the Uncooled TI Sights for Assault Rifle and LMG.
The Computer and Communication sub system is the heart of the System that will provide the required power source to all the devices a soldier would carry on his person …
Hand-Held Target Acquisition Device
This intelligent TI device will consist of a Laser Range Finder, digital magnetic compass, GPS and a Day/Night Channel. The device will have the capability of being networked with the Commander’s situational awareness data terminal. The current scaling of HHTAs in Infantry is inadequate and needs to be revised and procurement action initiated.
Computer and Communication Sub-System
The Computer and Communication sub system is the heart of the System that will provide the required power source to all the devices a soldier would carry on his person or mount on his weapon systems. The responsibility of integrating all the sub systems of F-INSAS would rest with the agency developing the Computer and Communication Sub-System.
Such a sub-system would manage the entire transmission, reception, display, storage and editing of tactical information in the form of maps, text, messages, SMS and battle reports. It will be connected to single and dual band IP/Software defined radios and other sensors to provide Blue Force tracking to all commanders. They would empower soldiers with the ability to transmit and receive complex voice, data and video signals (both text and visual). The radios would have integrated GPS and cater for secure transfer of voice, data and videos through wireless LAN.
It is visualised to have three configurations – for soldiers, for the Section/Platoon/Detachment Commanders and for the Company Commander.
Unlike the other sub-systems of the F-INSAS programme, the Computer and Communication system is now not being pursued by the Infantry. The Infantry has now aligned itself to the Battlefield Management System (BMS) being pursued by the Directorate General of Information System. The main reason for this sudden switch can only be ascribed to the inability of Infantry Senior Commanders/Chiefs to be able understand the basic nuisances of the Integrated Soldier Modernisation Programme as originally envisaged in the Concept of the F-INSAS programme. The BMS is focussed on platform-based entities while for Infantry the low power consumption to increase its sustainability as well as reduction the weight on his shoulders are of major concerns and not to forget the integration all sub systems in to One System – for “F-INSAS is a SYSTEM” encompassing many sub-systems.
It is definitely a long march for the Infantry and its Senior Commanders need to understand this…
As has been the experience of the global armies who have been only able to field so far (because of the cost implications and fast technology obsolescence) a Brigade-size force or at best, plan to field a Division-size force in the near foreseeable future. The Indian Army has to first “scale” each piece of equipment for each soldier, then decide its operational priorities for test beds and finally, the manner in which the F-INSAS would gradually with its various upgrades reach the almost 400 Infantry Battalions. It is definitely a long march for the Infantry and its Senior Commanders need to understand this and take a well thought out call, for the cost implications are extremely high and technology obsolescence, equally rapid.
The future of the F-INSAS today is at the crossroads where the Weapons Sub-System and Body Armour and Individual Equipment Sub-System have made tangible progress and gradually, the basic weapons and BPJs, Ballistic Helmets along with other accessories over a horizon of two to five years would find their way in to Infantry Battalions. But the same may not be true for its Night Enabled Operations capability and its ability to operate seamlessly in a net-centric operational scenario; which is still a distant reality. The progress of Project F-INSAS is being carefully monitored by most advanced armies and it needs to be pursued by the Indian Army as an integrated, not piecemeal, effort. Integration of all the sub-systems is very critical to provide real time sensor to shooter interface otherwise stand-alone sub-systems would not meet the basic aims of the project.