As India surges ahead in underscoring its strides into the Asian age. It is steadily strengthening the fundamentals of strong Armed Forces, swinging into a modernizing overdrive. The Navy and the Air Force have taken a major share of big ticket purchases. The INS Vikramaditya, INS Arihant, MMRCA, FFGA, Globe Master and the Agni V&VI are some of those platforms that give an insight into the future role of our Armed Forces. Credible blue water capable Navy with continental reach of the Air Force will allow India to project its sovereignty in the whole of the Indian Ocean region and beyond. The role of India’s Armed Forces will extend beyond the protection of SLOC (Sea Lanes of Communications) and domination of the Indian Ocean. The Joint Force tasking will involve protection of Indian economic interests on lands that are far beyond the Indian sub-continent. The Indian Army in this joint effort will play a major role and the INFANTRY will occupy the centre spread in countering threats over the complete spectrum of conflict beyond 2030.
The future Infantry have to be a versatile mix of capability with equipment that is lethal, agile, adaptable and responsive.
The world order in the twenty first century is entering into a phase of multi-polarity. India and China have already signalled the coming of the Asian age, emerging as the fastest growing economies of the world. A transformation from developing countries to the developed ones would mean a huge requirement of natural resources, the engines of economic power. These countries will be the world’s largest consumers of oil and natural gas, essential for propelling their economies. The quest for securing natural resources has already driven them beyond their territorial limits into the darkness of the African continent, desolate regions of Central Asia and the contentious South East Asia.
India’s national interests in the coming decades therefore may not remain confined within the territorial limits, but stretch beyond, into the non-territorial arena. A rising China and its intense drive towards its armed forces modernization in the back drop of disputed borders with India, alongside the dysfunctional Pakistani state, will continue to present a great challenge to our country. Asymmetric and hybrid nature of future warfare along with extended neighbourhood add to the existing complexities in this challenge.
India’s growing economic needs and interests thereon will result in a continuous shift and changing profiles of threat and power equations. Its area of interest will expand way beyond the borders right up to Antarctica in the South, Africa to the East, CAR (Central Asian Region) in the North and South China Sea to the South East. Safe guarding economic interests in these regions, both at sea and on the land, India would require a joint force with a sizable component of the Army. Requirement of boots on the ground will make Infantry pivotal in any role and task envisaged.
Threat To Capability
Transformation of the Indian Army from existing threat based to capability based force, which will see through India’s interests beyond 2030, will have to be expedited. And in this, the Infantry will continue to dominate the milieu of our Land Forces, hence its evolution and modernization is extremely essential.
The typical linear battlefield will be replaced by combat situations with a 360 degree threat.
The task of the Infantry will range from traditional Border Management, Counter Insurgency, Internal Security duties, Disaster Management and relief operations to stabilization efforts through bilateral and regional cooperation in India’s area of interest.
Thus a force structure of Infantry formations and units which will evolve will have to be responsive and effective. The future Infantry Divisions, Brigades and Battalions will be flexible in organizations that are amenable for grouping and regrouping. They have to be a versatile mix of capability with equipment that is lethal, agile, adaptable and responsive.
The existing standard Infantry battalions will be transformed into specialized outfits with full spectrum flexibility and augmentation. The Infantry soldier of the Indian Army who will be a system of systems will be equipped and trained for operating in all types of geographical terrains and climates to support any future role of the Army as part of a joint force infulfilling national strategic and operational commitments.
Charecteristic of the Future Battles
The future battles will be short term, fluid, intense and swift. The forces involved may be of a very large size or they may just be those in a special operation involving a few highly skilled soldiers. The advance technologies will be exploited and the entire range of terrains and weather will be incorporated in to the plans. The typical linear battlefield will be replaced by combat situations with a 360 degree threat. These future battles will be network centric with potential for new high tech weapons, NBC arsenal and use of all instruments of national power including the non-stateactors. The future hybrid nature of warfare in full spectrum of conflict will be effect based rather than massing of effects.
In the networked environment, this ability of a soldier will enable the commanders to multi task not only the sub units and units but also an individual combatant more effectively and decisively.
Infantry in the Entire Spectrum of Conflict
The role of Infantry has been depicted in the figure below which suggests a lesser role at the higher end of the spectrum. In a multi polar world military strategies will be dictated by economic interests of a nation. The world will witness more of the conflicts in mid and lower portion of the spectrum. Thus the role of infantry will be dominant in safeguarding the nation’s interests in future.
The specialized units of Infantry with developed core competencies that can address different bands of the threat spectrum will be the concept in this metamorphosis of force from threat based to a capability based arm.
Infantry Force Structure
The Infantry Divisions of the present day Indian Army operating with fixed formations and units should soon be the thing of the past. Nature of future battle fields will require these Infantry Divisions to be modular and operate as plug and play formations. For a mission these Divisions will be assigned a suitable combination of Brigades and battalions capable of undertaking the task. These Infantry Brigades will have to be versatile and adaptive combat formations capable of deployment singularly or in a group. They will always be ever ready for employment in a variety of designs as self-contained modules over a widely dispersed area.
The standard Infantry battalion will also get transformed into a more flexible and a modular organization. These units will be capable of undertaking independent tasks as a battalion group. There inherent capability of attaching and detaching specialist elements in a grouping for any particular task anywhere in the nation’s area of interest will be a force multiplier.
The future Infantry will be equipped with mission oriented equipment fully integrated with all the systems, sub-unit and the unit in the overall C4I2 environment.
An Infantry battalion’s primary mission however will continue to be as historically identified with it. Their mission will continue to close-in and destroy the enemy through close quarter violent combat in any operations of war. An Infantry battalion will achieve force effectiveness by exploiting the abilities of its skilled soldiers and capable leaders. In addition to the human dimensions, rapid tactical mobility, force protection, lethality and survivability by enhanced situational awareness and sound logistics will enable an Infantry battalion to maintain force effectiveness in all types of contingencies.
Future Infantry Soldier
In a futuristic force structure of Infantry, build to counter the 360 degree threats in full spectrum of conflict, the soldier itself will undergo a radical transformation in terms of equipment and training. Infantry soldier in future will be a system in systems, which is effective, efficient and task oriented. He will be required to accomplish various tasks with economy of effort. His adaptability and survivability in the entire spectrum, over all types of terrain and climate will have to be of a very high order. The future Infantry soldier as a system will be designed to deliver lethality with high accuracy and effectiveness. His ability to remain situationally aware and self-synchronized will enable him to fight coordinated integrated battles. In the networked environment, this ability of a soldier will enable the commanders to multi task not only the sub units and units but also an individual combatant more effectively and decisively.
The Infantry in future will be optimally configured to conduct operations across the entire spectrum of conflict at a short notice. Therefore the modernization will be based on five cardinals and they are Lethality, Survivability, Mobility, Situation Awareness and sustainability.
The “Future Soldier as System” programs are underway in many countries. The Land Warrior Integrated Soldier System of USA, IDZ of Germany, FELIN of France, FIST of UK and F-INSAS program of India are such project in that direction. This would involve a fully networked all terrain, all weather personal equipment along with enhanced fire power and mobility for digitized battlefields of the future.
The future Infantry will be equipped with mission oriented equipment fully integrated with all the systems, sub-unit and the unit in the overall C4I2 (Command Control Communication Computers Information and Intelligence) environment. This will dramatically increase the lethality of a soldier who will be a self-contained fighting machine.
The desired virtues of modern Infantry weapons systems are light weight, modular with lower Mean Time Between Repairs and Failures (MBTR & MTBF). They should have long range with high accuracy and desired lethality. In addition, there ability to function in a network centric and electronic warfare environment in the entire spectrum of conflict will be essential battle winning factor.
Survivability of Infantry will depend upon force protection relying on Camouflage and Concealment, Armour protection, Mobility and Communication.
Some of the futuristic trends in Infantry weapon systems are SCAR-Light multiple calibre assault rifles, OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon) XM-25 which fires microchip embedded explosive round that could detonate at a precise range, Metal Storm 36 barrelled stacked projectile machine gun, Corner Shot sideways firing grenade launchers, disposable magazine fed mortars with smart projectiles, NLAW light weight shoulder fired antitank weapon having PLOS (Predicted Line of Sight) and OTA (Over the Top Attack), Sniper rifles with very long range having self-correcting systems based on sensors.
Survivability of Infantry will depend upon force protection relying on Camouflage and Concealment, Armour protection, Mobility and Communication. Appropriate use of terrain, inherent tactical mobility and information dominance will enhance force protection and survivability. In environments where these measures are not adequate, the modular nature of Infantry will enable easy and quick augmentation.
Future soldiers clothing and body armour will be light and universal having thermal control with terrain adaptable camouflage giving necessary ballistic protection. It should reduce his visual, thermal and radar signatures. This clothing will be sensor based constantly monitoring his vitals and provide necessary protection against chemical and biological poisoning. Integrated helmets to provide ballistic protection, and work as an interface to other elements of battlefield networks.
All terrain articulated vehicles (ATV) and High Mobility Vehicles (HMV), that are capable of employment in all types of geographical terrains and climate with a temperature range of+50C to -50C will be the future in Infantry vehicles.
…the future power requirement of an Infantry soldier will increase to a higher order roughly over ten times by some estimates.
These vehicles will enable the user to carry troops and the cargo and simultaneously act as an enhanced communication and weapons platforms. There variants will function as command post, ambulance and repair and recovery vehicles. All the ATVs and HMVs will have amphibious capability and armoured protection and they will be air portable by both the rotary and fixed wing aircrafts.
The futuristic weapons, equipment, light weight body armour and clothing will reduce overall weight on a soldier by 50% from the current levels. This along with lesser dependence on over the shoulder logistics will enhance the mobility of an Infantry man in turn the unit and the formation.
Robust communication and situational awareness will enable an Infantry soldier to communicate with his counterparts in a patrol and right up to his higher commanders. A network system will allow connectivity during operations even when communication link is broken due to the terrain factor. Voice and data could be relayed directly or through drone relay links from higher headquarters to the last man and vice a versa.
Hand held UAVs for over the hill surveillance supported by ground based all-weather surveillance devices, sensors and weather monitoring equipment to be part of this inventory for enhanced situational awareness.
All this will increase the consumption of electric power. Hence the future power requirement of an Infantry soldier will increase to a higher order roughly over ten times by some estimates. This requirement will be met by fuel cells and fuel cell chargers in the days ahead.
There is no doubt that the Infantry’s capabilities, kinetic effectiveness, communication, command and control will have to be upgraded in keeping with the future security challenges.
Sustainability in all types of operations will have overbearing reliance on an active logistic system. This would imply having in place a sound and reliable supply system that orders, receives and issues equipment and stores through all the phases be it the deployment for operations, during operations or after the operations.
The logistics will include, general engineering, equipment maintenance, general stores, rations supply, medical support, aerial delivery, postal service and cremation or burial of the dead.
Indian Infantry will have to gear up for e-tracking, e-stocking and e-inventory control& management. It has to get out of primitive mode of sheltering men and material. All types of stores held by an Infantry unit will be containerized and palletized.
Troops will be have to sheltered in high tech field shelters that will be extendable as per requirement, light in weight, easy to handle, having climate control with terrain specific camouflage. These shelters will have protection against biological and chemical attacks. For good health and hygiene a bio degradable sanitation system is essential.
The inventory of a modern Infantry battalion will have equipment that will enable operations in NBC environment and thus enhance sustainability.
The future place of Infantry in the Armed forces structure will be far more important and demanding. There is no doubt that the Infantry’s capabilities, kinetic effectiveness, communication, command and control will have to be upgraded in keeping with the future security challenges.
Today the economic power is paramount and the military power is essential to ensuring that power.
This could only happen provided the higher defence structure in India is incorporated in security and strategic decision making.
The prescription thus lies in institutionalised set up for strategic thinking, jointness by appointing the much needed CDS (Chief of Defence Staff), self-reliance through research and development, public private partnership in defence production.
There will be a need of improving interoperability in intra and inter Armed Forces in the region. The armed forces would require greater military to military interactions at strategic, operational and tactical levels with the friendly forces of our region.
It should be kept in mind that in the bygone era, military power was of paramount importance and the economic power a luxury. It is no more contemporary in the present and future global multi polar order.
Today the economic power is paramount and the military power is essential to ensuring that power. Who can deny the future deployments of our armed forces in protecting India’s engines of economic power from Antarctica to CAR and Africa to South East Asia and primacy of INFANTRY in doing so?