Military & Aerospace

Modernisation of the Indian Infantry
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Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013 | Date : 30 Aug , 2015

DRDO’s F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier as a System)

It is important to note that in 21st century conflict situations not only will operations be increasingly inter-agency involving greater applications of ‘all elements of national power’, but our adversaries will also endeavour to employ hi-tech irregular forces against us. If we can achieve soldier modernisation within the Security Sector and network this cutting edge at the national level, we can be sure to win future conflict situations. Modernisation of the infantry has not been given its due in past decades. This must be treated as an ‘emergent’ requirement in consideration of the emerging threats within and surrounding the country especially considering the rate at which terrorists are achieving sophistication.

Advancements in science and technology are converting fiction to reality. This, coupled with advent of space wars, cyber, laser, plasma, electro-magnetic and precision guided munitions tend to make armies forget the infantryman – big ticket weapon systems overshadowing the cutting edge foot soldier. Having invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, US forces discovered this and underwent course correction post an army level study focused on this very issue.

Advancements in science and technology are converting fiction to reality…

The fact is that right from the advent of warfare to the present and beyond, the importance of the infantryman can hardly be overemphasized, no matter what advances in robotics are made in the distant future. The man behind the machine will continue to be important. Conflict situations such as terrorism, asymmetric and fourth generation wars have heightened this importance.

When the Indian Army introduced Modification 4B for the Infantry a decade and a half back, it was based on previous studies/reports incorporating operational experience with particular reference to fire power, surveillance, communications and night capability. However, the completion of this modification pan infantry took many decades because of the advent of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir that sucked in bulk of this equipment. Then there was the added requirement of equipping the Rashtriya Rifles battalions also with such equipment since these units were permanently deployed in counter-insurgency environment. Resultantly, just about three-four years ago, Modification 4B has been fully implemented in all infantry units. Here again, the scaling for equipment like night surveillance equipment required much to be desired. Over the years, the requirements of survivability in counter-insurgency and counter terrorism, mobility, mine/Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) handling and battlefield management also have acquired heightened focus.

Pertain to DRDO’s F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier as a System)

Today’s conflict situations require a transformed soldier capable of dealing with hi-tech war that will be short and intense plus contending with fleeting opportunities including by terrorists/non-state actors/state sponsored non-state actors, who are getting more and more sophisticated. The infantryman must be a man-machine-technology mix, a weapon platform with adequate firepower, self-protection, night fighting capability and mobility. He should have the ability to ‘see’ the enemy much before he himself gets spotted and be networked to the required level, enabling him to effectively respond to any situation in or near real time.


Unfortunately, there is little to talk of indigenous R&D in equipping the infantry soldier. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) record in this context has actually been abysmal to say the least. The 5.56 INSAS rifle developed after an excruciatingly long period of 15 years was hardly comparable to modern assault rifles. With continuing faults, the government has finally approved import of some 66,000 assault rifles for the infantry, plus some 44,000 carbines amongst other items. Assault Rifle apart, the DRDO has not even been able to produce an appropriate carbine and light machine gun, latter having framed miserably during trials. The night vision devices produced by the DRDO, though with 100 per cent imported Infra-Red (IR) tubes are far bulkier and heavier than foreign ones. Even in terms of clothing and bullet proof jackets, the quality that DRDO provides is generally first from the rock bottom.

Today’s conflict situations require a transformed soldier capable of dealing with hi-tech war…

Eventually, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has approved of a new assault rifle, 5.56mm caliber and a new generation carbine. The assault rifles under consideration were the Heckler & Koch, G 36 modular 5.56mm assault rifle (German), the Beretta 70/90 (Italy), SAR 21 of Singapore Technologies, XM 8 (USA), Steyr A3 (Austria), Tavor TAR 21 5.56mm and IMI Galil 7.62mm from Israel, Arsenal AK-74 (Bulgaria), Herstal F-2000 (Belgium) and SIG SG 551 (Switzerland) among others. Incidentally, the Army had already trial evaluated 17 assault letters from 11 countries including the likes of Heckler & Koch and Steyr A3 (Austria) way back in 1980 but then the DRDO was given these 17 weapons who then produced a poor weapon like the 5.56 INSAS rifle after 15 years. This should be a matter of shame for the DRDO but as usual is glossed over with no one accountable.

New bullet-proof jackets, ballistic helmets, and boots anti-mine which were also to have been procured, have not materialised so far. The infantry is also looking for a man portable third-generation anti-tank guided missile and under-barrel grenade launchers, 60mm mortars, enhanced range 81mm mortars and thermal imaging night sights for assault rifles. Bullet proof vehicles and shotguns are being procured for counter-insurgency operations. Incidents such as the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack have underlined the need to equip all infantry battalions suitably for rapid reaction. This is being achieved by procuring specialised items for the Ghatak Platoons (Commando Platoons) of Infantry Battalions. Multi-mode grenades have been indented with the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) while ammunition of the Rocket Launcher Mark II is also likely to be procured. The Infantry is also being provided with Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPVs), Light Bullet Proof Vehicles (Lt. BPVs), Light Strike Vehicles (LSVs) and additional snow mobiles.

Pertain to DRDO’s F-INSAS (Future Infantry Soldier as a System)

The Indian Army’s Future Infantry Soldier As a System (F-INSAS) program, which is to ensure a dramatic increase in lethality, survivability and mobility while making the soldier ‘a self-contained fighting machine’, is based on the Land Warrior system of the US Army and Future Soldier Programs of other nations. With the intent to retain its strategic autonomy, self-reliance and indigenisation of the program is being emphasized. Most of the equipment is being indigenously developed by DRDO independently, as the prime developer and the system integrator, as well as with private partnership. The F-INSAS is being developed in three phases; Phase I -(originally scheduled to be completed by 2012) comprising Weapons, Body Armour, Clothing and Individual equipment, Phase II – the Target Acquisition System and Phase III comprising the Computer Sub-System, Radio Sub-System, Software and Software Integration. The F-INSAS will provide the infantryman with latest weaponry, communication network and instant access to information on the battlefield. It will include a fully networked all-terrain, all-weather personal-equipment platform, enhanced firepower and mobility for the digitalised battlefield of the future. The Infantryman will be equipped with mission-oriented equipment integrated with his buddy soldier team, the sub-unit, as also the overall Command, Control, Communications Computers, Information and Intelligence (C4I2) system. Complete fielding in all infantry and RR units (some 465 battalions) is planned to be completed by 2020 or so.

Unfortunately, there is little to talk of indigenous R&D in equipping the infantry soldier…

The core systems of F-INSAS comprise helmet and visor, clothing, weapons and accessories. The helmet is an integrated assembly equipped with helmet mounted flash light, thermal sensors and night vision device, digital compass, video cameras, computer and nuclear, chemical and biological sensors, with audio headsets. The visor is intended to be integrated and to act as a heads-up display monitor equivalent to two 17-inch computer monitors. The personal clothing of the infantry soldier of the future would be lightweight with a bullet-proof jacket. The futuristic jacket would be waterproofed yet breathable.

The new attire will enable the troops to carry extra load and resist the impact of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. Uniform will also carry solar chargers for charging palmtops and other attached electronic equipment. It will contain external oxygen supply and respirator providing protection against gas and smoke and will include flame-retardant, carbonised viscose undergarments, fire-proof knee and elbow pads, bullet-proof armoured waistcoat designed to stop a bullet, ceramic armour plates covering the front, back and groin and an armoured helmet capable of stopping a 9mm round at close range. The new uniform will have vests with sensors to monitor the soldier’s health parameters and provide quick medical relief.

Pertain to the French Mini UAV (MAV) already in service

The weapons sub-system is being built around a multi-caliber individual weapon system with the fourth caliber attached to a grenade launcher. These include a 5.56 mm, a 7.62 mm and a new 6.8 mm under development for the first time in India. The Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL) will be capable of launching air bursting grenade. The sub-system includes a thermal weapon sight and laser range finder to provide the soldier with range and direction information. The Global Positioning System (GPS) location information will allow the soldier to call for indirect fire accurately.

The Battlefield Management System (BMS) and F-INSAS programs are being developed concurrently…

There are reportedly two types of next generation infantry rifles under development indigenously but a global tender for the acquisition of new assault rifles and carbines for Close Quarters Battle (CQB) carbines have been issued.

As for accessories, the soldier will be equipped with Palmtop GPS device for communicating with other soldiers and locate or generate maps to find location, and for situational awareness. The palmtop will inform the soldiers about the location of friendly forces in relation to their own positions. It will also enable them to transfer messages. Terrain equipment gears for various specific missions will also be carried. Thermal imaging, sensors and night vision equipment, currently deployed in weapon systems such as artillery and Main Battle Tanks will be customised to make them portable for soldiers to carry in the battleground. Defence advanced GPS receivers, infra-red sensors, thermal sensors, electro-magnetic sensors and radio frequency sensors would also be carried.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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7 thoughts on “Modernisation of the Indian Infantry

  1. A blog named Tarmac 007 has a caption Whoever said pen is mightier than the sword, clearly has never faced automatic fire — Gen douglas Macarthur and I think the Gen is right talking those talking about palm tops,sensors and connected crap have never faced automatic weapons just look at the soldier in the article showing various gadgets looks like a shopkeeper — what is required is the ABILITY TO SEE BLOOD AND DRAW BLOOD — we teach ahinsa parmo dharam don’t eat meat or drink — SOME TEACH KSHMA VIRASYA BHUSHNAM — ONE CANNOT OPENLY SACRIFICE GOATS ETC TO JOGMAYA –WHEN WILL YOU SEE FIRST BLOOD ON THE BATTLE FIELD THEY WOULD BE WETTING THEIR PANTS — SEE A BUFFALO (vegetarian) AND A LION (carnivorous) FIGHT BUFFALO IS LARGER AND STRONGER BUT THE SMALLER LION ALWAYS WINS – YEH BANIO KA KHEL NIHI HAI — ITS INVOLVES BLOOD GORE COURAGE AND RUTHLESSNESS ALL GADGETS DHARE RAH JAYENGE WHEN THE BODY PARTS FAIL TO MOVE BEFORE enemy FIRE

  2. There is nothing new in this article.” old wine in a new bottle”. I still remember a paper report that Hemant Karkare was wearing a bullet- proof jacket when he was killed by terrorists when he was sitting inside a Toyota Qualis . The question is: will this really save the soldiers from the bullets of AK – 47 rifle, missiles and snipers ? Ceramic shield will help to some extent. But it is heavy and restricts the movement of the soldier. But no bullet- proof jacket can save a soldier from snipers. This will be useful when fighting against terrorists and Naxalites, but not in real war. Majority of the demands submitted by the defense services are made without any proper study. Whether any study has been made to know how many soldiers’ lives have been saved by the use of this jacket all over the world?Army has to use mechanized infantry, instead of soldiers marching or fighting on foot. Our Army still think about conventional war like soldiers marching or fighting on foot. We should start manufacturing hundreds of Armored Personnel Carriers. This will create lot of employment. Pakistan is trying to purchase large numbers of Armored Personnel Carriers ( used in Afghanistan by USA). Majority of Army officers are still thinking about assault rifles, field guns and bullet proof jackets. This shows lack of knowledge on modern warfare. . I have made an extensive study on defense requirement. Assault rifles are use less against armored personnel carrier. This is a subject requires constant study to know what is happening in the world.One has to spent two to three hours in front of a Computer to collect all the news available in the net. I have no experience in the Army . But one can get lot of information from internet. Please read the report given below. :-
    “There’s a simple reason why the militants are using Humvees and other armored vehicles as rolling bombs,” Naylor reports. “Their protective armored plating prevents defenders from killing the trucks’ drivers before the militants can detonate their loads, while the vehicles’ capacity to carry enormous amounts of weight means the Islamic State can sometimes pack in a ton of explosives.” . The major lacuna in any Army in the world is delay in the war operation due to known and unknown reasons. The retreating soldiers usually mine the area or destroy bridges to stop the forward march of the attacking Army. to get time for regrouping . One has to think how to reduce this kind of delays. Pakistan is well protected with many rivers and canals particular in Lahore sector. Why are we trying to follow other countries. There is no chance of hand to hand fight in a modern warfare . Kindly ready my comments on “ignorance of military matters in modern India” By: Col Gopal Karunakaran | Issue: Net Edition | Date: 29 Aug , 2015

    • There is a saying it always comes back at / to you had they bought good stuff some safety would have been provided but for the spurious products purchased by the way govindanji no equipment is fool proof even tank armour can be penetrated why blame DRDO or any one

  3. IMO, the problem is manifold; One, DRDO’s PR machinery is almost useless… if you notice, most of the times, it is the Directors who arrange for information distribution and do the work of the PROs, while they go missing.Secondly, there are enough Army and Air Force officers, both serving and retired who are more than willing to shoot their mouths off about the DRDO projects and gain some sound bytes. DRDO scientists, on the other hand, are more reserved, and do not give statements often. Added to that, there are more highly ranked army officers than there are Defence scientists. The flow of information is obviously more from the Army and IAF side.Thirdly, most defence correspondents have little or no knowledge on defence information, which makes them unsuitable for analysis or objective reporting. It is obvious then that they would just report from press releases or what the retired officers talk about. Added to that is the extremely strong and influential arms lobby from foreign firms who would stand to gain from DRDO getting bad press.And when writers like Rajat Pandit and Mr. Aroor criticize the DRDO without reporting their side of the story, it obviously builds resentment in the DRDO, and I wouldn’t blame them for their attitude towards the press corps.In fact, if the press bashing of DRDO continues, I wouldn’t venture near any missile test. It might just ‘veer’ off course and accidentally slam into the press box :)…. after all the bad press DRDO gets, a failure wouldn’t be so uncommon would it??

    • Knowing well the working of RDSO in the Railways, I support you . DRDO in Army is like RDSO. I have not come across any complaint from Navy against DRDO.. Smt Indira Gandhi adopted the correct policy and she gave importance to missiles. This has saved the country and the Army from a similar situation like 1962 war in future. After the death of Smt. Indira Gandhi Army could not purchase any modern equipments. The problem in the Army is the Ego and superiority complex among the majority of Army officers. More over they still think about conventional war.When we have various missiles why do we require Bofors or M777 howitzer guns. Since the development of weapon locating radar no country expect India is interested in field guns. We should have large number of helicopter gun ships to destroy enemy tank.So Army officers line of thinking should change. We should have large number of Armoured personnel carriers. Why can’t we think of giving battery operated vehicle to the Jawans guarding the LOC where aware possible. It can be charged during day time using Solar panels. They will be able to cover more area and also carry better weapons. Any new item in the Army will create lot of employment in India.

  4. The Infantry is ultimately the final unit of the Army to be enmeshed in Land warfare & it needs a expansion,Modernisation & a Proper integration with Air Force. Sadly, Our DRDO is very lethargic,inefficient & full of bureaucratic inertia.

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