Saturday, February 22, 2014

Roadblocks in modernization of Indian Armed Forces

By Neeraj Mahajan

Indian Armed Forces are poised for major modernization in the next fifteen years. The process would involve upgrades of hardware and systems with new state of art equipment to meet the security challenges of the coming decades. 

 Army Purchases:
The Army’s shopping list includes USD 3,000 million deal for 197 light observations/utility helicopters; USD 1,100 million deal for Future Infantry Soldier System (F-INSAS); and USD 2,170 million deal for howitzers.

Navy Purchases:
Navy’s wish list includes USD 3,500 million deals for seven Scorpene Submarines; USD 7,600 million deals for 12 stealth frigates; and USD 1,000 million deals for 16 multi-role helicopters.

Air Force Purchases:
Some of IAF’s biggest deals in the pipeline include USD 10.5 billion MMRCA contract for 126 combat aircraft -- the largest aircraft procurement deal in the last one decade worldwide, USD 1,000 million deal for six transport aircraft; USD 700 million deal for 12 heavy lift helicopters

The other big-ticket contracts in the offing include 214 fifth-generation fighters being jointly developed by India and Russia, Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Mk. II turboprop aircraft and IAF’s plan to buy 59 Russian-made Mi-17 V5 helicopters over and above the 80 it ordered in 2008.

Almost all the prominent players who matter in the arms trade including Rafale, Raytheon, Dassault, BAE Systems, Saab, MiG, EADS, Aeronautica, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Rosonboronexport, Thales and Snecma are competing for the Indian bids. Raytheon has tied up with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for internal security installation of GPS systems at 100 airports across India at a project cost of USD 22 million; while and Lockheed Martin has tied up with Wipro Technologies for opening up a network centric operations centre in India.

Among the three services, IAF is the most comfortable with the largest share of Defense capital budget and 15% of total Defense allocation. IAF has always managed to corner half of all appropriations and used more upgrading funds than any of the other military wings. Unlike army and navy, IAF has spent its allocated funds and managed to convince the Finance Ministry to allocate extra funds for spare parts, aerial bombs and missiles. IAF which completed the first phase of its 15-year modernization by 2022 that began in 2006 needs around 800 rotary aircraft in the next, 11th, 12th and 13th Five Year Plans. In addition to hi-tech fighters, IAF is revamping its transport and surveillance fleet to achieve larger reach in the next decade. 

The 1.3 million strong Indian Army – is the world’s third-largest military after China and United States). Having around 3,300 main battle tanks; 3,000 towed artillery; 1,500 armored infantry fighting vehicles; and 232 multirole helicopters – it is subdivided into 6 regional commands, a training command, 13 corps, and 38 divisions. Many of its weapons and equipment are obsolete and need replacement. The Army needs battlefield transparency, battlefield management systems, enhanced firepower, night-fighting capability, terminally guided munitions, self-propelled artillery, surface-to-air missiles, latest assault engineer equipment, tactical control systems, and integral combat aviation support. 

A bulk of the army’s mechanized forces are “night blind,” artillery needs towed and self-propelled 155-mm howitzers for the plains and mountains as well as replacements for its outdated arsenal of L-70 40-mm, SAM-6(Kvadrat), SAM-8 OSA-AK and ZSU-23-4 Schilka air defense (AD) gun systems. Likewise the Infantry needs shoulder-fired missiles, hand-held battlefield surveillance radars and hand-held thermal imaging devices for observation at night to increase its operational effectiveness and lower casualties in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. The armored corps needs tanks and infantry combat vehicles for internal security duties as well as offensive and defensive moves in conventional warfare. At present only two regiments are equipped with indigenous MBT Arjun and T-90S MBTs imported from Russia – an additional 347 T-90S tanks need to be assembled in India.  Similarly there is a requirement for mobile corps-to-battalion tactical communications system and a battalion-level battlefield management system and capabilities for offensive and defensive cyberwarfare. 

Apart from all this, the Army is raising two mountain infantry divisions of 40,000 personnel drawn from the northeastern states of Nagaland and Assam for deployment along the LOAC. It’s future plan include arming atleast two new regiments with BrahMos land attack cruise missile and deploying them along this frontier by 2017. This would make India’s army the first in the world to induct supersonic missiles. For better communications and mobility, it is also constructing more roads, bridges, helipads and railway tracks along the LOAC.

In contrast the Indian Navy is nowhere close to meeting the standards set up by the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet in 1964. A recent report by India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that the Indian Navy only has 61% frigates,  44 % destroyers and 20 % corvettes -- projected as its minimum requirement. The Indian navy has 1 aircraft carrier, 10 guided-missile destroyers, 10 missile frigates and 15 tactical submarines. IN is keen to develop its amphibious capacity through 17 landing ships that can carry 4,000 troops or 88 tanks. It is developing INS Arihant an indigenous nuclear-powered attack submarine as part of its “sea-based strategic deterrence.” Apart from this its strengthening the naval air wing comprising of 31 combat capable aircraft, 11 advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, 11 Sea Harrier ground attack jets, and 9 Russian-built anti-submarine warfare platforms. The Navy wishes to augment its space-based surveillance, maritime reconnaissance, airborne early warning, strike, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and air Defense capability through induction of shore-based aircraft, integral helos, carrier based aircraft, UAVs, sensors and force multipliers like satellite based global communications, reconnaissance and network enabled platforms. Eventually the Navy plan to dovetail both its Eastern Naval Command and Western Naval Command operations around an aircraft carrier. Eventually the navy plans to have atleast three aircraft carrier based battle groups with a fleet of 150 ships in the next ten to fifteen years. For this it needs to build around 50 warships and acquire around 100 new vessels. To meet this requirement the Navy needs to induct five ships every year over the next six to seven years and acquire 500 aircraft and helicopters including some 100 jets. Similarly there is a massive plan to upgrade the capabilities of Indian Coast Guard to protect India’s coast line in a more effective manner. But, all this seems wishful thinking.

An interesting anecdote occurred when Field Marshal K M Cariappa asked the first Indian Prime Minister for extra funds for modernizing the post-independence Indian Armed Forces. Nehru reportedly told him, “India does not need an army; it needs a police force.” Politicians do not need Generals and Officers to run the Army but rubber stamps that bend backwards and endorse the flawed political agenda –on defense and National security matters.

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