Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Slow Going As India Revamps Army

Global Dispatches

Jun 01 , 2010 ,
Neelam Mathews
New Delhi

Indian army pursues capabilities despite program delays
Printed headline: Slow Motion

Program delays and an urgent need for upgrades and new equipment are among the challenges confronting Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, India’s new army chief of staff, as he begins wrestling with modernization of the 1.1-million-strong force.

The service has issued numerous requests for information (RFI) and proposals as it moves to increase its operational capabilities. The list of needs is long. Key items include: artillery, missiles, rocket launchers, helicopters and ground strike aircraft, radar, night-vision equipment, future force gear and apparel, and network-centric and battle-management systems.
Among the equipment on the Indian army’s needs list are night-vision goggles for helicopter pilots.Credit: ITT

Progress is being made, however slowly. The first step toward waging network-centric warfare at the tactical level will be through Project Sakthi, which establishes an artillery combat command-and-control system to integrate weapon operations. The signal corps, the lead agency and center for information and cyber-security in the military and at the national level, directs the project. The corps is working to make the army a network-enabled force by 2012 and a network-centric one by 2017. “This will involve consolidation of all networks to provide the army with an optimal, secure and robust infrastructure to meet operational and peacetime requirements, one that withstands technical and physical degradation,” an army spokesman says.

The army’s plans in this area also involve the “Network for Spectrum” project, which is being implemented by the government’s telecommunications department in exchange for spectrum being released from the defense quota. The army is installing a fiber-optic cable network to meet its bandwidth needs. When complete, the service will vacate existing spectrum in use by the military, freeing it for civilian applications. Plans to upgrade the cyber-security of networks are also under consideration.

Meanwhile, ITT Corp. expects its night-vision devices to attract interest from the army aviation corps, which issued an RFI for night-vision goggles for helicopter pilots among others. Should the project be approved, ITT will partner with government-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) in producing the devices. ITT will provide select components and BEL will be responsible for power optics, says David Melcher, president of ITT Defense and Information Solutions.
India wants to acquire battlefield surveillance radar as part of its operational upgrade.Credit: GENERAL DYNAMICS U.K.

ITT is confident in the performance of the critical image-intensifier tube in the night-vision goggles, which it says is rugged, combat-proven and a good match for fixed- and rotary-wing aviators as well as ground forces. The ­company says its enhanced night-vision goggles are the first to provide fusion (via optical overlay) of image-intensified and infrared imagery.

BEL has asked ITT for 33,000 of the tubes. ITT for its part has applied for a Technical Assistance Agreement from the U.S Defense Department in order to produce the technology abroad. “We’re bound by what we can transfer by [U.S. government] International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” says Melcher. “Night-vision technology is protected, which is why we are looking at other ways [of using it overseas].”

As the world’s largest provider of military VHF radios and advanced tactical communication systems, ITT is also promoting Spearnet, which offers simultaneous voice, data and situational awareness in a low-cost multirole radio. Having been successfully used in Iraq and Afghanistan, Melcher says the product will be valuable to Indian soldiers.

A fast-track program for procurement of $300 million worth of weapons and equipment for special forces is under way. Under the program, 10,000 troops will receive new gear in the next 15 months. The army envisions implementing a multibillion-dollar modernization program called Futuristic Infantry Soldier (F-Insas), to broaden the capabilities of infantry by making them multimission warfighters.

Under the program, the army will buy antitank guided missile launchers with thermal-imaging sights, armored vehicles, rifles, battle-surveillance radars, ground sensors, secured communication systems, precision-guided ammunition, laser rangefinders that provide ballistic data, light clothing and bullet-resistant jackets.

While critics are skeptical that the 2011 date for F-Insas prototype trials will be met, the army’s plans call for equipping the entire infantry—500,000 troops—with the gear by 2020.

General Dynamics U.K., for one, is interested in bidding on the battle-management system, a technology the company specializes in. General Dynamics delivered Bowman, the British Army’s battle-management system, as well as similar programs to the Netherlands and Romania. “We have upgraded more than 13,000 vehicles—the largest number of any company—including T72 tanks and BMP infantry fighting vehicles, both of which the Indian army uses,” says spokesman Mark Douglas.

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