Mechanised Infantry Modernization
Mechanised Infantry has participated in almost all major operations since 1947. The Mechanised Infantry Regiment is the newest regiment of the Indian Army, formed on the basis of lessons learned in the 1965 India-Pakistan War. Intended to give infantry Battalions greater mobility, the initial focus was on equipping some of existing infantry Battalions of other regiments with armored personnel carriers. After the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War, the Indian Army sought to provide greater mobility for infantry units operating with armor formations. By 1969 some of the most senior battalions of various existing Regiments were equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs), such as the BTR-60. These battalions remained affiliated with their Regiments and Regimental Centers.
Jagjit Singh Aurora was the much-decorated Indian Army general who fashioned the decisive victory over the Pakistani Army that led to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. One of the principle architects of the Indian victory leading to the creation of Bangladesh, Aurora will be remembered for his offensive utilisation of air power in support of ground forces. He also introduced an element of surprise by employing the newly raised mechanised infantry battalions in the war.
The Army introduced Infantry Combat Vehicles (BMP) in 1977 in replacement of Armoured Personnel Carriers for improved fighting capabilities and mobility; besides securing protection against nuclear radiation. In 1977-78 some Mechanised Infantry units began to be equipped with the BMP-1 Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICVs).
General Krishnaswamy "Sundarji" Sundarrajan was a brilliant, but controversial and flamboyant soldier who steered the Indian army from 1986 to 1988. In the late '70s, General(retd) K.V. Krishna Rao, then deputy chief of the army staff, picked him to be part of a small team to study the reorganisation and modernisation of the army. This led to the creation of "machine-rich" divisions that became the mainstay of the Indian army. To meet the requirement for common training in mechanised warfare, the Mechanised Infantry Regiment was raised on 02 April 1979. New battalions were raised by pooling in manpower from old battalions. Sundarji shaped the Mechanised Infantry Regiment, which he commanded as its first colonel after its formation in 1979.
Recognizing the need to develop a common doctrine for tactics, these various mechanised Bns were regimented under the Mechanised Infantry Regiment in 1979. Thus, 1979 marked a transition for 1 Sikh, the British Commonwealth's most decorated battalion (245 pre-independence and 82 post-independence gallantry awards) as it was transferred out of the folds of the Sikh Regiment to become the 4th Battalion of the Mechanised Infantry Regiment. The class composition of this battalion also changed to All India Class. Presently the numbers of Sikhs in the 4 Mechanised Infantry has fallen to a level well below the minimum required for the battalion to sanction a gurdawara. This move along with the move of the Regimental Center to Ramgarh was opposed by most of the serving and retired senior officers of the Sikh Regiment.
Majority of the fleet of 747 BMP-I was imported during 1981-85. BMP-II vehicles were introduced during 1986 and 24 percent of present fleet were imported during 1986-90 and 76 percent were manufactured indigenously between 1988 and 1998-99. Army planned to equip Mechanised Infantry Battalions with both BMP-I and II upto a particular date, and thereafter only with BMP-II. However, BMP-I would be in service with other arms and services and non-field forces for 5 to 10 years thereafter.
As of 2005 it was established that the BMP-I ICVs held by the Army were to be de-inducted in 2018. The overhaul of these ICVs, which began in 1994-95 was to be completed by 2006-07. According to the overhaul schedule during 1999-2000 to 2003-2004, 550 BMPs were to be overhauled at the rate of 110 per annum. The 512 ABWs could, however, overhaul only 298 BMPs during this period.
BMP-II ICV Sarath
Production of the BMP-2, known as the Sarath (Chariot of Victory), continued in 2002 at 100 per year, with over 1,000 in active service at that time.
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