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Army Equipment

Piecemeal 'modernisation' is of no use to anyone. All arms have gone through two and a half modernisation cycles since independence. For people with less than the usual quota of a sense of humour it amounts to a three-legged arms race in which the Joneses are driving the Javeds, Joshis and Jiangs to follow suit.

As of 2012 there were shortages of artillery shells, tank ammunition, air defence guns, trucks and tanks. In a presentation to the Standing Committee of Members of Parliament on Defence in 2011, the Army itself acknowledged that in terms of armour, the country's preparedness was 71 per cent, combat helicopters (17), mechanised infantry (62), artillery (52), air defence systems (44), engineers (60), infantry (65), and Special Forces (69) and that full modernisation could be achieved only by 2027.

In March 2012 Army Chief General V K Singh's letter to the Prime Minister presenting a grim picture of the force`s defence preparedness was leaked to the news media. The letter, sent on March 12, suggested massive shortfalls in purchases and procedures, leading to the weakening of India's armed forces. The armys tanks have run out of ammunition, the air defense is as good as obsolete and the infantry is short of critical weapons, he wrote. He warns in the letter that the state of Indias military is alarming, noting that the countrys air defense is 97 percent obsolete, while the elite Special Forces are described as woefully short of essential weapons.

At least with the Indian Army it is not really so. It is conscious of working out an edge or even proximate ability to see that a catastrophic disadvantage does not undermine operational viability. Even the most articulate and vehement critic would agree that the army is appreciative of what the country has provided to it in material, though it is somewhat hard pressed to do so.

Equipment modernisation alone is not sufficient. Or else, any banana republic collecting martial objets d'art for gracing the palace gates of the head of state would constitute a formidable foe. Modernization of the Indian Army gives rise to paradoxes of time and meaning. It constitutes in its basic form the timeless creed of the warriors and their feeling of comradeship in war and pestilence. The individual styles of the arms actually complement each other in combat. The pivot is the ability of field commanders to accept organizational, doctrinal, and equipment changes (not in that order) plus a finer perception of the strategic issues involved. With that, is their ability to mix individual assets into a combined arms and logistics team of very high combat worth.

It is in this narrow area that modernization is usually talked about. By themselves, 'equipment' may just remain well-produced ironmongery or an intricate series of integrated circuits. But when these are synthesized in a complementary mix, they come to life - and present a threat out of all proportion to their arithmetical aggregate on inventory.

Overall, the Indian Army is adequately equipped. There certainly remain areas where improvements or 'modernization' is pending, but that does not, in any way, detract from the fact that overall the Army has achieved a dissuasive quality, in which a potential aggressor will go into lip-biting conclave before deciding upon a violent course of action.

The mechanized armies in the Western Sector are mobile, balanced groupings of high striking power. The fine synthesization of cutting-edge weaponry into high-value, capital-intensive combat groups is seen at it's best here. The T-72, BMP series Infantry Combat Vehicle, Anti-tank Guided Missiles of many varieties, Aviation, fast reconnaissance vehicles, the FH-77/B-02 Medium Gun together with a number of other field pieces indigenously designed and developed, varieties of self-propelled air defence missile and gun systems, 'Black' Electronic Warfare arrays, first-class assault bridging for dry and wet crossings are found together in supportive mixes. Here, all ballyhoo of We are the queens/kings of the battlefield' is easily given a quiet burial.

In the mountains, it is light infantry and artillery, supported by engineers, signals, helicopters and animals which make for the combined-arms approach. The most visible manifestation of modernization in equipment is in Siachen, which without these assets, can not be garrisoned much less defended. This includes a combative logistical infrastructure to prevail 'AGAINST ALL ODDS'

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been authorised to buy a fleet of 352 MPVs (costing over Rs 1 crore a piece), but as of 2016 had only 120 such vehicles. Worse, the lack of workshops in central and eastern India mean only around 60 per cent of the existing fleet is operational at any given time. In the absence of MPVs, the CRPF have been forced to use private unmarked vehicles to camouflage their movements. The proposal to acquire new MPVs was cleared in 2009 but the file has been shuttling between the CRPF's Lodhi Road headquarters in Delhi and the home ministry in North Block. The issue at hand was the inability of the two to freeze specifications and proceed on the acquisition. In addition to the 352 authorised nearly a decade ago, the MHA had sanctioned 180 additional MPVs in its recently approved Modernisation Plan II. Of the existing MPVs, most are outdated ordnance factory board (OFB) copies of the 1980s-era South African 'Casspir' MPVs, imported by the Indian army for use in J&K in the late 1980s.

The MHA's calculation was based on a simple formula-it allotted seven MPVs for every general duty (GD) battalion (1 battalion has approximately 1,000 men) and 10 MPVs to the special troops of CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) battalion. Since 2009, the CRPF deployments in the nine Maoist-affected states have doubled from 50 battalions to nearly 90 battalions. Expectedly, the shortfalls of outdated, poorly-maintained MPVs have also become glaringly obvious. By 2016 there were 120 central forces battalions deployed to assist the state police in the nine states. Yet, by 2016, the MHA fleet of MPVs was merely 170-strong, of which the CRPF had around 120 vehicles.

Other Equipment

Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV) of Polish origin and Bridge Laying Girder (BLG) were inducted in army between 1977 and 1988 and were to be overhauled after 12 years. The overhauls of the entire population of ARVs were to be completed by 2000 and that of BLG (60 M2) by 1998. However 512 ABW could overhaul only two BLGs and none of the ARVs until March 2004. Overhaul of these items could not be processed due to failure to procure/develop repair technology and non-establishment of overhaul line. Army Headquarters decided not to overhaul the low population BLGs. The offer for transfer of technology for overhaul of the ARVs received from a Polish firm in 1999 was yet to be approved. With overhaul long overdue, the operational reliability of the ARVs remained suspect.

India has substantial numbers of surface-to-air missile capabilities, the total number of launchers being more than 1,200.

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