The Indian Army’s (IA) special operations forces, known as SF (Para), will at last begin acquiring the vital force-multipliers that were promised to them as far back as 2004! Yesterday, the MoD’s Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) cleared the decks for the DPB to initiate sole-source contractual negotiations for a number of items for not only the SF (Para) formations, but also for the IA’s newly-created XVII Corps, which, essentially, is a warfighting formation that will specialise in highland warfare and will also be air-mobile in nature.
8,356 Spike-SR ATGMs (FROM Israel’s RAFAEL) and related 321 ultra-light ATGM launchers worth Rs 3,200 crore, plus ELTA Systems-built ELM-2138T ‘Green Rock’ Tactical Counter Rockets, Artillery & Mortars (C-RAM) Systems, and ELBIT Systems Electro-Optics’ Long View CR optronic sensors. On the other hand, for equipping the Indian Army’s existing 356 infantry battalions (inclusive of 44 mechanised infantry battalions) of the 1.13 million-strong IA and the projected 30 new infantry battalions to be raised in the 13th five-year defence plan (2018-2022) 1,914 FGM-148 Javelin ATGM launchers and up 37,860 missile-rounds (including war wastage reserves) and 12,000 SMAW-2NE launchers and up to 80,000 rounds of various types are planned to be procured in future.
Presently, the IA is authorised by the MoD to have a total of 81,206 ATGMs, with each infantry battalion deployed in the plains being armed with four medium-range (1.8km-range) and four long-range (4km-range) ATGM launchers (each with six missiles), and those in the mountains have one of each type along with six missiles for each launcher. In reality, however, the IA’s total existing inventory of ATGMs now stands at only 44,000 that includes 10,000 second-generation MBDA-developed and BDL-built SACLOS wire-guided Milan-2 ATGMs and 4,600 launchers; 4,100 second-generation MBDL-supplied Milan-2T ATGMs; 15,000 second-generation 4km-range 9M113M Konkurs-M SACLOS wire-guided ATGMs licence-built by BDL, plus another 10,000 that are now being supplied off-the-shelf by Russia’s JSC Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod. Also on order are 443 DRDO-developed third-generation Nag fire-and-forget ATGMs along with 13 DRDO-developed NAMICA tracked ATGM launchers.
The DAC, led by then Defence Minister A K Antony, had taken up the procurement of the fire-and-forget FGM-148 and SMAW-2NE for clearance on April 2, 2013, following which the MoD’s approved the DRDO’s proposal for jointly developing the high-altitude warfare-optimised warheads for the two anti-armour weapon systems. By the first half of next year, therefore, the MoD and its wholly owned DPSUs like Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will be able to ink military-industrial agreements with US-based Raytheon for both the joint development of thermobaric and HE/FRAG penetration-cum-blast warheads as well as the licenced-production of the FIM-148 Javelin’s missile rounds (the launchers will be licence-assembled by BDL) as well as the SMAW-2NE’s modified 83mm Mk80 rocket (containing a thermobaric HEDP warhead), while the re-usuable launchers will be licence-assembled by OFB.
The IA had zeroed in on the FGM-148 Javelin as far back as 2008 after it had conducted in-country summer user-evaluations of the RAFAEL of Israel-built Spike-ER ATGM. During these evaluations, seven out of the 10 missiles fired missed their targets because their on-board uncooled long-wave infra-red (LWIR) sensors failed to distinguish their targets from their surroundings (an identical problem had also beset the Nag ATGM’s uncooled LWIR sensors in 2012 during user-evaluations). In contrast, the high-altitude warfare-optimised Javelin will use a cooled mid-wave IR (MWIR) sensor that will be able to passively lock-on to targets at up to 50% farther range than an uncooled sensor, thus allowing the firing crew greater and safer standoff distance, and less likely to be exposed to counter-fire. As far as weight is concerned, the cooling equipment adds less than 2 lb per weapon. The uncooled sensor is not only less reliable, but its long-LWIR spectrum is only compatible with a dome made of softer materials that vulnerable to abrasion in harsh environments (e.g., deserts) and consequently require replacement more often. The cooled seeker’s MWIR spectrum allows a durable hardened dome, and it is better than LWIR in discerning threats in certain geographic locations or environmental conditions. An uncooled sensor thus brings increased repairs, decreased operational availability, and dangerous vulnerabilities, while a cooled IIR sensor saves lives, lessens fratricide, minimises collateral damage, lowers risk, and protects its firing platforms/crew.
It was in 2003 that IA HQ had formulated a General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) in 2003 for acquiring the Milan-2T, armed with a tandem-warhead. The tandem warhead was to be licence-built by BDL under ToT from MBDA. The GSQR of the in-service Milan-2 had provided for an essential range as 1,850 metres and a desirable range of 2,000 metres. The GSQR of 2003 for the Milan-2T had indicated the range as 2,000 metres. The RFP for procurement of 4,100 Milan-2Ts was issued to BDL in January 2007. The MoD’s Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) did not find the product offered by BDL compliant with the GSQR as the range of 2,000 metres offered had only 1,850 metres under wire-guidance phase, while the last 150 metres was left unguided (along with the first 75 metres after missile launch). The case for procurement was therefore closed in May 2007.
Subsequently, BDL confirmed that the guidance-range of the Milan-2T would be 2,000 metres. The case was re-opened and trials of the Milan-2T were conducted in February 2008. Based on the firing trial results, Indian Army HQ did not recommend its introduction into service in view of difficulties in engaging moving targets during the last 150 metres. In addition, the requirement was not met in terms of flight-time and overall weight. Furthermore, third-generation ATGMs were already available in the global market by June 2006. Based on representations from the staff union of BDL to the then Minister of State for Defence Production & Supplies (since non-placement of orders for Milan-2Ts would result in redeployment of BDL’s workforce and already procured materials common to Milan-2/-2T would have to be junked), it was decided to procure a minimum required quantity of Milan-2Ts in May 2008 by amending the GSQR in August 2008 for the Milan-2T with 1,850 metres range and with the waiver of in-country firing-trials, after considering the long lead-times required for procuring third-generation ATGMs, and the fact that the shelf-life of existing stocks of Milan-2 would expire by 2013. The revised RFP was issued to BDL in September 2008 as per the amended GSQR. The MoD concluded a procurement contract with BDL in December 2008 for the supply of 4,100 Milan-2T ATGMs at a cost of Rs.587.02 crore with a staggered delivery schedule to be completed within 36 months from the effective date of contract.
The RPO-A & C-90A LAW Procurement Sagas
The IA had, since the 1980s, never really embraced the idea of procuring one-man portable shoulder-fired, reusable anti-armour weapons (LAW) capable of defeating armoured vehicles, enemy bunkers and other reinforced positions. It was only in 1996 that LAWs were procured in small quantities and this was followed in June 199 during OP Vijay, in an effort to meet its urgent requirements, by the Army HQ proposing the procurement of 1,800 disposable bunker-bursting LAWs (600 RPO-A Shmels from Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp and 1,200 from Spain’s Instalaza SA). The proposal also indicated that 600 more LAWs were required under the 9th Army Plan. In response to the MoD’s enquiries, Russia’s KBP Tula offered to supply its RPO-A Shmel at a unit price of US$3,600 for an order of 600 and at the rate of US$3,500 for an order of 1,200 units. The MoD urgently concluded a procurement contract in June 1999 for 1,200 RPO-As each priced at US$3,500 with a delivery schedule in two lots of 600 pieces each, thereby aggregating US$4.2 million (Rs.18.22 crore), with deliveries commencing within two months from the date of contract signature. A delegation of the IA had witnessed a live-firing demonstration of the RPO-A as early as in September 1995. In its evaluation report, the delegation had observed, among other things, that target engagement could not be analysed beyond 350 metres vis a vis the 1,000-metre range claimed by KBP Tula in its technical offer; the firing could be conducted only during daylight as no night-sighting device was developed; and the thermobaric warhead’s terminal effect could not also be assessed as there was no incendiary effect. The then Chief Scientific Adviser to the MoD had also brought to the notice of the MoD in November 1995 that the DRDO representative in the delegation had reported that during the demonstration of September 1995, 14 RPO-As were fired at a range of 200 metres and none of the shots hit the targets at that range. However, the delegation recommended procurement of the weapon only as a one-time buy, suggesting that future requirements be met indigenously by the DRDO and OFB. Accordingly, 300 RPO-As were procured in September 1996 as a one-time buy. Against these recommendations of the delegation, the MoD at the instance of Army HQ once again decided to go ahead with follow-on procurements of another 300 RPO-As at a total cost of Rs.18.22 crore even though it did not meet the end-user’s operational requirements. Deliveries commenced only after August 1999.
The MoD concluded a procurement contract on June 30, 1999 with Instalaza SA for the off-the-shelf supply of 1,200 C-90A LAWs worth US$1.66 million (Rs.7.15 crore). As per the terms of the contract, Instalaza SA had to offer the C-90As for inspections at its premises within six weeks from the date of contract signature, and immediate delivery and transportation by air-freight in one lot thereafter. Two days after signing the contract, Instalaza SA indicated that the consignment could be despatched by air and it would extend all co-operation to deliver the goods by air after receipt of instructions from the MoD. Accordingly, the MoD amended the clause regarding the mode of despatch from ‘Ship’ to ‘Air’ on July 8, 1999 Instalaza SA intimated its readiness to despatch the consignment after it was duly inspected by its authorities in August 1999. However, Instalaza SA expressed apprehension on airlifting the goods as they fell under the ‘dangerous category’. The freight agent also intimated the MoD by September 1999 about its inability to obtain requisite airspace transit clearances from the country of origin and the other countries involved. Consequently, the MoD amended the contract clause relating to the mode of despatch on October 7, 1999, reverting back to ‘Ship’. Eventually, the C-90As arrived on December 11, 1999, four months after being ready for dispatch, while the MoD had in August 2000 claimed that the delay occurred due to factors beyond its control.
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Further Force-Multiplier Accretions On
The ELM-2138T C-RAM is a mobile, autonomous system designed to respond to evolving light artillery threats in land operations, and support a variety of ground forces missions, including force protection, fast-response to enemy-attack, and friendly-fire correction. Installed on all-terrain vehicles (ATV), the system comprises a dual-band radar to acquire and track trajectories of ballistic munitions such as rockets, artillery and mortars. The ELM-2138T calculates the launching point and predicts the point of impact. Whenever a threat to friendly forces is detected, a warning is sent to the area’s control centre and to the interception systems to respond to the threat and its source.
Elbit Systems Electro-Optics’ Long View CR, weighing less than 12.5kg, combines a very long-range continuous optical zoom FLIR, long-range day cameras, integral eye-safe laser rangefinder, GPS and a magnetic compass all in one, compact configuration. For dismounted operations, the Long View CR is operated on a miniature electronic goniometer enabling high azimuth and elevation accuracy. It can be carried in a backpack or mounted on a vehicle, making it especially suitable for long-range intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance (ISR) missions performed by special operations forces, or forward observers (FO) in stationary observation posts or reconnaissance vehicles. With its proprietary algorithms and technologies, the Long View CR has the unique ability to acquire long-range targets or to observe small targets, such as enemy combatants, in high spatial resolution under severe visual conditions day or night.
The XVII Corps will in future be equipped with two force-multipliers: the TAC-4G broadband fourth-generation cellular network, and the Real Time Intelligence Center (RICent) multi-sensor modular Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) system—both from ELTA Systems. TAC-4G is based on a flat-IP network architecture which provides flexible and fast communications between many users. This includes fast-and-secure communications between different points and support of concurrent running of multiple applications, many of which require high bandwidth. The high flexibility of TAC-4G along with additional inherent capabilities such as information security, on-the-move network infrastructure, and support of multiple applications, positions the system as an optimal solution for addressing the complex military communications requirements.
TAC-4G also supports a wide variety of multimedia applications and allows quick and easy addition or removal of applications. It also implements the ‘network-centric warfare’ principle; allows various-level commanders the highest level of control and effective activation of various warfighting, logistics and maintenance forces; allows, real-time battlefield management and control; uses the cost-effective commercial cellular network providers’ infrastructure, which allows shorter implementation time and fewer risks in comparison to other alternatives that are not based on COTS infrastructures.
RICent is designed to produce 24/7 all-weather geo-spatial imagery intelligence (IMINT) through the real-time processing and integration of images generated by a variety of space-based, airborne and land-based IMINT sensors. RICent’s multi-sensor exploitation and intelligence dissemination processes employ a variety of automatic and semi-automatic tools essential for quick detection, acquisition and identification of time-critical targets, extracted from the huge volumes of imagery data. Its field-proven capabilities for very high-throughput automated geo-spatial image intelligence processing are also essential in effective wide-area environmental monitoring and for responding quickly to natural disasters.
For further improving command-and-control connectivity for those IA and ITBP detachments responsible for both manning the LAC and undertaking long-range reconnaissance patrols, the fast-track acquisition of up to 80 lightweight ELK 1895 manpack tactical SATCOM terminals has been approved. The IA presently has 280 briefcase-based SATCOM terminals built by ECIL, but they are getting outdated technologically. The ELK 1895 manpack SATCOM terminals with Ku-Band transmission/reception capability for almost unlimited ranges will thus be welcomed as a vital force-multiplier. Each such terminal will include two-three suitcases to hold an antenna, dish and other equipment. The first 40 ELK 1895 terminals are meant for the IA’s Northern, Central and Eastern Commands, which together cover the three sectors of LAC—western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh).
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