Today’s battlefield is no longer a clearly defined two-dimensional piece of ground. The country’s entire land mass, coastal areas, island territories, ocean depths, air space, space and the cyber domain constitute the new battle space. It is all-encompassing and now also includes the psychological domain: the minds of the political and military leadership and the population at large. The spectrum of conflict, too cannot be perceived in terms of a neat, easily comprehended, linear escalator – with peace at one end and war at the other. It is a continuum within which lie a range of military and non-military conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict activities. The distinction between these is blurred. It is in this environment that the Infantry, colloquially called the ‘Queen of the Battle’, has to operate.
For the infantryman, the fight is always close and personal. It is the infantry which is involved in close-quarter combat, capturing ground and fighting proverbially to the last man and last round. It is the skill, ingenuity and raw courage of the infantryman that constitutes the infantry’s core strength and raison d’être. Technology acts as a force multiplier to make the soldier truly invincible.
In the Indian Army, the transformation of the infantry has been underway for some time now. The aim remains to exploit the phenomenal advances that have been made in the field of advanced weapons and communication systems so as to give the soldiers the winning edge in battles. But while transformation is underway, what remains constant is the ethos and spirit of the soldier. That is a function of training, regimentation, discipline, unit élan and esprit de corps. For the infantry, the soldier is the weapon, and he has to be enabled to fight successfully, in all weather and terrain conditions to defeat hostile forces.
India is confronted by two hostile neighbours and thus will always have to be prepared for conventional conflict. Maintaining our forces in a high state of operational readiness remains the best deterrent. It is also the mantra for victory in battle. For the infantry, this would imply the ability to mobilise and deploy in an acceptable time frame, and to, thereafter, dominate the battlefield. Information superiority and battlefield transparency will be the keys to winning tomorrow’s wars. For the infantryman, this means knowing the location of friendly forces to achieve synergy in operations, as also the location and capability of enemy forces and having the means to destroy them. This is a function of battlefield transparency, area dominance through advanced weapon systems and well-trained, highly motivated soldiers.
The Technological Edge
As part of protective gear, the Ministry of Defence is now procuring better quality bulletproof jackets that are able to shield a soldier against 7.62 mm armour-piercing rifle bullets and steel core bullets shot from a distance of 10 metres. The Army has opted for level 4 bulletproof jackets (BPJ) following instances of the use of steel core bullets by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. A tender for 62,500 bulletproof jackets was placed in November last year, of which 15,000 BPJs are being procured under the emergency procurement procedure. This will ensure that casualties in anti-terrorist operations are further reduced.
Procurement of Weapons
- The Army has opted for level 4 bulletproof jackets
- Infantry to get the most advanced AK-203 assault rifle
- US-made Sig Sauer rifles was procured as an emergency option in 2019
- For tactical mobility, CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter was procured
- Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), designed and developed by HAL has been formally inducted into IAF
- The infantry is also moving towards greater use of Unmanned aerial vehicles
In terms of firepower, the infantry will get the most advanced version of the AK series of rifles, the AK-203 assault rifle. The rifle is the soldiers personal weapon. While the indigenously manufactured 5.56 mm INSAS rifle has served the Army well, the need for a better personal weapon for the soldier has now become a prime requirement. A joint venture with Russia was set up in 2019 to produce the AK-203 rifle in Korwa Ordnance Factory in Amethi district at a cost of over Rs 7,000 crore. The production of these rifles will greatly enhance the ability of the Infantry in operations, both in the conventional as well as in the sub-conventional domain. As there was a delay in finding a replacement of the 5.56 mm INSAS rifle, the US-made Sig Sauer rifles was procured as an emergency option in 2019. Now, over 671,000 AK-203 rifles (7.62Ã—39mm) will be manufactured at the Korwa Ordnance Factory in Amethi. 100 per cent localisation of these rifles will be achieved by the time 120,000 rifles have been manufactured in Korwa. The Infantry will also shortly be getting new carbines to replace the outdated and ageing 9mm British Sterling 1A1 submachine guns. This will give the infantry an edge in close-quarter battle situations. In addition, there has been a quantum improvement in terms of grenades issued to the infantry, as also in the quality of battalion support weapons which are now held by the Infantry, especially in terms of mines and anti-tank weapons.
Mobility is a prime requirement of the infantry. Strategic mobility is now available to transport the infantry, with the Indian Air Force procuring the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. For tactical mobility, we have the CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter that is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters. In a big boost to Atmanirbharta in defence, the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has been formally inducted into the Indian Air Force (and has been named as “Prachanda”. This will also provide invaluable close air support to the Infantry in conventional operations.
But perhaps the greatest transformation has taken place in the field of information superiority. Capability has been enhanced in intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) systems. There is also enhanced capability in C4 (command, control, communications and computers) systems to facilitate better decision-making, planning and execution of operations. The Infantry has been greatly enabled in all these aspects over the last decade. India now has the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NavIC (acronym for ‘Navigation with Indian Constellation). This is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services which covers not just India, but an area extending over 1,500 kilometres from India’s borders. Enhanced situational awareness will greatly facilitate commanders in the conduct of operations.
The transformation of the infantry has been underway for some time now. The aim remains to exploit the phenomenal advances that have been made in the field of advanced weapons and communication systems so as to give the soldiers the winning edge in battle
In the transformation process, the infantry is also moving towards greater use of unmanned systems. Unmanned aerial vehicles/ combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs), as also unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) are being used for reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and destruction.
Human Resource Development
The Infantry continues to stress on building the ethos and mental and physical toughness required for the modern battlefield environment. We now have a new system of recruitment for the Army called the Agnipath Scheme. While the scheme has just started, it will have certain teething problems which the Armed Forces will address as the time goes by. But it will lead to the Infantry having a younger age profile and more importantly, only the best of the lot being retained. For the Infantry, this will be a major game changer. But, it must be understood that, at the basic level, the stress on the regimental ethos and emphasis on physical fitness, field and battle craft, and good shooting standards will remain. The coming decades would see the infantry soldier as more of a sensor or a caller for effect than the deliverer of firepower through individual or crew served weapons. The Agnipath scheme will ensure that the soldier has the requisite ability to come up to the requirements of what is required in the future battlefield.
While transformation of the Infantry is taking place apace, it must be remembered that transformation is both about training soldiers to the requisite degree and also about equipping the soldier with the best weapons and equipment. While maintaining and further enhancing the tenets and ethos of the infantry, the need is to exploit technology and adapt to changing circumstances to defeat the enemy in battle. The Indian Army and the Infantry are well set to meet all operational requirements and will continue to strive to maintain the edge over its enemies in battle.