Infantry Marches on Technology

Digitisation permits the war fighter to communicate vital battlefield information instantly. The aim is to create a common operational picture (COP) of the battlefield at each level, from soldier to commander, which is based on common data collected through a network of sensors, battle management systems and weapon platforms.

Issue 5 - 2021 By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By Rosoboronexport, Sig Sauer
(Left to Right) Assault Rifle AK-203 and SiG 716 Assault Rifle

Infantry soldiers are trained, armed and equipped to fight on foot to close with and destroy the enemy. Ultimately the infantry wins the war whether in offensive or defensive role; regardless of ample fire support from Artillery & Airforce. Thus, effective boots on the ground matter in land warfare, whether on the LOC, LAC or to counter insurgency/terrorism.

With the advancement of technology leveraging every aspect of infantry to include superior weapons, communications, protection for the soldier, situation awareness, command & control systems, the first key development was the digitisation of the battlefield.

Digitisation of the Battlefield

Digitisation of the battlefield is the application of information technologies to acquire, exchange and employ timely information throughout the battlefield. It is designed to meet the requirements of commander, shooter and supporting elements in order to provide the ability to each of them to have an accurate vision of the battlefield, necessary to support planning of mission & its flawless execution. Digitisation permits the war fighter to communicate vital battlefield information instantly rather than through slow voice radio. It provides integration of horizontal and vertical digital information network that ensure effective & rapid decision-cycle through command & control. It also supports synergy of battlefield fire and manoeuvres. The aim is to create a common operational picture (COP) of the battlefield at each level, from soldier to commander, which is based on common data collected through a network of sensors, battle management systems and weapon platforms. The process of digitisation is under the umbrella of C4I2 (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and information) systems in which, information technology plays a central role whether it is for communications, target surveillance, target acquisition, navigation or the ability of the soldier and commander to communicate with each other. US as usual were leaders in digitisation of the battlefield and through their Land Warrior Programme, identified five categories of modernisationlethality, mobility, command and control, survivability, and sustainment. Other examples are UK’s Future Integrated Soldier Technology’ (FIST) which a planned induction of 35,000 by 2020 (details not known) & France’s FELIN where about 22,600 French soldiers have been equipped with the system.

The Future Digitised Infantry Soldier

The future infantryman will have the following requirements to be able to operate effectively in the digitised battlefield:

  • Better lethality which can be improved with better weapons & ammunition, having more lethality; more accurate target acquisition and aiming devices both by day and night. This implied that the sights will include laser range finder and night vision devices.
  • Command, control and communication is essential in the battlefield. The infantry man will be provided with both audio and video links for passing information and receiving information/orders.
  • Navigation can be improved by providing GPS or digital compass.

“Future Infantry Soldier as a System” (F-INSAS)

The Indian Army launched, “Future Infantry Soldier as a System” (F-INSAS) Programme during 2005 to digitise the infantryman. The area of focus of F-INSAS was ‘Lethality; Situational Awareness; Sustainability and Protection’.

In January 2015, the Indian Army split the F-INSAS programme in favour of two separate projects; one arming the modern infantry soldier with the best available assault rifle, carbine and LMG, and personal equipment; and the second component is the Battlefield Management Systems (BMS) which included the computer and communications. The reason obviously was the cost & slow development of technology.

Truncated F-INSAS Progress

SiG 716 Assault Rifles. India bought over 1.4 lakh of these rifles under two separate contracts. The SIG716 uses the more powerful 7.62x51mm cartridge.

Russia’s AK-203 Assault Rifles. During August 2020 it was reported that MoD has decided to manufacture 7,50,000 AK-203 assault rifles under the ‘Make in India’ with license from Russia. AK-203 is the latest and most advanced variant of popular AK-47 that is famous for its lethality and reliability. In January 2019, an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was signed between India and Russia. The Indo-Russia Rifles Private Limited was then set-up as a joint venture between OFB (with a 50.5 per cent majority stake), Kalashnikov (42 per cent), and Rosoboronexport (7.5 per cent), Russia’s state-owned defence export agency, under which the rifles would be manufactured. In the current reorganisation of the Ordnance factories into seven verticals, the production may become even more efficient to meet the target of 6,70,000 AK-203 rifles apart from the addition 1,00,000 units being imported from Russia.

LMG. The Indian Army started looking for a new LMG with the calibre of 7.62x51mm by sending a delegation during April/May 2019 to Bulgaria (Arsenal Company); Israel (Israel Weapon Industries) and South Korea (S&T Motiv Co.). Currently the Army is looking for 16,400 LMGs under Fast Track Procedure but seems to have made no traction.

Close Quarter Battle (CQB) Carbines. The UAE has pushed for the longpending contract for 93,895 Close Quarter Battle (CQB) Carbines for Indian Army won by its state-owned firm, Caracal. The carbine of Caracal was short listed but there is no progress so far reported.

Sako TRG M-10 Sniper Rifles of Finland. The TRG M10 is a bolt-action sniper rifle that is available in multiple calibres, manually operated and shoulder-fired, as well as magazine-fed. Details are not known but they are in service with Indian Army’s special forces.

Global Developments

Exacto (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance). Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced contracts to start designing a super, .50-caliber sniper rifle that fires guided bullets. Lockheed Martin received $12.3 million for the “Exacto,” project, while Teledyne Scientific & Imaging got another $9.5 million. Its optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and night time range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems. The system combines a manoeuvrable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.

Computational Weapon Optic (CWO). DARPA is developing the CWO which is a rifle scope with smart-phone capability. It provides a ballistic solution, synchronised fire, fratricide detection, and command and control capabilities to the infantry. CWO includes Integrated laser rangefinder; night vision and thermal optics; Anti-fratricide system; Radio synchronisation & Applied Ballistics software for accurate firing.

The Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT). The future battlefield will be defined by the internet of military things or entities which are connected to smart devices, UAVs & a plethora of sensors including those worn by the infantry to produce a mass of actionable data by continuously communicating with each another. This results in an efficient coordination, learn, and interact with the physical environment to accomplish a broad range of activities. Conceptually it is designed to reduce much of the physical and mental burden that soldiers face during combat by creating directly a miniature ecosystem of smart technology capable of distilling sensory information and autonomously governing multiple tasks. The US Army lab created in 2016 the internet of IoBT project in response to the US Army’s operational outline for 2020 to 2040, titled “Winning during a Complex World.” It is highly futuristic.

Avalanche Warning and Detection Systems. Avalanche threat in the higher reaches of J&K and Ladakh has been more common during the last three decades. Seventy four Army personnel (mainly infantry) have died due to avalanches in the past three years (up to 2020). Indian Army is looking for systems which can search & warn about the location of humans during avalanches. Wyssen Avalanche Control AG of Switzerland offers the following:-

  • LIA acquires the snow-cover directly in the slope of the release areas by 3D laser measurement. Covering an area as big as an ice-hockey field, not only can it measure the absolute snow depth, but also other para metres.
  • GINA enables the monitoring of avalanche activity in specific avalanche paths.
  • IDA monitors endangered areas in order to ensure that no people are exposed to controlled released avalanches in poor visibility.

SMASH 2000. SMARTSHOOTER is an Israeli company which has developed state-of-the-art Fire Control Systems for small arms that significantly increase weapon accuracy and lethality when engaging static and moving targets, on the ground and in the air, day and night. The systems are based on Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision and Machine Learning technologies. The Company has developed counter low flying unmanned aerial system (UAS) versions of SMASH 2000 as follows:

SMASH 2000 PLUS is based on the SMASH 2000 system but includes a Counter UAS Mode that provides for the kinetic elimination of small, low-flying UAS.

SMASH AD includes an integrated Laser Range Finder (LRF) & can also receive and display target information from an external sensor, radar, or detection system. The SMASH AD promises precise, swift, safe and simple hard-kill elimination of UAS threats.

The SMASH HOPPER is a light-weight Remote Controlled Weapon Station (RCWS) using SMASH Fire Control technology. SMASH HOPPER provides operators the remote capability to engage ground targets and small UAS. US Army, US Marine Corps & the Indian Navy have shown interest in the counter UAS system.

Indian Infantry is the military strength of a nation in war & deterrent in peace. It is in the heart of the fight, is relentless, is always there, now & forever. Our Infantry is the best & they deserve the best systems & technology.