A recent entry appeared on Army-Technology reviews the multibillion dollar Indian Army's programme that is aimed at transforming infantrymen into fully-networked, digitised, and self-contained 21st century warriors, named F-INSAS (Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System). The program, which is planned to be rolled out in stages between 2012 and 2020, has been described by Indian defence officials as similar in scope and objectives to infantry modernisation projects like the US Army's Future Force Warrior initiative.
In this context, news sources report that the Indian MoD has recently issued a global tender for the acqusition of new assault rifles, CQB carbines (Close Quarters Battle) and lightweight ballistic helmets with internal communication gear. Indian MoD is currently preparing RFPs for light-machine guns, modular bullet-proof jackets, holographic reflex weapon sights, soldier-wearable computers, communication and surveillance equipment.
Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS) concept is based on the lessons gained from conflicts worldwide and intends making the Indian soldier a "self-contained fighting machine". F-INSAS perceives a multi mission, multi role war fighter who is part of the system that contains numerous modular integrated sub systems. The concept identifies the need to provide infantry soldier with enhanced capabilities in terms of lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility, communications, and situational awareness.
The F-INSAS roadmap, laid out by Indian defence officials at the project's outset, states that the new system will be supplied to eight to ten infantry battalions (up to 10,000 soldiers) by 2015, with all 325 battalions fully upgraded by 2020.
The first objective of the F-INSAS project is the development of a new standard-issue armament to replace the ageing INSAS (INdian Small Arms System) rifle, that was developed by India's Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) and introduced by the Ordnance Factory Board in the late 1990s. To replace the INSAS, the Indian Army wants to develop or acquire a new modular, multicalibre suite of weapons. The primary weapon is planned to be a rifle capable of firing 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition with a new 6.8mm under-development. This first stage alone will reportedly cost up to Rs250bn ($5Bn).
In the later stages of the programme, however, the Indian Army intends to complement its new weapon platforms with a range of high-tech equipment for its infantry soldiers. This equipment includes a new helmet with mounted thermal sensors and night vision, as well as cameras and chemical and biological sensors. The helmet will have an integrated visor with a heads-up display (HUD) capable of outputting images with the equivalent space of two 17-inch computer screens. Other proposed accessories include a full battle-suit with a bullet-proof and waterproof jacket, health sensors and even solar charging devices. This kind of personal energy generation could be used to power the soldier's HUD and sensor systems, as well as a wrist-mounted Palmtop GPS system that will be used to increase battlefield awareness and act as a networked messaging system between battalions and their commanders.
In general terms, F-INSAS is divided into five sub-systems:
- modular weapons;
- body armour and individual equipment;
- weapon sights and hand-held target acquisition devices;
- communication equipment;
- portable computers ("wrist displays'' for soldiers and "planning boards'' for commanders).
“The F-INSAS is what the infantry soldier of the future will be equipped with. It will be a multi-function weapon system with several features integrated into its design. It would be able to fight at close quarters, tackle distant targets and monitor attacks coming from all directions and accordingly respond. It would also have detailed communication mechanisms. For example, the system would ensure that communication between the rifle and the soldier is done through electronic means,” said Surendra Kumar, director of Indian Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE).
In today's modern and evolving armies, the infantry soldier continues to play a central role in all kinds of operational scenarios and terrain. His mission spectrum is complex, it requires him to be enabled with enhanced capabilities, that would to sustain him in high mobility operations in difficult and unfamiliar terrain. The infantryman operating in urban areas and under extreme climatic conditions has to prepare to face asymmetric threats. To meet these operational requirements and to enable the soldier to fight better and survive, most of the armies worldwide are engaged in infantry soldier's modernisation programmes, and are equipping their soldiers with advanced versions of existing systems and emerging technologies. The most significant of these programmes are Land Warrior in the U.S., IdZ-ES in Germany, FIST in UK, Soldato Futuro in Italy, and FÉLIN in France.
References: Army-Technology (1), rediff.com (2), The Times of India (3), Indian Defense Project Sentinel (4)