By Pradip R Sagar
21 August 2016 – The Sunday Standard
NEW DELHI: When India is facing numerous cross-border troubles, terror and Naxal threats and insurgency in the Northeast, the Indian Army is operating in combat zones with sub-standard assault rifles. With the Army on the lookout for a worthy successor to the homemade INSAS rifle, the primary weapon for the armed and paramilitary forces despite its inherent problems, DRDO has got another slap on its face.
For nearly two decades, the Army has been looking to replace the INSAS rifles as there has always been a mismatch between its end-user and the manufacturer. To overcome this handicap, the Army is setting up its own weapon design think-tank.
Titled Army Design Bureau, the independent body will be headed by a Major General. It will function as the Army’s interface with leading research institutions such as IITs, DRDO, academia, Defence Public Sector Units and the industry to enable them to understand and appreciate the Army’s need. With this, the Army aims to bridge the gap between field requirements, available weaponry and military hardware.
For example, the main battle tank Arjun Mark-2, being developed by DRDO, has not been able to meet the Army’s requirements despite repeated modifications. Sources claim that officials from the agency fail to understand the Army’s requirements.
Even the Army’s 2009 tender for over 1.86 lakh bulletproof jackets after the ones fielded by the vendors failed the trials.
The Infantry unit desperately needs over two lakh primary 7.62x51mm assault rifles, 1.6 lakh close quarter battle carbines, 16,000 7.62mm light machine guns and 3,600 7.62 specialised sniper rifles. The new bureau is expected to expedite the process of acquisition.
It will be the main repository of technical know-how and will assist in the making of General Staff Qualitative Requirements, which lays down why the equipment is required, its physical and operational details, and the maintainability and quality requirements. This requirement will have innovative ideas developed by the field formations and generation of long-term research requirement for the Army and sharing it with DRDO and academia.
The design unit will have two wings. Technical resources will be in Delhi, while simulation, innovations and design wing will be in Secunderabad, a hub of defence research industry. “It will not only narrow down search of modern day weaponry but also pave the way for high-quality research and product development,” said an official.
The Army has wanted for long a separate organisation that can perform the role of a facilitator between the research and development efforts and procurement of weapons and equipment. This specialised design unit will bring in a synergy between multiple directorates of the army, responsible for procurement.
Officials claim that in modern warfare and increasing influenced technology, design and development and subsequent procurement of military hardware and equipment is becoming increasingly complex.
The critical military procurement should take place in a time sensitive environment to ensure timely availability of the weaponry.