Indian Defence Modernisation: Regional status at stake
by Rijul Singh Uppal on 23 Aug 2012 30 Comments

India emerged as a regional power with the end of the Cold War and established a military setup to take on antagonists. Yet, since independence, policy makers in New Delhi focused Indian defence modernisation mainly towards deterring Pakistani misadventures, thus distorting our overall defence upgrades. Now, the rise of China as a regional Asian power and rising international power ready to confront America in various theatres (Africa, Gulf, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, Korea), has triggered concerns about the pace of defence modernisation in New Delhi. Given the history of Indo-Sino relations, the powers-that-be have realised that defence modernisation is imperative to maintain some kind of regional status to curb Chinese influence in Asia.


Tactical control of the land


With over 1.1 million active personnel and around 900,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is well-manned but in urgent need of modernisation of firepower and equipment. With Beijing speeding up the laying of all-weather roads near the Indian borders, the Indian Army too has increased its presence there and is strengthening existing ELINT and HUMINT networks along the Chinese border.


Artillery Upgrades: The Bofors scandal effectively halted all artillery modernisation. The 410 Haubits FH77/B Howitzer’s bought from the Swedish firm are en route to being replaced by DRDO’s indigenous 155mm Artillery Gun. In May 2012, an order of 145 M777 Howitzers through Foreign Military Sales route of the US government was cleared by the Ministry of Defence, currently awaiting approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security. Whatever its tall claims, it is no secret that the Indian Army lacks a credible artillery set-up, whether Howitzers or Field Guns, capable of deterring any enemy.


Tanks and armoured vehicles: The Indian Army is organising and re-organising its mechanised units to gain a strategic upper hand, mainly tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. There are currently over 800 T-90 Main Battle Tanks in service; the target for 2020 is 1657. The Army has nearly 2000 T-72 Ajeya MBT’s and is inducting 250 Arjun MBT’s and developing Arjun MK-II. It plans to induct the indigenously developed Futuristic Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) to replace the BMP-2’s in service and the indigenously developed Future Main Battle Tank (FMBT).


Controlling the Seas


In support of the nation’s growing strengths and responsibilities, the Indian Navy is determined to create and sustain a three dimensional; technology enabled and networked force capable of safeguarding our maritime interests on the high seas and projecting combat power across the littoral (The Indian Navy’s Vision Document May 2006).


Submarines: The Indian Navy currently operates 16 submarines, namely, 10 Sindughosh Class Diesel submarines; 4 Shishumar Class Diesel submarines; 1 Akula Class Nuclear powered INS Chakra; 1 Arihant Class Nuclear Submarine INS Arihant. Over the next decade, it plans to induct 6 Scorpène Class diesel submarines, 3 Arihant Class Nuclear Submarines and 6 Hunter-Killer submarines for which RFI has been issued to 4 Global Shipbuilding companies. With the induction of INS Arihant this year, India achieved the nuclear weapon triad, becoming only the 6th country to have such a deterrent in place.


Destroyers: The Navy currently operates 8 Guided-missile destroyers. These consist of 3 Indigenous Delhi Class destroyers and 5 Russian manufactured Rajput Class destroyers. The Navy’s destroyer fleet will be uplifted with the induction of 3 Kolkata Class stealth guided-missile destroyers under Project 15A, the first of which is scheduled to be commissioned this year. It will be inducting 4 upgraded Kolkata class destroyers under Project 15B.


Frigates: There are currently 14 frigates in service with the Indian Navy. These consist of 2 Shivalik Class; 4 Talwar Class; 3 Brahmaputra Class; 3 Godavari Class and 1 Nilgiri Class Frigates. The frigate fleet will soon see some changes with the induction of the 3rd Shivalik Class frigate that will replace the existing Nilgiri Class frigate. 2 Talwar Class and 7 Upgraded Shivalik Class under Project 17A will then replace the Brahmaputra and Godavari Class Frigates.


Aircraft Carriers: The Navy currently has only one aircraft carrier in service, namely INS Viraat, which, though scheduled to have been de-commissioned earlier, has undergone many refits to ensure operational capabilities till a new aircraft carrier is in place. INS Viraat is now scheduled to remain in service till 2015-2016 when it shall be replaced by the Vikrant Class Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). On account of the refurbishment, it can remain in service till 2020 when the 2nd Vikrant Class IAC is inducted. The Navy is also preparing to induct INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) in December 2012; it would then have two carrier battle groups.


Maintaining Clear Skies


The Indian Air Force is also modernising and upgrading its existing fleet in view of the extensive modernisation by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, including the fast paced stealth fighter program.


Fighter and Multirole combat aircraft: The primary role of the fighter and multi-role aircrafts is to maintain air supremacy during battle. These are specifically designed for dog-fighting and attacking enemy airplanes, though they can also take on the role of attack and close support aircrafts by launching precision strikes on enemy ground installations.


The inventory of the Indian Air Force consists of 125 MiG 21 Bison interceptor aircrafts that are too be phased out by 2017; 51 Dassault Mirage 2000H multirole fighters that are being upgraded to Mirage 2000-5 standards; 272 Sukhoi SU-30MKI air superiority fighters out of which 146 are already in service; 68 MiG 29 air superiority fighters currently being upgraded to MiG 29 UPG standard. In addition, the IAF is procuring 126 MMRCAs.


The IAF of the 2020’s will be led by 126 MMRCAs, 270 Sukhoi SU-30MKIs, 200-250 LCA Tejas, 200-250 FGFAs and the DRDO AMCA will lead the IAFs combat fleet of the future, with the addition of the remaining 50 odd Mirage 2000s, 68 MiG-29s and the 125 MiG-21 Bison’s.


Helicopters: Helicopters will be a prominent growth area of Indian Military Aviation, with a major percentage built in India. The 139 Mi-17 V-5 Medium Lift Helicopters can deploy 26 combat ready troops to high altitude posts; although Mi-17 has been in service for decades, the new model V-5 has better engine and avionics. Then, 15 American CH-47 Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopters that can accurately deliver up to 50 combat ready troops are set to replace the Russian Mi-26 fleet.


22 American AH-64 Apache Longbow Medium Attack Helicopters can operate alongside the troops and provide valuable fire support and an edge in battle. 179 HAL Light Combat Helicopters will form the backbone of the forces’ high altitude needs; these can fire guns and rockets at heights up to 16,000 feet and launch missiles at UAVs flying at 21,000 feet.


Unmanned Vehicles: These are used for both reconnaissance and/or strike purposes. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs) are today preferred by militaries the world over for missions deep in enemy territory and too dangerous for manned aircrafts. They are preferred for high altitude and long endurance reconnaissance. The forces currently operate IAI Searcher II, IAI Heron and the DRDO Nishant UAVs along with the IAI Harpy, IAI Harop UCAV’s. The DRDO Rustom and DRDO Aura are also to be inducted as UCAVs.




There is a tendency to discredit the efforts of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, but in reality, the DRDO has been working quietly to take Indian defence systems to the next generation.


DRDO’s Missile Program gave us the Tactical Short-Ranged Prithvi guided missiles, the Strategic Medium-Intercontinental Range Agni Ballistic Missile series & the K family series of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles used to boost India’s second-strike capabilities.


The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the still under-development Fifth Generation Stealth Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, coupled with numerous UAVs, and UCAVs etc are an excellent example of DRDOs commitment to innovate and provide for the country. Some of the other important projects undertaken by the DRDO include:


BrahMos: The DRDO, jointly with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia, produced the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles that can be launched from Submarines, Ships, Aircrafts or land. The world’s fastest cruise missile in operation, it travels at speeds up to Mach 3. DRDO is also producing BrahMos 2 hypersonic cruise missiles with speeds up to Mach 7. It has developed BrahMos systems for both the Army and the Navy and is currently developing BrahMos missile systems for the Air Force.


Astra BVRAAM: The Astra missile will be radar homing beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM); it is designed to engage both short range and long range targets. It will arm the Su-30MKIs, HAL Tejas and Mirage-2000H frontline fighters. DRDO also conducted a vertical launch of the missile that suggested it could be used as a LRSAM.


Barak 8: The Barak 8 SAMs are being manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and DRDO. Based on the original Barak, it will have a longer range. The system will feature a 70km range MRSAM Naval Variant and a 120km range LRSAM Air Force Variant.


Nirbhay: Nirbhay is a long range all weather subsonic cruise missile being developed by the DRDO having an operational range of 1,000 km. It will be inducted into all three services. Nirbhay will a land-hugging stealth missile and will complement the BrahMos, which is inhibited for long range usage by its 290km range.


CCI-Sat: Communication Centric Intelligence Satellite or CCI-Sat will be India’s first Advanced Reconnaissance satellite and shall be officially declared as India’s first spy satellite. It will be capable of capturing high resolution images and monitoring communications. The satellite, that should be operational by 2014, shall pass on surveillance data to Indian intelligence agencies and significantly boost current Indian ELINT and HUMINT networks.


Anti-Satellite Technology: With countries around the world building anti-satellite technology and with the sudden shock when China successfully tested such technology, the DRDO has geared up to prepare this system. It is preparing ASAT systems for destroying enemy satellites in both Low Earth Orbit and the higher GEO-Synchronous orbit.


Laser Systems: DRDO’s Laser Science and Technology Centre (LASTEC) identifies its research areas as (1) Battlefield optoelectronics simulator and sensor systems and electro-optic countermeasures equipment oriented towards meeting the requirements of major programmes of system laboratories of DRDO and also the user services; (2) Development of Solid-State laser system for military application, and (3) Advanced S&T areas related to new laser materials and use of laser-based remote sensing for detection and identification of nuclear, biological, chemical warfare agents and explosive materials.


The DRDO is working on these directed energy weapons and aims to develop laser based weapons as part of the missile defence system.


Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Program: The IBMDP aims to deploy a multi-layered system to protect India from missile attacks. DRDOs efforts have added India to the list of countries that have developed and deployed a missile-defence system after US, Russia and Israel. The IBMDP is a two-tiered system that consists of the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile designed for exo-atmospheric interception and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile designed for endo-atmospheric interception.


Containing China


With the startling enhancement of Chinese military muscle, New Delhi has increased the pace of defence modernisation and is trying to attain parity with the PLA on numerous fronts. Having previously concentrated on being tactically stronger than Pakistan, India has found lagging in meeting the rising power of the Dragon, which has impacted upon Indian prestige in Asia and the larger neighbourhood.


The author is a student. He can be followed on twitter at!/therijuluppal

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top