Lt Gen Subrata Saha, UYSM, YSM, VSM**, DCOAS (P&S)
In the increasingly competitive environment of defence procurement and capability development, Lt Gen Subrata Saha, UYSM, YSM, VSM**, holds the all important position of Deputy Chief of the Army Staff (P&S) and helps coordinate all defence procurements for the Army. He discharges this onerous responsibility with the same calm, composed efficiency that charecterises him. In a frank and forthright Q&A session with South Asia Defence & Strategic Review, the DCOAS (P&S) discusses diverse facets of defence acquisitions and the steps to streamline it. Excerpts:
Defstrat: Capability development of the Indian Army to meet the challenges of future conflicts across the widening spectrum of warfare is your responsibility. What are the major thrust areas how do you visualise the overall progress in the next few years?
DCOAS: Force Modernizations and capability development of the Indian Army covers the entire spectrum of conflict. This can be broadly categorized as follows:-
• First the next generation futuristic systems like combat vehicles, artillery guns, air defense, helicopters and so on. These are the classical conventional warfare capability development and modernisation schemes.
• Second category are smaller systems; essentially those that support the first category.
• The third category would include requirements specifically for the current and ongoing operations.
With rapid progress in technology in the country and the widening potential to harness the same, coupled with revision of the DPP, the Indian Army’s modernization and capability development scenario appears to be very promising.
Defstrat: How does the Army plan to reconcile the requirements of weapons and equipment for conventional and sub conventional conflicts?
DCOAS: For the first category, ie next generation futuristic systems, which are essentially for conventional wars, currently our reliance on import is high, either the equipment is imported or the technology is imported. In some cases ideas are imported and adapted to suit the terrain, weather and war fighting conditions of India. Gestation period for development is long, but the flip side is that they remain in service for long. Even though the requirements in the first category are relatively high cost and technology intensive, most of them are an aggregate of systems. Given the fact that over the years number of our smaller industries have also developed capability to manufacture precision and high technology components and sub systems, they should be in a position to participate and of course progressively achieve much higher indigenous content.
While we intensify impetus for indigenisation in the first and second category, it is equally important to also focus on the third category i.e. the requirements for ongoing operations. In the current and ongoing operations, if we take the example of the ‘Line of Control’ in J&K, we are constantly in a state of `No war no peace’. Troops are deployed 24x7x365 in an eyeball to eyeball contact configuration. Multiplying the challenge manifold for us is the constant and desperate attempts to infiltrate terrorists from launch pads in ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’. The terrorists supported by their handlers are constantly innovating to overcome the effectiveness of the counter infiltration grid. In the hinterland where our endeavour is to be precise in locating, localising and eliminating the terrorist, without causing any collateral damage or harm to civilians, there is a constant effort by vested interests to mobilise elements of the population to interrupt operations and provoke reaction by security forces. Likewise there are unique requirements in the Siachen Glacier as indeed along the Line of Actual Control with China. These are typically Indian battlefield requirements, which require Indian solutions. The requirements are more immediate, the gestation period for development is short and they also tend to enter the constant ‘tug of war of technology and innovation’, between us and the adversary. Given the high levels of ingenuity of our people and the industry, we firmly believe we can harness ideas and technology to find winning solutions. With good teamwork between R&D, Industry and the Army, we will ‘win Indian Wars with Indian Solutions’.
Defstrat: Is the capital budget allotted for the Army adequate considering the voids in the inventory and operationally urgent requirements for modernisation of the force? Are budgetary constraints limiting the Army’s modernisation effects?
DCOAS: At some level, we have to align the modernization plans with the budget. This requires prioritization among different and often competing requirements. Further, within a specific reqmt also, there is a potential to phase demands.
Besides aligning with the budget, this also allows scope to incorporate product improvements as we progress. Given the rapid change in technology, and its exploitation by the adversaries as well, it is important that we quickly adapt ourselves accordingly.
Defstrat: What in your view are the major issues being addressed by DPP 2016?
DCOAS: As you are aware, the DPP is being revised under the aegis of Hon’ble Raksha Mantri. Views of all stakeholders and several subject matter experts have been incorporated in the process. The new DPP aims to streamline the procurement procedure and factor in urgency required in the process. There would be emphasis on indigenization and self reliance.
The staff qualitative requirement, which is referred to as SQRs, should see greater pragmatism and flexibility to facilitate infusion of better technology. The chapter on ‘Make Procedure’ too holds greater potential.
Defstrat: Requirement of light tanks for the mountains in the east, as well as in the western sector has been a regular point of discussion during various symposiums on Armoured Fighting Vehicles. Is there any move in this direction?
DCOAS: The introduction of light tanks is not under consideration presently.
Defstrat: Artillery modernisation plans appear to be on track after a fair amount of effort in the past. What is being done to further hasten this critical facet of the Army’s modernisation plans?
DCOAS : Artillery modernisation plan is progressing well. A number of cases are in advanced stage of procurement. Various actions being taken to hasten procurement include progress schemes concomitantly, regular monitoring to ensure timely processing, and exercising options for multiple sources of procurement.
Defstrat: What efforts are being made to mov towards Net Centricity? Has there been any prog in implementing plans for the modernisation of C4l2SR sys?
DCOAS : The communication network for Tac C3I systems in the Army is being upgraded with ASCON Phase 4 and ‘Network for Spectrum’. This would enable reaching out to the forward most elements on ground. Various Tac C3I systems to include Battle field Management System (BMS), Battle field Surveillance System (BSS), Arty Command and Control System (ACCCS), Air Defence Control and Reporting System (ADFC&RS), EW Systems (EWS) etc are at different stages of development and progressing well.
Defstrat: Army Air Defence deserves immediate attention as no major acquisitions have taken place in a long time. What action is at hand to simultaneously fill operational voids and replace obsolescent air defence systems?
DCOAS: The L-70, ZU-23 and Schilka AD (SP) equipment are in the process of getting upgraded, while a systematic and phased induction plan for various types of Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) has been put into place. These SAMs cover the entire range and altitude bracket from the Very Short Range (VSHORAD), Short Range (SRSAM) to Medium Range (MRSAM) besides Quick Reaction SAMs (QRSAMs) for armoured/ mechanised forces. In addition, the Air Defence Control and Reporting System, based on state of the art sensors and satellite based communication system is also being inducted.
Defstrat: What is the growth pattern of the Army Aviation which is a vital element of our offensive and defensive capability? By when will our Cheetah and Chetak Helicopters be replaced?
DCOAS: Army Aviation is being developed both qualitatively and quantitatively to include recce and surveillance, tactical lift and firepower. Induction of ALH (DHRUV) with field formations has increased the tactical lift capability. These helicopter units have been fully integrated with the field units and formations and are active participants in all ongoing operations including humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations and training. Induction of Advanced Light Helicopter with integrated weapon system, ALH-WSI (RUDRA), has commenced and with its vide array of armament, the helicopters will enhance the combat firepower available to the ground forces commander for employment at point of decision. Induction of state of the art Attack Helicopters and Light Combat Helicopters would further enhance the combat capability of Army Aviation.
Replacement of Chetak/Cheetah is envisaged with the induction of Kamov 226T helicopters, for which, Inter Government Agreement has been signed.
Defstrat: What is the progress on efforts to modernise the Infantry at unit and sub unit level with particular reference to firepower, mobility, surveillance and reconnaissance and night fighting capability?
DCOAS: Infantry Modernization Plan is both comprehensive and inclusive. We have programmes which address the aspects of lethality, survivability and all terrain mobility and make the soldier situationally aware; capable of operating in a networked environment. The 3rd Generation ATGM, modern Light Machine Gun, Assault Rifle, modern, Close Quarter Battle carbine will substantially upgrade our basic fighting capability. Other schemes including sniper rifles, corner shot weapon systems etc will address specific needs.
To increase flexibility in application, modern vectors like Light Strike Vehicles, Light Specialist Vehicles, controlled aerial delivery system and rapid deployment bridges are being inducted.
Efficient body armour and vehicle protection are being procured in a cogent and all encompassing approach as solutions rather than as products. We seek to significantly enhance our surveillance systems by acquiring third generation TI and II devices and persistent surveillance means like UGS, UAVs and other robotics.
In addition, with TI/ II weapon sights and surveillance equipment, coupled with projects like BMS, his situational awareness in battle field and capability to fight at night will undergo a significant transformation.