HOW RELEVANT ARE AFV PLATFORMS AMID TECHNOLOGICAL THREATS? - The Daily Guardian
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HOW RELEVANT ARE AFV PLATFORMS AMID TECHNOLOGICAL THREATS?

Given the progress of technology on the modern battlefield, it is certainly better to address newer threats and develop countermeasures before it is too late. However, in a financially constrained economy like ours, we will need to strike a balance between modernising troops and sustaining existing infrastructure.

MAJ GEN ROHIT GUPTA (RETD)

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THREAT OF DRONE/SWARM STRIKES

The drone/swarm strike on Saudi Arabian oil fields, the influence of Turkish drones in Libya and Syria against the Russians and the more recent Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict has brought home to the Indian Armed Forces the stark reality of such weapon systems. The danger of low-cost armed drones and swarm attacks will take its toll on mechanised forces and the combat support elements with it.

Turkey’s Bayraktar TB-2 drones, which helped Azerbaijan cause immense destruction of Armenian combat assets, have brought to the forefront the threat to the modern tank. The TB-2 carries four Smart Micro Munitions (laser-guided missiles) and it is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle capable of ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and armed attack missions.

With the rapport between Turkey and Pakistan, India has concerns of its proliferation to its adversary. China is another source of supply; however, the Turkish drones are based on NATO technology which is more advanced as compared to the Chinese.

OTHER THREATS NOT BEEN COUNTERED FULLY

The drone has been a major threat for some time now—the realisation of which has come about in India after seeing its effects on the battlefield. However, there are other threats which exist and will possibly dictate the design of the AFVs.

Underbelly mines, attack from a handheld RL/ATGM launcher in close terrain, electronically EM generated pulse destroying the electronics of a modern day AFV, top-attack ATGM/munition are some of them—not fully countered but only wished away.

The APFSDS round remains the primary threat to the tank. However, tank to tank battles are few in the modern era of warfare and the utilisation of a tank to neutralise an enemy tank is increasingly thought as a non-optimal use of the ‘bully’.

RELEVANCE OF TANKS ON BATTLEFIELD

Destruction of war potential and economic resources is taking root as the modern dictum of war, as compared to the occupation of territory. Advanced countries across the world are evolving towards building up extensive conventional destruction capability with flexible means of delivery. These act as deterrents to any misadventure by adversaries.  

The tank, with its ability to close in with the enemy and cause destruction with its firepower, when duly supported by suitably configured combat element, retains its supremacy on the battlefield, especially on open terrain.  There has always been a race between its protection measures and the evolving threats on the battlefield, but the tank, despite the challenges, has come out on top.

COUNTER TO MODERN THREATS

There is no doubt that the tank/AFV, as a weapon platform, is losing its invincibility to much cheaper and flexible platforms.  So, to maintain its relevance, the tank must evolve as a weapon system duly augmented with protection systems to make it an integrated platform rather than just a munition delivery platform.

The existing ERA panel can counter the drone/swarm CE projectile. However, a Mobility (M)-Kill or Fighting (F)-Kill cannot be obviated with surety. What is required is:

·       An AFV counter measure and protection active system such as the Trophy or the Afghanit Active Protection System, fitted in the Israeli Merkava and the Russian ARMATA-14 tank. The upgraded Trophy has also been reportedly  fitted on the US M1A1 Abraham recently.  The Trophy and the Russian Arena systems were under consideration for procurement and response to RFP had been issued eight years back when the case was shelved before the trials, after the Russians backed out. The coverage of the detector must be enhanced to 360 degrees in both vertical and horizontal planes and the capability to take on multiple targets as well as two or three drones following closely behind each other.  A salient aspect of consideration is that the Armenian T-72s destroyed did not have either the Russian Arena or the Afghanit Systems.

·       Besides the AFV on-board detection systems, the Combat Team and Combat Group will have to be constituted with platforms having the ability to detect and counter the threat. For detection, frequency modulated continuous wave scanning array radars are the best option. To carry a warhead capable of neutralising an AFV, the kamikaze drone/seeking munition will have to have a side radar cross-section (RCS) of at least a meter.  The problem is in a head-on projectile wherein the RCS posed to the radar is sub-meter which becomes difficult to detect, for both on-board and off-board systems. Therefore, the systems will have to be evolved wherein real-time information interchange can take place from off-target on-board/off-board radars which may have a view of a larger cross-section and launch/control of the nearest/target on-board/off-board counter measure can be done through a non-direct dependent system. On-board Active Systems have small ranges of emission so as not to interfere with each other and other emitting devices. Frequency protocols will have to be strengthened to enable longer range fighting platform based active detectors.

For area neutralisation, the vulnerability of the kamikaze drone or seeking/guided munition in its GPS/back-link systems, through EW resources, will have to be exploited once a swarm attack is detected. The GPS Spoofer, the Drone Gun/RF Jammer are examples of the EM spectrum neutralising equipment.  We would need both an on-board AFV jammer as well as an off-board, bigger and more powerful jammer, all integrated with each other. Ensuring that one’s own communications are not disrupted should be achieved by dis-synchronised rapid frequency hopping radio sets and jammers. The same frequency of the frequency hopping RS should not be jammed at any instant while the full bandwidth is covered by the jammer, using time differential.

The threat of hand-held rocket launchers or anti-tank missiles can be looked after by the on-board Active Protection System. However, with the present capability to launch missiles in tandem, each also with tandem warheads, one behind the other, at the same point, the potential to defeat the Explosive Reactive Armour as well as the Active Protection System exists. The same has to be upgraded with the ability to take on two closely followed attacks in the same line; detection of the second threat, through off-board systems with real-time info exchange and multiple counter projectile capability in sub-second time-differential.

Under-belly mines are largely influence mines.  Adding more armour to the belly is a solution, however, at the cost of its weight. Irrespective of the additional armour plating, the on-board Remote Actuation of Influence Mine System (RAIM) is required for each AFV.  The system was tried out 10 years back but failed due to non-adherence to the stringent test standards. We need to take another look at it.

There is no protection against an APFSDS round. It will achieve either total destruction, through a K-Kill or an M-Kill or at least an F-Kill, through the energy it transfers even if it does not penetrate. The penetration capabilities are going upwards of 540mm and the armour protection required is increasing, creating logistics problems. The design of the turret and low silhouette are some of the passive measures. However, we need to look at futuristic systems that can be carried in advance elements of the AFV complement, which can fry/disrupt the electronics of the enemy tank to prevent an accurate attack. Energy delivery of such systems will remain a problem. The drone weapon delivery system to destroy such threats is a countermeasure, which must exist at the CT/CG level.

IMPLICATION ON THE WEIGHT OF AFV

The world over, the MBT is reaching 60T while the ICV 25T.  In India, we are restricted by the logistics constraints against a 60T tank and the self-imposed operational necessity for all the ICV to float, in the name of flexibility of employment, wherein the equipment can be employed in all terrains.

Flexibility of employment of resources insofar as the ability to deploy the same equipment across the frontage of the country and overseas, which remained the bane of many a designer, is gradually being replaced by the philosophy of equipment designed to accomplish its role in a finite terrain and environment configuration. This has largely been forced upon by niche technology products, so designed to deliver optimum results at peak performance levels to attain supremacy on the battlefield, under conditions of design and flexibility constraints. In addition, each theater/sector of operations has its peculiar requirements, and it is essential to evaluate the battle array and the characteristics of the equipment.

The Heavy ICV, while being the most lethal in its mobility, armament and protection capabilities which gives it the true ability to fight alongside armour, lacks the ability to swim. It will require a change in the mindset of employment of forces, which is presently focused on floatation capability across the entire front. Specific configurations for specific roles and terrain considerations are required to optimise capabilities and the Heavy ICV does lend itself for employment in the areas of the desert most suitably.

In view of terrain considerations, especially post winter when the snow melts and the ground is boggy, we need light tanks and light ICVs with low silhouette for HAA, duly equipped with Active Counter Measure (CM) systems and RAIM, to obviate the chance of being hit. Once hit, they will remain hit.  The important part is offensive capability, i.e., a heavy gun 125mm and a missile capability on a platform which can speedily manoeuvre. 

The requirement of floatation dictates light ICVs for water obstacle-ridden terrain. These could be supplemented by heavy ICVs for the break-out battle and moving through the Built Up Area. In both cases, medium tanks, duly equipped with Counter Measure (CM) Systems, are required. 

For open terrain, like deserts, heavy tanks and heavy ICVs are the answer. They must be equipped with all systems as enumerated above.

HELIBORNE/AIR-BORNE RESOURCES

Dedicated HB and AB vectors like UAVs, for the CG, to act as surveillance and strike platforms, become necessary for early warning and strike at launch platforms. These, when equipped with sensors, duly integrated with the CG combat support systems, can neutralise the launch platform as well as give an early warning to activate CM systems, especially those linked with jamming and AFV on-board/off-board detection and neutralisation.

To neutralise the enemy weapon threat, it is necessary to have the capability to do the same to him.  Loitering munition has been the case languishing in procurement procedural bureaucracy for too long.  If you have similar swarm capabilities, a strike on enemy support/surveillance/launch platforms is feasible. The solution lies in acquiring the capability which in itself can neutralise enemy capability in this field as well as bring long range destructive resources onto targets on the battlefield.  Development in India in this field has been accelerated and possibly will fructify soon. This, however, does not preclude bringing in capability from outside to cover the lag period till self-sustenance is achieved.

CONCLUSION

All new technologies that come into use in warfare may be termed as ‘disruptive’. In fact, the whole purpose of fielding a new technology is to change the status quo, whether in terms of equipment or in warfighting techniques.

Although certain technologies like direct energy weapons, high energy lasers, hypersonic strike technology and others are yet to mature and be weaponised, it is about time that we reviewed our equipment capability and national prowess to deal with such current and developing technologies.  It appears likely that the already prodigious levels of technological innovation the world has witnessed over the last one or two decades will continue to accelerate going forward. Certainly, it is better to address them than to ignore such realistic threats/enablers before they progress to the point where we are too late to develop these technologies ourselves or to design countermeasures.

There are no low-cost options to neutralise the threats to the tank.  The tank, while being necessary on the battlefield, will become expensive to equip and logistically sustain.  For the cost-differential in a financially constrained economy, the solution is to look at the numbers that are required. The configuration of the tank squadron has remained four troops since WWII, despite the tank itself increasing in its lethality, ranges of observation and engagement, accuracy, engagement techniques from 3-round engagement to single round with higher kill probability and rate of fire. We need to optimise to reach the capacity to modernise and to meet the challenges in a modern battlefield environment.

The writer is a combat Arms Officer, retired as the Addl DG, Weapon and Equipment, Indian Army, and currently heads the Aerospace and Defence vertical at Primus Partners. The officer has commanded a Counter Insurgency Force in J&K and has extensive operational experience in the Valley and Ladakh as well as with Mechanised Operations.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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Defence

BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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Defence

IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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