Infantry: Troops Demand Better Boots, Not New Gadgets


July 24, 2009: India is trying to design and create its own version of the U.S. Army Land Warrior system. Countries around the world have been designing, trying out, and testing similar combat systems for over ten years now, including Britain, France, and Germany

 India is the latest to join the club and this is not surprising considering the constant improvement and upgrading that the Indian military undergoes. While India spends a lot of money on its fighter aircraft, naval vessels, and heavy ground equipment like tanks and APCs, very little is spent on taking care of the infantry. This isn't unique to the Indians, it just happens that the infantry historically doesn't get first grab at funds within the military and are usually at the bottom of the totem pole. 

 The Indians are trying to change that by building the Futuristic-Infantry-Soldier-As-A-System (INSAS).  One of the major things the Indians want to build as part of the program is a domestically produced multi-caliber individual weapon and a programmable airbursting grenade launcher for the infantry. This is basically the exact same thing that the U.S. Army's OICW (Objective Individual Combat Weapon) was supposed to be. The Indians are hoping their weapon will be more successful. 

Other plans include introducing new anti-tank weaponry, laser rangefinders, a new carbine/submachine gun, new combat uniforms for the infantry, better communications, and improved body armor. The new platform, the Indians are hoping, will reduce the load carried by the individual soldier by 50 percent.  The helmet device the Indians are designing is equipped with video cameras, thermal sensors, and a visor set-up that contains two computer monitors.  Plans to issue each infantryman with a "palmtop" computer are a high priority.  

The Indians currently have 28 line (non-specialist) infantry regiments and 28 infantry divisions total when the 10 specialized mountain divisions are included.   The Indians also have 7  separate infantry brigades along with 4 RAPID (Re-organized Army Plains Infantry) Action divisions.  The entire army numbers around 1,325,000 active soldiers with another 1,800,000 troops in reserve. Despite the massive amounts of money the Indians are spending on their military, equipping all 28 infantry regiments with the new system (which hasn't been designed or manufactured yet) by 2020 is already being recognized by members of the Indian military as a major drain on resources.  Even for a wealthy country like France or the US, completely re-equipping 28 regiments with entirely new weapons and gear is an expensive and lengthy proposition.  

Most of the Indian sergeants and junior officers, trained in the practical and common sense tradition of the British Army, would be happier with an improved assault rifle, better boots, and body armor that actually stops bullets, rather than with a computerized infantry system that shoots around corners and gives the troops instant message capabilities.  In particular, better load bearing gear and better quality rations tend to be high on the list of wants for the foot soldier, especially in a country like India.  

The sergeants and junior leaders are also smart enough to realize that the country is getting ahead of itself.  The Indian Army, for example, only introduced their current standard assault rifle, the 5.56mm INSAS (Indian National Small Arms System)  during the late 1990s and even this weapon has yet to be issued to every soldier in the Army, particularly in reserve units.  About 300,000 are currently in circulation in the Army, including the carbine and light machine gun versions.  

Older equipment is still in use and, in a country like India, introducing and issuing any kind of new weapons or gear to every single soldier in the Army is an expensive, lengthy, and often difficult task.  




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