Interview: India Army revives it FICV project as a new procurement proposal

Photo: India’s Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

India’s Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane tells Defence.Capital editor N. C. Bipindra in this exclusive interview that in the coming years, the force will buy locally made small arms and ammunition and will shun dependence on foreign sourcing for personal weapons of soldiers.

Ques.    India will complete 50 years of its successful 1971 Bangladesh Liberation war. Since then, the Indian Army has not fought a conventional war. Could this gap have any impact on the Indian Army’s warfighting capabilities? Is this a disadvantage for the Indian Army?

Ans.      It is incorrect to assume that the Indian Army has not fought any conventional war since 1971. The war in Kargil, fought in 1999, was a conventional war in mountains whichever parameter you measure it through. In terms of quantum of soldiers deployed, weaponry and platforms used, duration or fatalities, Kargil was a conventional war. Apart from Kargil, the Indian Army has been deployed in Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorism operations, areas both in the North East and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Any army, which trains regularly and updates its doctrines continuously, is prepared for war. I am cognisant of the fact that the character of war has changed drastically in the last two to three decades. In keeping with this change, the Indian Army has also evolved its warfighting doctrine, and come up with concepts such as Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), which will be operationalised very soon, in the near future. Also, with the creation of the office of Department of Military Affairs and the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff, different geographic and functional tri-services commands are in the process of being created which will further enhance our capabilities and enable us to address present and future threats in an integrated manner.

Ques.    Hostilities with both the Northern and Western neighbours have seen an uptick in the recent months. Is the manner in which the Indian Army is tackling the fallout, both in terms of conventional hostilities and low-intensity conflict, the right way forward for the future? Would it give any distinct advantage to the Indian armed forces vis-a-vis the enemies?

Ans. Western Borders.  Indian Army is conducting relentless proactive operations and significant damage has been inflicted to the adversary for acts of infringement of ceasefire. All infringement from Pakistan will be responded to. The onus remains with Pakistan to bring peace in the region. Unless Pakistan gives up its policy of state sponsored terrorism, we will respond at will and with precision.

Northern Borders. The security situation along the Northern borders at present is reasonably stable but with troops in close contact. To ensure peace and mutual trust, major steps need to be undertaken. The Indian side has shown maximum restraint and expects the other side to reciprocate. The Indian Army is prepared to face any contingency be it winter or post winter.

Ques.        The Indian Army’s bid to change the existing standard infantry weapons has not made much progress. What is the plan now to acquire the standard assault rifles, light machine guns, close quarter battle carbines and sniper rifles? How would the delay in procurement of these new weapons impact infantry performance?

Ans. The Infantry modernisation is progressing at a fast pace to maintain operational edge over adversaries. The focus of soldier modernisation has been concurrently in the domains of Lethality, Survivability, Mobility, Target Acquisition and Surveillance. The aim is to equip Infantry with advanced technologies, with scope for upgradation, where necessary. The Infantry inductions and procurement schemes therefore purposely include not only contemporary, but also emerging technologies to enhance operational reach. The major procurement being done for the Infantry are:

(a)     Assault Rifle & LMG. Induction of SIG 716 Assault Rifle into the frontline troops inventory has given a major fillip to the operational preparedness at the borders. At the same time, Inter-Governmental Agreement with Russia, on production of AK-203 in India is a milestone to expand and modernise our defence manufacturing capability. Concurrently, induction of 7.62mm caliber Light Machine Gun to replace vintage INSAS LMG is in line with Indian Army’s operational philosophy. While immediate requirements are being met with procurement of NEGEV LMG from Israel, the Indian industry will be meeting the balance 70 per cent of the overall requirement of the Indian Army.

(b)      CQB Carbine.    The procurement of CQB Carbine to equip frontline troops is at an advanced stage. Simultaneously, the Indian industry is gearing up to meet the complete balance requirements of the weapon for troops other than front line.  

(c)       Sniper Rifle.       Current operational realities on the Northern and Western borders demand a long-range Sniper Rifle. Some quantities of .338 caliber Sniper Rifle are being immediately inducted into the Northern theatre, to meet present operational dynamics. Simultaneously to encourage the forays of Indian industry into Small Arms manufacturing, the balance (almost 93 per cent) of the overall requirement will be met from indigenous sources.

With the ever-changing face of fighting, stretching from being manpower intensive to use of technology like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and/or Drones, Indian Army is graduating from a manpower centric force, to the one with overarching capability to fight in a network centric battlefield. The Infantry soldier is the vital part of this transformation, by enabling enhancement of his capabilities, reach and awareness.


Ques.        The Artillery modernisation is progressing quite slowly. Though some key inductions such as the M777, K9 Vajra and Dhanush have been made in the recent years. The Mounted Gun Systems procurement process is progressing. What are the future plans for the Artillery modernisation? How varied will the inventory look in the next five years to come?

Ans. Induction of Dhanush, Sharang and K-9 Vajra-T Gun Systems announces the country’s indigenous capability to manufacture state-of-the-art Artillery Gun Systems of 155mm Calibre. Dhanush Gun System is the first indigenous 155mm Gun System to have undergone extensive User Exploitation, wherein it fired more than 2,500 rounds before induction into the Army. Presently, six developmental guns have been offered to Indian Army and next six guns have undergone Integrated Functional Check (IFC).

Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for 414 Dhanush guns has already been accorded by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Oct. 7, 2011. Bulk Production Clearance (BPC) for 114 guns has already been given, and for the balance 300 guns, is likely on completion of delivery of 114 guns.

The gun system is planned to be deployed in our Northern and Eastern Borders and will be a ‘shot in the arm’ for our fire power capability.

Future Lineup of Artillery

(a) 155 mm guns to be the standard gun system in Artillery.

(b) Mix of Guns, Rockets & Missiles.

(c) Enhanced weapon locating capability.

(d)     Future equipment to be indigenously manufactured.

Ques.        The Army had begun the process of designing a Future-Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) with a Request for Information (RFI) in 2015. How will India’s Armoured and Mechanised Infantry Corps’ requirements for the future be met? What will be the strategy that the Indian Army will follow for its FRCV, Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV) and, Arjun battle tanks?

Ans. The RFI for Project FRCV was issued on Nov. 8, 2017 under the provision of Chapter VII ‘Strategic Partnership Model’ of Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016.  Response has been received from four Original Equipment Manufacturers and presently the case is at Services Qualitative Requirement formulation stage.

Post internal deliberation with all stakeholders the FICV project is being re-initiated as a fresh programme as per guidelines of recently introduced Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020.  Valuable time lost in fructification of the FICV project will be made up by proactive interaction with the industry and Fast Tracking the procurement process.

Ques.        The Indian Army plans over the last couple of years to manufacture its needed ammunition from Indian industry haven’t taken off. What are the compelling reasons for the plans not going ahead? What alternative plans the Indian Army has now for the required ammunition? How are the WWR levels being met?

Ans. The Indian Army is in the process of indigenising ammunition production. An import ban list has already been circulated in order to encourage indigenous industry players to take part in the manufacturing process. With respect to Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) manufacturing, we are cognisant of the fact that there are issues with the manufacturing process. As a result, the government has taken a proactive step to corporatise OFB and bring it in lines of modern and efficient industry practices.

Apart from controls by Department of Defence Production at the manufacturing stage, the Army also carries out independent checks to pre-empt failures or defects in ammunition. Procedural aspects like new Standard Operating Procedures to fix responsibility and dispose of defective ammunition have also been introduced. In times ahead, with involvement of private industry in ammunition manufacture, quality is expected to further improve. The idea is that all ammunition being currently received and to be received in the future should be of high quality without problems faced with previous ammunition. Notwithstanding, it will be a slow and long process as large stocks of previously produced ammunition are held, which need to be consumed or checked for quality.

Ques.        It has been a while since the Army proposed induction of attack helicopters in its aviation wing. How has this idea of attack helicopters to be flown by army pilots progressed? Has the Army Aviation Corps made any preparations in anticipation of inducting attack helicopters, be it foreign-sourced or Indian?

Ans. Combat helicopters are being inducted as follows:

(a) 78 x Advanced Light Helicopter – Weapon System Integrated for Pivot Corps. (Weaponised Dhruv)

(b) 06 x Apache AH-64E for Strike Corps.

(c)     95 x Light Combat Helicopters for Mountain Corps.

The Corps of Army Aviation has created state-of-the-art training facilities in preparation for induction of both indigenous and foreign manufactured helicopters. Integration training is also being carried out with Indian Air Force pilots as well as simulators. Modernisation is helping Army Aviation to be a more potent force.

Ques.        With the changes that the general threat scenario has witnessed and in view of the emerging technologies in war-fighting and Revolution in Military Affairs, how has the Army reworked its training philosophies to meet the contemporary and future requirements and, adoption of modern training technologies for faster turnaround and battle readiness?

Ans. A human mind may not be replaceable in matter pertaining to defence and operational planning. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a great aid in decision making since it has the great ability of predictive thinking and giving out options to aid decision makers. Additionally, AI will be a built-in partner for Robotics, Net Centicity, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Big Data Analysis, Sensors and so on. Military College of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE) at Mhow has been given the responsibility for establishment of Centre for Excellence for AI. Also, a study group constituted under ARTRAC (Army Training Command) to study “Niche and Disruptive Interface Technologies and its Applicability in Indian Army” has recently given their detailed report and the recommendations given out are being considered for implementation.

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