Armed forces world over are modernizing. Three quarters of a century after the World War II, the ordinary soldier – GI Joe as the Americans call him and the Jawan as we know him – is a more lean and mean fighting machine, armed with the technology that has been mindboggingly improving by the hour. He wears a better battle dress, carries a better gun with greater range, more fire power and rate of fire, he has better shoes (not those 10-kg monsters that the ’62 China war vets wore), he eats pre-cooked rations that are not hard and crusted, and are more tasty and even suited to his tastes.
But the revolution in arming the soldier has just about begun. Scientists and technologists all over the world are working overtime to arm, clothe and equip the new-age soldier, the warrior of the future who will be more of a terminator than the old-time jawan of the drill field, or one who practised bayoneting a straw dummy under the watchful eye of stern sergeants or subedar majors.
From the helmet worn by the soldiers in the last great war to the ultra hi-tech snazzy headgear with head-up display of the approaching enemy and immediate battlefield environment, from the dirty battle fatigues he wore then to bulletproof body armour that can stop bullets and protect from the elements, from the Lee Enfield gun he carried then to the advanced firing weapons with changeable barrels to accommodate different calibre ammunition (even a grenade launching barrel), from the massive field radio his unit would carry (one man dedicated for the task) to the latest light weight communication technology. The Indian soldier will transform into a highly-effective, independent, killing machine.
The US military have been at it, and this might come as a surprise, so are the Indian armed forces. The Americans call their programme the Future Force Warrior (FFW) and the Indians call it the F-INSAS. Details of the American programme are available, thanks to the transparency of the Yanks. The Indian programme, thanks to the opacity of the Defence establishment, throws up an occasional byte or two, and then clams up.
That is why it was interesting to note that the armed forces took the media into confidence in making their presentation of the communication system that the Indian soldier of the future would carry, that would enable his commanders to know where he is, and the soldier himself would know where he is, where his commander is, and where his enemy is.
That system is the Integrated Computer, Communication and Software System (ICCS) and Software Defined Radio (SDR) being developed by Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) and Defence Electronics Application Laboratory (DEAL), two of the electronic cluster laboratories of DRDO with BEL as the Production Agency. The DG Infantry, DG RR and other senior officers of Army HQ, witnessed the presentation-cum-demonstration was organised by Directorate of Interaction with Services for Business (DISB), DRDO HQ with the help of PMO titled Futuristic Infantry Solider as a System (F-INSAS) at Army HQ on June 19 at Brigade HQ in the national capital.
The following important functionalities and hardware of F-INSAS, ICCS and SDR were demonstrated:
(i) Role-based functionalities of Coy Cdr, Platoon Cdr, Sector Cdr, and Soldier comprising common operation picture over GIS backdrop; situational awareness over GIS backdrop; blue force tracking; mission planning and task execution; integration of military symbols; integrated message management (pre-formatted and free text); biometric authentication; and physiological monitoring display and dissemination.
(ii) Hardware, manufactured by BEL with embedded software developed by CAIR comprising Commander data terminal; wrist display and authentication; planning display and authentication; navigation — Global Positioning System (GPS), Dead Reckoning Module (DRM); hand-held IP radio (prototype with limited range of operation up to 100 m) with ad hoc network; centralised power pack and power management (14.8 V, 10 Ah); target acquisition sub-system; hand-held target acquisition sub-system; physiological monitoring sub-system; cable concealed in harness; thin film solar panel; battery charger (AC-DC, DC-DC and solar); and hand crank generator.
(iii) Software Defined Radio developed by DEAL (manufactured by BEL) comprising voice, data and video transmission over live SDR links.
The Indian soldier of the future will be a lethal combination of man and technology. Armed with a futuristic multi-calibre rifle and a waterproofed bullet resistant jacket, the Indian jawan will also carry a palmtop that will be networked to an integrated system. A helmet mounted flash light, thermal sensors & night vision device, video cameras, computer and nuclear, chemical and biological sensors, with audio headsets will be mandatory. The visor too will double up as a heads-up monitor display equivalent to two 17 inch screens. The jawan will also carry a GPS system for exact coordinates and will be able to share data with the command post or fellow soldiers.