This new program of the army has been in the pipeline for the past three years but only now has it a concrete shape. The infantry commanders' conference chaired by General J J Singh discussed the program at Mhow.
F-INSAS (future infantry soldier as a system) is the Army's futuristic modernization program for foot-soldiers. It is similar to US Army's "land warrior" and "objective force warrior" program. F-INSAS essentially aims at "converting an infantryman into a fully-networked all-terrain, all-weather, weapons platform with enhanced lethality, survivability, sustainability, mobility and situational awareness" for the digitized battlefield of the future.
The army plans to put the proposal for governmental approval before the end of this year as it wants "systems development and integration by 2010". "The aim is to equip up to 10 infantry battalions (each with 800-1,000 soldiers) by 2010-2015 for F-INSAS user trials. By 2020, the project will be fielded for the entire infantry, which with 359 battalions is the largest arm of the 1.13-million strong Army," said a source.
F-INSAS will mainly be developed through a military-DRDO-indigenous industry partnership. Many senior officers like Gen Singh have visited countries like US, Israel and France for a first-hand look at the programs they have undertaken for their infantry soldiers.
The Indian infantry soldiers will gradually get equipments like light-weight integrated ballistic helmets with "heads-up display" and miniaturized communication systems; portable visual, chemical and biological sensors; hand-held computer displays, GPS and video links; "smart" vests with sensors to monitor vital body signs; and of course lethal firepower with laser-guided modular weapon systems. There are plans to also equip each infantry section of 10-12 soldiers with a "robotic mule", which apart from helping them carry additional load will also be mounted with remotely-activated weapon systems for concentrated firepower.
"F-INSAS aims at integrating cutting-edge composite material sciences, information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology as well as robotics to make a soldier into a versatile and potent sensor and shooter platform in a fully-networked battlefield environment," said a senior officer.
The defense ministry, led by A K Antony, has assured the Army of full support for its around 600 modernization schemes, worth about Rs 70,000 crore in the 11th Plan (2007-2012) period.