Mechanised Forces
India Strategic|November 2016

IN ANY battle, speed, accuracy and protection are extremely important. In days of yore, the Cavalry provided these and won the day with the artillery decimating the target prior to the assault. Gradually, engines came in and the speed of automobiles exceeded that of horses. During the First World War, both sides stagnated in their trenches till the British invented the tank in the First World War in September 1915. The first use of tanks on the battlefield was the use of British Mark 1 tanks at the Battle of Flers-Courcellete on September 15, 1916, with mixed results; many broke down, but nearly a third succeeded in breaking through. Of the fortynine tanks shipped to the battle field, only thirty-two were able to begin the first attack in which they were used and only nine made it across “no man’s land” to the German lines. The tanks had been rushed into combat before the design was mature enough and the number was small but their use gave important feedback on how to design newer tanks, the soundness of the concept, and their potential to affect the course of the war.

Maj Gen PK Chakravorty

On the other hand, the French Army was critical of the British employment of small numbers of tanks in this battle. The Second World War witnessed massive employment of tanks and thereafter they became an important part of all wars. In India, tanks have played an important role in the three wars against Pakistan and are currently being tailored to play an important role against our adversaries.

CONSTITUENTS OF OUR MECHANISED FORCES

The Mechanised Forces primarily comprise of the Armoured Corps and the Mechanised Infantry. In addition, we have the Self-Propelled Artillery, mechanised units of Army Air Defence, Engineers, Signals and other Services. In our environment, war with either China or Pakistan is likely to start in the mountains and spill over to the plains, deserts and to the Indian Ocean. As per globalsecurity.org the Indian Army has adequate number of regiments which are deployed with formations in plains, deserts and mountainous terrain. These regiments have proved their worth in all wars. The Mechanised Infantry is the youngest regiment of the Indian Army and is a unique blend of military heritage originating since 1776 and the latest state-of-the-art equipment profile. After 1965 Indo-Pak war, a need was felt to provide matching mobility to infantry units operating with armoured formations. In 1969, some of the oldest battalions from various infantry regiments were equipped with Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). Currently, the Indian Army has Armoured Brigades and Armoured Divisions. There are also units grouped with other formations based on their operational needs. The divisions are suitably grouped to fight in a particular theatre.

The equipment held by our Armoured Regiments currently are the upgraded T-72, T-90 and Arjun tanks. In as much as our Mechanised Infantry Battalions are concerned, they are equipped with the BMP-2. The Arjun is an indigenously developed tank weighing 58.5 tons, which features a 120 mm main rifled Gun that fires an Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) ammunition, one PKT 7.62 mm coaxial machine Gun and a NSVT 12.7 mm Machine Gun. In March 2010, the Arjun was pitted against the T-90 in comparative trials and performed creditably. Orders of 124 Arjun were placed on May 17, 2010 and 124 MK-II tanks on August 9, 2010. There are numerous modifications on the Mark-II version and weighs 68 tons. It has been manufactured with assistance from numerous sources. It has a 120 mm rifled Gun and also fires Lahat Anti Tank Guided Missiles with an effective range of 4,000 metres. The hull and turret were redesigned. Protection was improved by improved Kanchan armour. Further, locally developed Explosive Reactor Armour Modules were added. The tank is fitted with advanced laser warning and counter measures which confuse sensors. Overall, there would be about five Regiments of Arjun once all tanks are inducted keeping the current indents in view.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV) and an Expression of Interest (EOI) for the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV).

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