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“Soon enough the entire mechanised fleet is going to be capable of fighting at night and reacting at short notice,” Col A K Sharma, Former Armour Battalion Commander, Indian Army

The growing capability requirements of the Indian mechanised force have leant themselves towards a healthy marketplace for the Indian Armoured Vehicles community (www.armouredvehiclesindia.com). With hardware, in the past, procured traditionally from Russia and the Eastern Bloc and training methods from the UK, the market has proven itself to be anything but a closed shop. In a recent interview with Defence IQ Colonel A K Sharma, Former Armour Battalion Commander and Dean of the Indian Army’s Faculty of Technical Studies (and current Editor of the South Asia Defence & Strategic Review), expanded on this theme to give an overview of the current Indian marketplace and its future directions.

With “technical and tactical training from the UK set to make its mark in the training of Indian mechanised forces,” as Col. Sharma explained, and further computer-based training on the way, the crux of the capability enhancement focus now lies, in Col. Sharma’s opinion, on where future hardware plans for the mechanised force will direct Indian Army spending. The capability enhancement focus centres upon four key areas:

 – Increased Mobility and the viability of engine upgrades as quick-win solution
– Increased Survivability
– Night-fighting Capability
– Battlefield Management Systems

While Sharma is confident that “soon enough the entire mechanised fleet is going to be capable of fighting at night”, he is also honest in admitting that a fully capable battlefield management system – effective in both logistics and processing terrain data – has long been talked about without being delivered. The tide has turned though India’s mechanised force now seems to be making genuine forward steps towards being “capable of reacting at short notice.

Despite the overall confidence in capability enhancement, Sharma did offer a few words of warning on the challenges that lay ahead – most notably, the timelines and technology issues which often plague the procurement process for many military forces looking to develop equipment and capability. According to Sharma, in the past, India has struggled to overcome an inability to produce satisfactory prototypes to the extent that once built, those prototypes have since already become outdated and the process, far too costly. Coupled with this, is the traditional lack of the core technologies which are central to the build of all major hardware ranging from tanks to aircraft. This lack of core technology and the resultant slow build of suitable prototypes have further delayed an already costly procurement process. Sharma’s outlook though for the Indian Army is bright and that is in no small part down to the Indian Government’s recent initiative on the System of Offsets so as Sharma explains, the Indian Army “gets what we really need” and “gets what we really don’t’ have at the moment.”

In all of this, Sharma is adamant that “transparency” and “fairness” are key to avoid the stereotypically lengthy and complicated procurement process that the Indian Forces have come to expect. The outlook though has become considerably brighter.

To listen to Col Sharma’s podcast interview in full, visit the complimentary Armoured Vehicles India Download Centre at www.armouredvehiclesindia.com. Col Sharma will also be leading “The Indian Armed Forces Modernization Debate” with Dr. Thomas Mathew (Deputy Director General, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses IDSA), Brigadier (Ret’d) Gurmeet Kanwal (Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, CLAWS) and Lieutenant General A.K.S.Chandele (Director, Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineering, Indian Army) at the Armoured Vehicles India forum on 22nd – 24th November 2010. At the same event, Col Sharma will also be briefing the Indian Armoured vehicles community on his “Analysis of the Indian Army’s Past, Current and Future Armoured Vehicle Procurement Programmes.” The full agenda can be viewed at www.armouredvehiclesindia.com.

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