M. Somasekhar

Hyderabad, April 28

THE Indian soldier is in for a makeover. He will soon be equipped with the best weaponry, communications systems and protective clothing that will have smart sensors embedded.

The effort is to prepare him to be fighting fit, fully geared and ready to excel in the future warfare, which experts say will be driven by information technology, communications and fast decision-making abilities on the battlefield.

Taking up this challenging task is the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The 52 national laboratory organisation has launched a mission called `Soldier as a System,' according to Dr A.S. Rajagopal, Director of the Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE).

The Pune-based ARDE, a key weapon and ammunition developer under the DRDO, will co-ordinate the `Soldier as a System' initiative. The other key laboratories include the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), Bangalore; Instruments Research and Development Establishment (IRDE), Dehradun, and Defence Materials Science Research Laboratory (DMSRD), Kanpur.

Dr Rajagopal, who was in the city for a DRDO meeting told Business Line that the Indian soldier would have the latest and most lethal weapons, a compact communication system, sensor embedded uniform and night vision, among others. All these would be light-weight and portable, so that his movements are not hampered.

In the US, a similar effort is called the Smart Soldier. For the Indian soldier, the first fully equipped version would be ready in the next 3-4 years. In addition to the DRDO labs, the private industry, the academia and the user are being involved right from the beginning, he said.

While the CAIR, Bangalore, would in collaboration with industry, develop communications systems, DMSRD, Kanpur, would focus on the uniform, with sensors embedded to track the soldier's health to other defined parameters, he added.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 29, 2005)
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