Taking the next transformative leap, the Army has decided to procure 48 jetpacks and 100 robotic mules for deployment in special circumstances. The procurement is being done by the Ministry of Defence under the ‘emergency’ route and through Fast Track Procedure (FTP) meant only for Buy (Indian) category, the request for proposal documents issued on Tuesday pointed out.

At a recently held annual press conference, Army chief General Manoj Pande had said that the force has a seven-year period to move away from its present 45 per cent vintage arsenal and, instead, have 44 per cent state-of-the-art weaponry by 2030.

A senior Army officer stated that after the United States and United Kingdom, India will become the third country to have jetpacks troops which would make all types of terrains redundant since the jets attached to the arms would propel personnel to cover distances inhospitable for humans. Army sources stated they can be used at lots of places apart from near borders with China and Pakistan. United Kingdom’s Royal Marines are also using jetpacks.

The last date for bid submission of jetpacks, which has to have a shelf life of 10 years, is February 7. The successful bidder will have to provide position to provide product support in terms of maintenance, materials and spares for a minimum ten years, as per the RFP. Same conditions also apply for robotic mules.

Army officials stated that the robotic mules would also be used as ‘scout mules’ and are expected to have carrying capacity of 10 kg which means they can also be used for surveillance activities. The will also reduce dependency on human interventions, with officials not ruling out its deployment by special forces. The Army believes that robotic mules, with relevant payloads, would be tracked at least from 100 kms away.

The service life and shelf life should not be less than ten years for robotic mule alongwith Associated Accessories and shall be stipulated in the offer.

The US military, however, is reported to have given up idea on development of its robotic pack mule and one of the reasons which its special forces pointed out was that it made noise which could give away its position.

The training for both would take place at the cantonment board Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh, the Army stated in the two RFPs.