Indian Army will observe 2024 as the “Year of Technology Absorption” as it’s trying to gradually mature into a modern force that will have a new operational philosophy for induction of drones and counter-drones systems right across infantry, artillery and armoured battalions, and establish Command Cyber Operations Support Wings (CCOSWs), besides bridging other conventional asymmetries.

The Army’s new pitch is an attempt to grow out of previous declaration of making 2023 as the “Year of Transformation” that saw moves such as reorientation of its arms like that of artillery, induction of fresh human resource through Agniveers, downsizing of some verticals and tech infusion.

Tech as catalyst

At the annual press conference on Thursday, Army Chief General Manoj Pande told reporters that “The Indian Army shall be observing the year 2024 as the Year of Technology Absorption. This theme underscores our commitment to leverage technology as a catalyst for transformative change, as well as to utilise in-house expertise to innovate solutions to our operational and logistic requirements and give shape to these projects in collaboration with the domestic defence industry.”

Indianise to Modernise

It would rest on five clear areas to map future technology given that the Army is inching ahead with slogan -- “Indianise to Modernise”.

A new operational philosophy has been brought in for handling of drones and counter drone systems at the level of infantry, artillery and armoured battalions, he said. He, however, ruled out raising a dedicated for force for tech handling.

Likewise, Command Cyber Operations Support Wings (CCOSWs) are being established, which are special sub units to augment cyber capability, said General Pande. “CCOSWs are being organised in four verticals; Computer Emergency Response Team to meet the emergency response, Cyber Security Section to audit Computers & Networks, Security Operations Control for Monitoring & analysis of Networks and Test & Evaluation Section for testing of new applications/softwares,” Chief of Army Staff said.

SAMBHAV hardware

The Army, said General Pande, has already inducted 2500 Secure Army Mobile Bharat Version (SAMBHAV) handsets which has multi-layered inscription and are 5G compliant. Developed in-house in close collaboration with National Centres of Excellence and industry, the Army’s requirement is about 35000 SAMBHAV handsets which would be distributed to officials handling sensitive assignments.

Giving an update on acquisitions, the Army Chief said, 37 project approvals worth ₹74,000 crore have been obtained so far while 86 contracts were signed which are valued at Rs 12000 crores. The major projects Army is looking ahead is induction of 350 light tanks, whose requirement was felt during the Galwan face off with China in May 2020. The Request for Proposal (RFP) would be out in some time, the Army Chief said.

“We have identified 355 Army posts from where we have asked for 4G connectivity with the telecom ministry. Infrastructure also has to do with forward airfields, villages and helipads. We are also working on underground storage. Regarding the infrastructure along the LAC, we are progressing in all domains...” Pande said.

The Army is also trying to create a pool of specialist officers through Territorial Army. Over the past year, five officers were commissioned as Mandarin Linguists for better understanding and decoding of lingua franca of China. On similar lines, cyber experts shall also be inducted into the TA by way of civil-military infusion.