India is set to launch her first 'futuristic' infantry soldier after three more years. According to officials at the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which is headquartered in Kolkata, many of the separate segments are ready and need to be integrated into one system. This will allow India to enter a select club of nations experimenting on a 'futuristic' soldier system. India's Future Infantry Soldier As a System (F-INSAS) programme is comparable to FELIN of France, IdZ of Germany, FIST of Britain and the Future Force Warrior of the US. Israel is also developing a similar system that will turn an infantry soldier into a complete system."A task force has been created with members from OFB, the Army, DRDO and other organizations. We have set a deadline and the first variant is likely to be launched in the next three years. We are preparing equipment that will allow a soldier to adapt to his surroundings, whether the hot desert terrain in Rajasthan or the freezing heights of Siachen. He will be armed with special weapons and communicate through satellite links. The visor of his helmet will allow him to get a clear view of the battlefield and see his adversaries, even beyond obstacles. His visor will also have normal and night-vision sights to allow him to use his weapon easily," said Sartaj Singh, member, ammunition and explosives, OFB.
According to sources, eight to 10 infantry battalions are likely to be equipped with the F-INSAS system by 2015. All infantrymen are set to be covered by this system by 2020. An interesting fact about this system is that the soldier would generate enough power while on the move to keep the gadgets fitted on his body running. Special sensors fitted to his boots will enable this. OFB is also in the process of developing a weapon with interchangeable barrels that would be capable of firing 5.56mm, 7.62mm and 6.8mm caliber ammunition.
The OFB, along with ARDE has also developed a carbine for the Army that is undergoing user evaluation at the moment. According to officials, this should be ready in the next one to one-and-a-half years. They are also very upbeat about the prospect of the 155/52 mm howitzer which is an upgraded version of the 155/45 mm Bofors. The new guns have been developed by eight ordnance factories and undergone six in-house trials. "The existing weapons system had a range of 27-29 km. The one we have developed has a range of 38-39 km and uses all kinds of ammunition that the Army uses now. We have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia to create a Joint Venture for the manufacture of SMERCH rockets. Russian experts visited our production units two weeks ago and things will now move fast," another official said.
OFB chairman H S Chaudhury said that his organization has orders of over Rs 50,000 crore in hand at the moment. OFB is exporting its products to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Israel, Oman, Saudi Arabia and several European countries such as Germany, Greece, Russia and France. "The organization is also exploring avenues for long term partnerships for exports with some South East Asian countries," he said.