Night Vision Devices (NVDs) are lacking both in quantity and quality in the armed forces particularly in the Army. In recent years, transgressions by the Chinese have doubled and face-offs have increased manifold. The events on the borders from April 2020 have highlighted the need to equip the troops and units with state-of-the-art night vision devices and make up deficiencies.
Scaling of the NVDs for the Indian Army has been finalized. There is a colossal requirement of NVDs, which require substantial funding. Despite the high cost, these devices are required urgently for achieving optimal surveillance capabilities.
NVDs for Assault Rifles: The Army is seeking to buy 22,000 long-range night sights for infantry assault rifles at a cost of Rs 1600 crores. The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved the design, development, and manufacturing of ‘Thermal Imaging Night Sights’ for assault rifles in November 2019. The Army want the TI sights to have a range of around 1,000-meters.
Night Vision Sights for LMGs: At present, the night firing capability of the soldier with an INSAS LMG without an ANVD is highly inaccurate. A request for information (RFI) was floated by the army in Dec 2019 to “identify and detect a target in adverse weather conditions.” It should detect a human at 500 m, a vehicle at 1,200 m and identify a soldier at 350 m. It should also have the feature to record and store images as well as videos.
Auto Grenade Launcher: The Army wants to buy 804 night sights with thermal imaging capability for 30mm automatic anti-personnel grenade launchers. As of now there is no night sight held for AGS-30. An Expression of Interest (EOI) was issued on 7 July 2020.
Infantry Combat Vehicles: The Indian Army has sought to upgrade its BMP-2/2K infantry combat vehicles (ICVs) with night-fighting capability at a time of heightened military tensions between India and China in the Ladakh sector. The BMP is “night-blind as on date.” An expression of interest (EoI) was issued on 4 Sep 2020 to Indian vendors for developing prototype and subsequent procurement of upgraded armament for its BMP-2/2K ICVs inducted almost 35 years ago.
The current armament sighting system on the ICVs is based on image intensifier technology which is not considered adequate for modern warfare. It also is deficient of modern fire control system and automatic target tracker which adversely affects the capability of BMP-2/2K to fight both during day and night.
The army is planning to upgrade 811 ICVs with third-generation thermal imager-based gunner sight, modern thermal imager-based commander sight, modernised fire control system and automatic target tracker.
Indian Air Force
The ability to operate round-the-clock and in all weather conditions is what the IAF has aimed for all along. The efforts include providing night capabilities to the platforms – for operating, navigating and targeting, the airfield services and the supporting services.
Combat aircraft have been using FLIR (forward-looking infrared imaging systems) and various night-capable targeting pods to help pilots undertake combat tasks as comfortably by night as by day. With improvement in electronics in the night targeting systems, there has been a significant increase in ability to detect, recognise, identify, and prosecute targets at stand-off ranges in all weather and lighting conditions.
Improved capabilities of the latest generation night vision goggles would enable expansions of roles that helicopters would be able to undertake by night more efficiently.
The Border Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police are banking on procurement of long-range reconnaissance and observation systems and all-weather surveillance systems for surveillance of the borders against infiltration.
Source: “Night Vision & Electro-optics India 2021” Webinar & Virtual Expo by Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) and Indian Military Review (IMR).