By Raveen Janu
03 Mar , 2013
Across its spectrum, future conflict will occur in a continuous 24 hour engagement cycle to enable a Force to maintain the tempo of operations. An essential component of progressing operations in such a manner is the ability of troops to operate by night. While the substantial increase in defence budget allocation in the past decade is heartening, capital acquisitions have been of particularly big ticket items. Little progress has however been made in equipping the army with the wherewithal to fight by night, which could impact on force effectiveness.
What the Army has are limited second generation devices which at times are more of a hindrance than an asset and too few third generation NVDs. Pakistan, on the other hand, has got a range of third generation devices…
The Army’s current night fighting capability is limited. What the Army needs is “third generation” night vision devices (NVDs) for soldiers, night sights for rifles and night vision equipment for armoured and mechanised formations. What the Army has are limited second generation devices which at times are more of a hindrance than an asset and too few third generation NVDs. Pakistan, on the other hand, has got a range of third generation devices from the US under the ‘War on Terror’ pact. China too has operationalised its entire tank and mechanised fleet for night fighting and possesses significantly higher night capability in the other arms too. Limited night fighting capability decreases force effectiveness and leads to reduced deterrence, thus providing a window of opportunity to hostile powers to increased chances of misadventure from either country.
The ability to design and develop or procure NVDs for the Indian Army is not as complex as other huge modernisation programmes undertaken by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Although not as complex as a fighter plane or submarine, the NVDs are crucial to India’s security as they provide the ability to fight at night and other conditions of reduced visibility. Most advanced armies of the world have third generation NVDs as their core equipment complimented by earlier generation equipment. Fourth generation equipment is already in the test and field trial phases. According to Lt Gen PC Katoch (Retd), former Director-General (Information Systems), the four important performance parameters of any NVD are its sound-noise ratio (SNR), resolution/clarity, modular transfer function and lifetime. “SNR is by far the most important parameter for an image intensifier tube [II tube],” said Katoch. An II tube constitutes 70 per cent of the cost of the device. A comparative analysis between 2nd generation (Indian Army) and 3rd generation on the main four parameters of NVDs reveals the gap in our defence preparedness vis-à-vis other nations.