Indian Army is Virtually blind at Night

An internal report of the world’s third largest army has exposed its operational blindness as the available night vision devices are ‘redundant’ and not effective. Indian armed forces have lost nearly 9,000 soldiers in counter-terrorism operations since 1990, majority of them during night.

The Army’s 359 infantry units (over three lakh soldiers) and over 100 Special Forces and battalions (1.5 lakh men), including the Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles, are directly involved in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of northeast.

Raising concerns, the Army’s report claims that huge proportion of the forces are deployed in J&K and the northeast and vast vegetation cover in such areas facilitates terrorists to close in on troops without being detected.
Army officials claim that in the wake of heightened infiltration attempts along the Line of Control and International Border, night vision devices have become a crucial necessity.

“Though a large number of night vision devices are held with the unit, foliage penetration remains a challenge. Presently, there is no worthwhile solution this handicap with our armed forces,” army report states.

An internal report of the Army has mentioned that local arrangement and innovations are being applied with meagre advantages thereby ‘jeopardising lives of our own troops’. Primary infantry weapons such as assault rifle and rocket launcher lack night vision devices, making troops vulnerable.

The Army’s current night fighting capability is limited with only infrared-based and thermal imaging devices. And it needs “third generation” night vision devices (NVDs) for soldiers, night sights for rifles and night vision equipment for armoured and mechanised formations. 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 gone far ahead in terms of its weapons.

“Operational blindness or lack of surveillance renders the fighting ability of own troops and incapacitates the soldier with minimum or even no reaction capability. In-service equipment lack such technology and the innovative solutions are not foolproof,” the Army report claims.

An officer, involved in the counter-terrorism operation, said they still use age-old techniques during night operations such as opening illuminating rounds by mortar fires to detect enemy in the dark. “Our operations are still based on advance reconnaissance and intelligence network. Thick forests in parts of Kashmir and Manipur, close to Myanmar border, make successful rate of operations much below standard,” an officer said.

Sources said after Uri attack in September last year, the Army headquarters had put procurement of NVDs on fast track mode, but the Army is still using two-decade-old NVD technology. With an aim to equip all combat soldiers with night vision capabilities, the Army currently requires at least 30,000 third generation such devices.