In perhaps the most tense security atmosphere in the newly divided Jammu & Kashmir — and perceiving an up in Pakistan-fueled terror — the Indian Army has made an intriguing announcement. It has announced interest in procuring over 500 remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) specifically to track, engage and combat terrorists in built-up areas. While the Army has had tentative interest over the years in such a capability, its interest in such a large number establishes at the very least that trials with sample vehicles have proven their value. And now the Army wants to move quickly.
Designated the ‘Robotic Surveillance Platform’, the Indian Army has called for a procurement under the Indian Defence Procurement Procedure’s ‘Make’ category, which mandates indigenous design, development and manufacture. To be deployed with the Rashtriya Rifles counter-insurgency force deployed in Jammu & Kashmir, the Army defines the capability as follows:
The four-point mission profile envisages robots tracking terrorists and then being used for the high-risk initial breach in built up areas, an action that has seen consistent casualties in encounters both in the Kashmir Valley and beyond. Livefist can confirm that Army Rashtriya Rifles units have used samples of the armed version of DRDO’s Daksh ROV to test the capability:
The Indian Army already operates the baseline explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) version of the Daksh ROV, inducting a first batch in 2012, and currently operates 20 specimens. A mini version of the Daksh is also in service with India’s National Security Guard (NSG). It also operates British origin ROVs for bomb disposal. The new requirement for armed ROVs strongly indicates the Army has been satisfied enough with the capability demonstrated by prototypes, and definitely by the increase in number of built-up area encounters it expects to see in a freshly turbulent Jammu & Kashmir.
Paperwork on the Army’s new requirement for 500 counter-insurgency ROVs provides details that indicate modifications of existing systems in development. The Army wants ROVs deployable at night, and operable from a range of up to 200 meters. The requirement also mandates grenade launch, though the Army will almost definitely want a machinegun/assault rifle mount. A stair-climbing and obstacle crossing capability will be required, especially since encounters have frequently involved terrorists hiding in attics of houses. Interestingly, it also wants a system that is man-portable, presumably in knocked down assembly kits at the infantry company level. Either way, a solution will have to be an amalgamation of some of the DRDO’s current technology demonstrators:
The DRDO, which is fine-tuning the armed Daksh ROV, unveiled a new platform at the Aero India 2019 show this year, designated the Mobile Autonomous Surveillance System (MASS) that appears to be in line with what the Army is looking for:
The @DRDO_India unveils an autonomous surveillance/weapons platform, MASS at #AeroIndia2019. To be tested by the Army this year, say scientists from the team. Army already operates the Daksh robot, a mini version of which is visible in the background. pic.twitter.com/NUmviEivdl
— Livefist (@livefist) February 20, 2019
The DRDO, in fact, has been steeped in development of a whole host of ROVs, detailed in this video accessed by Livefist in 2017. Items in test include stair-climbing mini ROVs to armoured personnel carrier-sized unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) like the Muntra based on the BMP-II. Responding to an Army requirement, the DRDO is also testing a tracked ROV ‘Himbot’ for snowbound areas and avalanche rescue missions.