The Indian Army is making up for lost time when it comes to use of simulation in training. 

India’s 1.4 million strong army is a combat proven force which has been slow to adopt simulation-based training as compared to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Navy. The army has traditionally preferred live training, which also tied in to the large quantities of Russian (and Soviet-era) equipment in its possession. The Indian Army’s rapid modernization in the 1980s, was fed by a steady supply of relatively cheap military hardware that was either imported directly or built under license from the erstwhile Soviet-Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and with considerable infrastructure already created for use of its equipment, the army continued to import military hardware from Russia, for the next few decades.   

The Russian equipment inducted since the mid-1990s were also, often supplied with poor quality simulators that were not only difficult to operate and maintain but also delivered training of dubious value. This further delayed the Indian Army’s acceptance of modern simulation and training tools. Along with its sister services, the exploitation and availability of simulators within the army received a major boost only following the strong recommendations made for their use in the 60th Report of the Indian Public Accounts Committee in 2003-04.  

The Indian Army now however, is well and truly on the path to inducting simulators for military training. However, repeated delays in its modernization plans and budgetary constraints have resulted in a fighting force which even today, still operates large quantities of obsolescent 3rd-generation military hardware, first inducted in the late 1980s. Armored formations are yet equipped with the Russian T-72 and T-90 Main Battle Tanks (MBT), while mechanised formations operate the BMP II Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV). This has made the task of acquiring new-generation simulators for these and other legacy equipment that is in use with the army, a challenging endeavor. 

Growth Potential 

In September 2021, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it had promulgated a framework for increased utilization of simulators by the three armed forces and the Indian Coast Guard. “The overarching vision is to transform to simulation-based training across all military domains for combatants, leaders, maintainers, administrators, life science experts, procurement and financial agencies and thus achieve cost effective, efficient, safe, fast-paced and smart training,” an MoD spokesperson stated. This was followed by 2023 being declared as the year of transformation for the Indian Army. This transformation process, hinges on the five pillars: Force Structuring & Optimization; Modernization & Technology Infusion; Systems, Processes & Functions; Human Resource Management; and Jointness & Integration. 

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Indian simulation and training provider Zen Technologies has received a series of repeat orders from the Indian Army. Pictured is the company’s 81mm mortar simulator. Credit: Zen Technologies.

The 2021 announcement of the framework for increased utilization of simulators has certainly hastened the pace of simulation-based training devices being inducted in the army. The army is now also pursuing the indigenous development of simulators from Indian firms to meet its training needs. In November 2022, the MoD announced that the army announced that the army had approved the Project Sanction Order (PSO) for a “Make II” project involving the development of an Infantry Training Weapon Simulator (IWTS). Make II projects are essentially projects which are funded by the Indian industry and reserved for small scale industry and start-ups, with the MoD providing the assurance of an order following successful prototype development. The IWTS is the first tri-service Make II project in which the Indian Army is the lead service. The MoD’s PSO was issued to four developing agencies (DA) tasked with prototype development. The contract award will be for a minimum of 125 IWTS, each with the ability to train ten personnel at a time. 

A PSO had also been awarded by the Indian Army to the Indian simulation and training firm Zen Technologies in March 2022 to design and develop a prototype Integrated Air Defence Combat Simulator (IADCS), which would be used to train army gunners at the unit level. The contract award on finalization would be for 16 units of the IADCS simulator. 

In another sign of the acceptance of the importance of simulation-based training, the Indian Army’s Wargaming Development Centre completed its project to develop a Wargame Research and Development Centre (WARDEC) in 2023. The army had inked an MoU in May 2022 with Gandhinagar-based Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU), which falls under the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), for assistance in the project. Indian IT firm Tech Mahindra was also roped into to develop the center. WARDEC, which is located in New Delhi, will be the army’s first simulation-based training center that will develop Virtual Reality (VR) wargames making use of Artificial Intelligence. The new facility is also expected to be made available to the Indian paramilitary forces in the future. 

Growing Orderbook 

The Indian Government’s push to encourage the growth of the Indian defence sector has resulted in a growing orderbook for Indian simulation and training providers such as Bengaluru-based Alpha Defence Technologies Limited (ADTL) and Hyderabad-based Zen Technologies Limited. The former received a Rupees 45 million order in January 2018 to supply indigenous gunnery and missile firing simulators for the BMP II ICV. The contract was for 57 units for which deliveries have been completed. ADTL however, has been more succesful in bagging major orders from the IAF for simulators for Russian-origin MiG-29 fighter jets and Mi-17 utility helicopters. ADTL will operate these simulators until 2037.  

Zen Technologies has emerged as an early leader in supply of simulators to the army, with a product portfolio comprised of land based military training simulators, driving simulators, live-range equipment, and anti-drone systems. The company has a dominant share of over 95% in the supply of tank simulators to the army.   

In October 2023, the company announced a contract award worth approximately Rupees 1 billion for supply of force-on-force tank training simulators for the army’s T-72 and T-90 MBTs. This was also the first order for the company’s force-on-force tank training simulators. Company officials also say they are confident of the army transitioning to their more advanced Zen Armoured Combat Training System (ACTS). In August 2023, the army announced that it had finalized agreements to procure 19 tank driving simulators as well.  

Zen Technologies secured a series of orders in 2023, including two export orders in July and November worth approximately US$41.5 million and US$5.2 million respectively. It had also bagged an order from a country in the Middle East in November 2021 for live simulation equipment worth approximately Rupees 350 million. The company claims to have exported over 1,000 training systems worldwide, including to countries such as Nigeria, Qatar, Malaysia, UAE, Kenya and Egypt.  

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Pictured in this image are personnel from the Singapore Army trying out an Indian Army small arms weapon simulator for the indigenously developed INSAS 5.56 mm assault rifle. Credit: India MoD.

Future Outlook

The Indian armed forces are reequipping on a scale that makes it one of the most important markets for military simulation and training products. While the air force and navy have made significant investments in simulation and training of their personnel, the army is only now picking up the pace.  

Foreign OEMs will still have access to a sizeable share of the Indian military simulation and training market, however, it is India’s domestic simulation and training providers who are benefiting from the new framework for increased utilization of simulators by the three armed forces. In addition to the design, development, and maintenance of defense training simulators, the MoD has now started outsourcing the operation and maintenance of simulators to Indian companies, which allows them to provide guaranteed uptime of training equipment supplied by them.  

According to various estimates, the near-term need for simulation-based training devices for the Indian armed forces is pegged at approximately US$1.9 billion, which makes it an important market for military simulation and training.  

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