India is launching a futuristic programme to develop sophisticated NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) defence technology to counter the threats posed by hostile armies or terrorists resorting to such warfare.
The new programme, being spearheaded by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), comes after the Army has already inducted Rs 700 crore worth of NBC defence equipment, with another Rs 2,000 crore worth of it in the pipeline after being approved by the defence ministry recently.
''The new programme, initially pegged at Rs 300 crore, will include unmanned aerial and ground vehicles fitted with NBC detection sensors. The first prototypes are already being developed," DRDO chief controller Dr W Selvamurthy told TOI . Other thrust areas include nanotechnology-based biosensors, laser-based detection for chemical clouds, self-contained inflatable NBC shelters and a 'model' hospital to handle NBC victims.
''We are also developing smart vests, impregnated with silver nano particles, for decontamination of biological agents and monitoring of vital signs. Also in the pipeline are more sophisticated NBC suits, with thermo-electric cooling," said Selvamurthy. With early detection and protection being of critical importance when faced with NBC attacks, DRDO, Atomic Energy Commission and Department of Biotechnology have also developed 'standard operating protocols' to handle such emergencies.
The 1.13-million Army, on its part, says NBC protection equipment is being given 'in the desired numbers' to troops to counter any eventuality, even though NBC weapons are 'not war-fighting weapons' and only 'mad persons' would even think of using them. ''Lot of our equipment like T-72 tanks and BMP infantry combat vehicles are being equipped with advanced NBC protection suites," an officer said.
The Army, in fact, has evolved a long-term perspective plan designed to address NBC threats to India's national security. ''In consonance with it, formations and units are being trained and equipped to protect themselves and fight successfully in an NBC environment," he added. The broad areas on which DRDO is working are early detection, personal and collective protection, decontamination and medical management to equip soldiers to fight in all kinds of battlefield scenarios. While both Pakistan and China possess the entire spectrum of NBC warfare capabilities, the threat from non-state actors is more in the field of chemical or biological agents as of now.
The NBC equipment already developed by DRDO includes as many as 60 products, which have been handed over to either the ordnance factories or the private sector for bulk production.