Equipping The Army For Serious Fighting

The million-plus Indian Army was forced to prune down its requirement for 800,000 rifles, estimated to cost about Rs 15,000 crores, to less than a third of it. The Indian Army has 450,000 infantry troopers. This reminds me of China’s People’s Liberation Army, which when fighting the Americans in Korea back in the 1950s sent in ranks of infantrymen one behind the other with only the lead soldier armed with a rifle.

No sooner he fell, the man behind him would pick up the rifle and continue the fight. Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, who was a distinguished infantryman with the British Army before he became a somewhat less distinguished Viceroy of India, once wrote: “Let us be clear about three facts: First, all battles and all wars are won, in the end, by the infantryman.

Second, the infantryman always bears the brunt; his casualties are heavier, he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other combat arms. Third, the art of the infantryman is less stereotyped, and far harder to acquire in modern war, than that of any other arm.” In the 1953 bestseller Battle Cry by Leon Uris, a Marine recruit is punished for the transgression of calling a rifle a gun by being asked to do rounds of the drilling ground, naked and chanting: “This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun!” In military parlance, a gun can be anything that fires a projectile. A howitzer (which fires shells at high trajectories) is a gun, as is a cannon. The rifle is a specific weapon used by a soldier. It is a gun fired from shoulder level with a long spirally grooved barrel intended to make a bullet spin and thereby have greater accuracy over a long distance. It is what a soldier mostly uses to do his work. Stalin famously said: “The only real power comes out of a long rifle.” Read More

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