On March 14, 2023, the Indian Army signed a contract for procurement of an indigenously developed Integrated Mobile Camouflage System (IMCS) for the mechanised forces with the startup Hyper Stealth Technologies Private limited (HSTPL) which is Delhibased. This is the first ever procurement order by the Indian Army of an ‘Innovations for Defence Excellence’ (iDEX) project as per the revised procedure. According to an official release, the contract was signed in the presence of Lt General J.B. Chaudhari, Deputy Chief of the Army Staff (CD&S) and Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary, DDP.
IMCS was the first system to be trial evaluated in accordance with the ‘Single Stage Composite Trial’ methodology based on the revised Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. Earlier, the request for proposal (RFP) was issued to the developing agency in September 2022 and within six months, the contract was signed with HSTPL.
iDEX was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during DefExpo 2018 held at Chennai from April 11 to 14. The aim of iDEX is to create an eco-system to foster innovation and encourage technological development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging R&D institutes, academia, industries including MSMEs, startups and individual innovators and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D which has good potential for future adoption by the Indian Defence and Aerospace Organisation.
The objective of camouflage in mechanised columns is to disrupt the characteristic shape of the vehicle, to reduce shine, and to make the vehicle difficult to identify even if it is spotted. Patterns are designed to make it more difficult to interpret shadows and shapes. A multi-spectral camouflage system fitted to armoured vehicle reduces visual, infrared (IR) and radar signatures and permits movement. Heavier, more durable mobile camouflage net systems, essentially conformal duvets with thermal and radar properties, provide a degree of concealment without the delay caused by having to spread nets around a vehicle, Active camouflage for vehicles, using heated or cooled Peltier plates to match the IR background, has been prototyped in industry but has not been fully put into production yet.
The Integrated Mobile Camouflage System (IMCS) comprises low emissivity and/or CAM-IIR coatings and Mobile Camouflage System materials providing the ability to the Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) to merge with the background of the terrain. The Army has said that this new technology will enhance stealth of mechanised and mobile platforms. Integrated Mobile Camouflage System (IMCS) will achieve a reduction in the detection range of AFV when viewed through Hand Held Thermal Imager (HHTI)/Battle Field Surveillance Radar (BFSR) tank-based thermal camera under given environmental and weather conditions and signature management by controlling the Visual, Thermal, Infra-red & Radar Signatures of the object.
The official release covering the contract with HSTPL also states that currently there are a total of 48 projects of the Indian Army as part of the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC), Open Challenges, iDEX4 Fauji and iDEX PRIME scheme which involves handholding of 41 Startups for the development of the latest state of art solutions for the challenges posed by Indian Army. For each challenge, a dedicated Nodal Officer & Establishment as Centre of Excellence from the Indian Army is nominated for handholding and providing continuous support in progressing their respective projects.
iDEX is funded and managed by the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) under MoD (DDP). Over the past four years, iDEX under DIO has been able to emerge as a front-runner in establishing the right kind of contact with Startups and Innovators and has gained substantial traction in the Defence Startup Community. A further boost was given to the initiative in April 2022 as the revised methodology for iDEX was approved by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh which ensures a significant reduction in timelines of procurement to approx 24 weeks.
In addition to the contract signed with HSPTL, there are many other iDEX projects of the Indian Army for which the acceptance of necessity (AoN) have already been accorded. These are presently under finalisation and more contracts would come up in due course. All these would provide further boost to startups and the policy of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Most importantly, this enables exploiting another and perhaps faster avenue for absorbing new technologies into the Indian Army.