PUNE: The Indian Army may get advanced hand-held thermal imagers for effective surveillance of targets and night operations in high conflict zones such as Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

The ministry of defence is in the process of procuring 12,389 hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) to be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS), digital and magnetic compass, inclinometer and day and night channel binoculars to reduce the number of separate equipment a soldier carries at present.

The Directorate-General of Artillery recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to this effect to Indian vendors mentioning its operational and technical requirements.

“The HHTIs must be capable of operating in varying terrain and Indian temperature conditions. The equipment, being a day and night surveillance device, will be used to carry out effective surveillance of targets in all kinds of terrain. This will enable effective and accurate acquisition and engagement of targets. This equipment is intended to be used in a man portable role,” stated the operational requirements notes of the RFI.

The Indian troops are currently using French and Israeli HHTIs, in which a couple of issues — poor battery life and picture quality — were observed of late.

“HHTI is a very crucial equipment for the infantry troops while operating in the conflict zone as it can engage target at a distance of 15 km. But it does not have GPS, digital and magnetic compass and inclinometer system. These features, if integrated, will certainly give advantage to the troops during the operations,” said an infantry colonel, who has served extensively in Kashmir, adding that, at least 16 HHTIs are required for an infantry battalion.

The HTTIs in use at present also developed issues in extreme climatic conditions in the recent past, states a report prepared by the Army Design Bureau (ADB) in 2017.

Commenting on the challenges, the colonel said, “We cannot use HHTI during ambush operations as it generates sound. The manufacturers need to overcome this aspect. Also, they need to improvise its picture quality.”

A senior infantry officer, who did not wish to be named, told TOI over phone, “Since the battery of HHTI does not last for a long period, the soldiers had to carry additional battery with them in the past.”