Edi­tor’s Com­ments - Army Avi­a­tion As­set

SP's LandForces - - VIEWPOINT -

IWAS SUR­PRISED AND AMUSED at the re­cent me­dia re­ports which in­di­cated that the Army Chief Gen­eral Bikram Singh has asked the gov­ern­ment to al­low the Army to have its own at­tack heli­copters and that this move has once again given rise to a fresh round of turf war be­tween the Army and the In­dian Air Force.

At the be­gin­ning of the se­cond decade of 21st cen­tury, the In­dian armed forces are still stuck in the quag­mire of un­re­solved com­mand and con­trol prob­lems of an aerial weapon plat­form, which is de­signed for ma­noeu­vre and at­tack against ground tar­gets. The at­tack he­li­copter is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of the land bat­tle, a norm fol­lowed by ev­ery coun­try in the world.

It is com­mon knowl­edge and an ac­cepted prin­ci­ple that each ser­vice must pos­sess and in­deed com­mand all el­e­ments which are re­quired to con­duct their re­spec­tive bat­tles, ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively. The ground bat­tle in­vari­ably re­quires some es­sen­tial el­e­ments which in­clude in­fantry, ar­mour and ar­tillery, in­clud­ing air de­fence ar­tillery, engi­neers, army avi­a­tion and the lo­gis­tic ser­vices.

The ba­sic tac­tics em­ployed by ground forces com­prise “fire and ma­noeu­vre” and there­fore all el­e­ments that are re­quired to un­der­take these mis­sions on the bat­tle­field should log­i­cally be a part of the ground force. The so-called “at­tack he­li­copter” is noth­ing but an ex­ten­sion of the ground ma­noeu­vre arm, ex­cept that it ma­noeu­vres through the medium of air and pro­vides in­ti­mate fire sup­port to the ground ma­noeu­vre el­e­ments. This does not mean that an Army can fight fu­ture bat­tles with­out the Air Force. In fact air power will pre­dom­i­nate in the the­atre of oper­a­tions in fu­ture wars and counter-air oper­a­tions; and bat­tle­field air in­ter­dic­tion and close air sup­port are in­sep­a­ra­ble parts of a cam­paign. Hav­ing said that, it does not mean that ev­ery­thing that flies in the air should be with the Air Force. In all armies of the world, in­clud­ing our neigh­bours, Pak­istan and China, the at­tack heli­copters are the Army’s as­set, owned and op­er­ated by the Army.

The light com­bat he­li­copter and the ALH (WSI) be­ing in­ducted in the Army are also equipped with var­i­ous types of weapons and mis­siles for bat­tle­field sup­port. These heli­copters are lighter than the AH 64 D Apache, which car­ries a far big­ger arse­nal of weaponry. So it seems that the only bone of con­tention that re­mains to­day is that the heav­ier heli­copters will cur­rently be with the Air Force and the lighter ones with the Army. This ar­ti­fi­cial bar­rier will also dis­ap­pear with time. The writ­ing on the wall is very clear. At­tack he­li­copter is an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of a com­bat group­ing, pri­mar­ily meant for sup­port­ing and aug­ment­ing the ground forces, i.e. the Army.

It can be said that ul­ti­mately it is the mu­tual ac­cep­tance that mat­ters more than the ar­gu­ments put for­ward. If we have to fight to­gether as a joint force our hearts and minds have to hon­ourably ac­cept each other’s re­quire­ments and view points and pro­ceed ahead with joint train­ing, joint plan­ning and joint ex­e­cu­tion of war and not get stuck in in­vid­i­ous ar­gu­ments and dis­tinc­tions which only help to pro­vide the me­dia with ma­te­rial to ex­ploit the dif­fer­ences be­tween the ser­vices.

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