Rais­ing New For­ma­tions

The mil­i­tary bud­get of China has been in­creas­ing by dou­ble dig­its for more than two decades, which is quite alarm­ing for In­dia. In this sec­ond part of the ar­ti­cle on the In­dian Army’s new for­ma­tion, the Moun­tain Strike Corps, find out what the In­dian Army

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) V.K. Kapoor

While struc­tur­ing a Moun­tain Strike Corps, we should keep in mind the fol­low­ing ma­jor fac­tors which dic­tate its or­gan­i­sa­tion and struc­tur­ing: ter­rain and weather con­di­tions and their im­pact on op­er­a­tions; ad­ver­sary’s or­gan­i­sa­tion and his force lev­els; likely em­ploy­ment of the Strike Corps; in­duc­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy; Army Avi­a­tion as­sets and fire sup­port re­quire­ments in the moun­tains.

WHILE STRUC­TUR­ING A MOUN­TAIN Strike Corps, we should keep in mind the fol­low­ing ma­jor fac­tors which dic­tate its or­gan­i­sa­tion and struc­tur­ing: ter­rain and weather con­di­tions and their im­pact on op­er­a­tions; ad­ver­sary’s or­gan­i­sa­tion and his force lev­els; likely em­ploy­ment of the Strike Corps; in­duc­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy; Army Avi­a­tion as­sets and fire sup­port re­quire­ments in the moun­tains. Em­ploy­ment of the Strike Corps hav­ing been dis­cussed in the first part of the ar­ti­cle, some other vi­tal as­pects of struc­tur­ing are dis­cussed in the fol­low­ing para­graphs.

Ter­rain and Weather Con­di­tions

The ter­rain com­prises high moun­tains and rar­i­fied at­mos­phere in high al­ti­tude ar­eas in which phys­i­cal ex­er­tion takes a heavy toll on the stamina and re­silience of the sol­diery. Hence ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion and phys­i­cal fit­ness of the sol­diery is vi­tal. Thus a moun­tain strike corps can­not be lo­cated in the plains be­cause then the for­ma­tions will have to get ac­cli­ma­tised be­fore em­ploy­ment and their em­ploy­ment in high al­ti­tude ar­eas will be re­stricted to start with. There­fore, the peace time lo­ca­tion and the key lo­ca­tion plan (KLP) of the moun­tain strike corps will have to be in the moun­tains and their unit and sub unit level train­ing will in­vari­ably have to be done in ar­eas sim­i­lar to their ar­eas of op­er­a­tional em­ploy­ment. Thus we can say that phys­i­cal fit­ness, mo­bil­ity and sur­viv­abil­ity, are closely linked char­ac­ter­is­tics of fight­ing for­ma­tions in the moun­tains.

Weather con­di­tions are gen­er­ally such that by mid-day the skies get clouded and the weather packs up lead­ing to rain and even thun­der­storms. Thus em­ploy­ment of fighter/ground at­tack air­craft is gen­er­ally con­fined to early hours of the morn­ing. Hence re­liance has to be largely placed on the in­te­gral weapons of the Army and it is in this con­text that the Army needs its own avi­a­tion as­sets in the form of armed and at­tack helicopters lo­cated at For­ward Area Arm­ing and Re­fu­elling Points (FAARP) for which large he­li­pads (he­lidromes) have to be con­structed in peace­time with un­der­ground pens for the at­tack helicopters.

China’s Ground Forces

The mil­i­tary bud­get of China has been in­creas­ing by dou­ble dig­its for more than two decades. The In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies in a 2011 re­port stated that if spend­ing trends con­tinue, China will achieve mil­i­tary equal­ity with the United States in 15-20 years. Jane’s de­fence forecasts in 2012 es­ti­mated that China’s de­fence bud­get would in­crease from $119.80 bil­lion to $238.20 bil­lion be­tween 2011-2015. This would make it larger than the de­fence bud­gets of all other ma­jor Asian na­tions com­bined. Hence In­dia can ill af­ford to ig­nore the trends of mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion be­ing un­der­taken by China.

The An­nual Re­port to the US Congress in 2012 states: “On March 4, 2012, Bei­jing an­nounced an 11.2 per cent in­crease in its an­nual mil­i­tary bud­get to roughly $106 bil­lion. This in­crease con­tin­ues more than two decades of sus­tained an­nual in­creases in China’s an­nounced mil­i­tary bud­get. Anal­y­sis of 2000-2011 data in­di­cates that China’s of­fi­cially dis­closed mil­i­tary bud­get grew at an aver­age of 11.8 per cent per year in in­fla­tion-ad­justed terms over the pe­riod.”

At the strate­gic level, to sup­port the Peo­ple’e Lib­er­a­tion Army’s (PLA’s) ex­pand­ing set of roles and mis­sions, they are en­sur­ing sus­tained in­vest­ment in ad­vanced cruise mis­siles, short- and medium-range con­ven­tional bal­lis­tic mis­siles, anti-ship bal­lis­tic mis­siles, coun­ter­space weapons and mil­i­tary cy­berspace ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Of par­tic­u­lar rel­e­vance in the mod­erni­sa­tion of the PLA Ground Forces is the trans­for­ma­tion of ground forces into a mod­u­lar com­bined arms bri­gade-fo­cused force struc­ture. The thrust in ground forces is on mis­sile war­fare, cyber war­fare, com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4ISR) ca­pa­bil­ity, net­work-cen­tric­ity, en­hance­ment of Spe­cial Forces, in­creased ro­tary-wing avi­a­tion as­sets in­clud­ing the field­ing of Z-10 at­tack he­li­copter, com­bined arms op­er­a­tions, long-range fire­power and mo­bil­ity.

What should be In­dia’s thrust ar­eas of mod­erni­sa­tion

When the above PLA ca­pa­bil­i­ties are com­pared to In­dia’s ad­vance­ments in its ground forces mod­erni­sa­tion; the vast gap be­comes ev­i­dent. In­dia has not in­tro­duced any new weapon sys­tem, bar­ring a few mis­siles and a few in­dige­nous helicopters in the Army in the past two decades or so. Heav­ier weapons apart, even the ba­sic in­fantry weapons which need re­place­ment have not been changed.

A moun­tain strike corps is vi­tal for the moun­tain­ous ter­rain of the Eastern theatre where the chal­lenge from our prin­ci­ple ad­ver­sary, China, is loom­ing large

Ap­a­thy at po­lit­i­cal and bu­reau­cratic lev­els, lack of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, in­ef­fi­ciency, de­part­men­tal turf wars, lack of sys­tem­atic in­te­grated plan­ning and al­lo­ca­tion of funds on a long-term ba­sis, cor­rup­tion and com­pli­cated pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dures are hall marks of In­dia’s de­fence mod­erni­sa­tion.

In light of China’s grow­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, the In­dian Army needs to fo­cus on ac­quir­ing cer­tain key ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Th­ese in­clude, air trans­porta­tion of troops, bat­tle­field air sup­port with avi­a­tion as­sets owned and op­er­ated by the Army, mod­erni­sa­tion of Spe­cial Forces units, con­ven­tional mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity, cyber war­fare ca­pa­bil­ity, long-range fire­power and pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions, he­li­copter-borne and air­borne op­er­a­tions to has­ten the achieve­ment of tac­ti­cal ob­jec­tives in the moun­tains, in­fil­tra­tion tech­niques by units and sub units, moun­tain war­fare tech­niques of cap­tur­ing ob­jec­tives from dif­fi­cult ap­proaches, and sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance through a wide va­ri­ety of means.

China’s In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ments

China’s in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing study. Rapid build-up of China’s national road and rail trans­port sys­tem has greatly en­hanced the PLA’s landbased trans­port ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Many key civil­ian high­way and rail­way projects, es­pe­cially trunk rail lines and in­ter-provin­cial high­ways link­ing in­te­rior and coastal re­gions, have been con­structed to mil­i­tary spec­i­fi­ca­tions and can be turned over to the PLA in the event of war. Dur­ing China’s Eighth Five Year Plan, more than 50 national high­ways were built or ren­o­vated to mil­i­tary stan­dards, in­clud­ing three roads lead­ing into Ti­bet. China has de­vel­oped a net­work of in­ter­nal high­ways and sub­sidiary/feeder roads in the TAR to con­nect strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant bor­der ar­eas with In­dia, Nepal, Bhutan and Pak­istan by means of mo­torable roads. It has de­vel­oped 58,000 km of road net­work in Ti­bet, in­clud­ing five ma­jor high­ways and a num­ber of sub­sidiary roads. It is learnt that the PRC plans to build ad­di­tional roads in the TAR to link 92 per cent of the TAR’s towns and 70 per cent of its ad­min­is­tra­tive vil­lages in the near fu­ture.

There are five op­er­a­tional air­fields in­side Ti­bet and as many as 15 sur­round­ing it. The main air­fields within the re­gion in­clude Gon­gar, Hop­ing, Pangta, Linchi and Gar Gunsa. The Gon­gar and Pangta air­fields are be­ing up­graded to cater to ad­di­tional tran­sients. Other ad­di­tional air­fields in­clude Don­shoon, Nagchuka and Shi­quane. In fact, Pangta is known to have the high­est el­e­va­tion in the world. Fur­ther, ten new air­ports are planned to be con­structed in the next five years. Of the 15 air­fields in and around Ti­bet, only three are open for civil­ian ac­tiv­ity. The im­prove­ments of op­er­a­tional air­fields will im­part a bet­ter rapid de­ploy­ment ca­pa­bil­ity to the PLA and en­hance their over­all mo­bil­i­sa­tion and lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­ity.

In­dia’s Re­sponse in Terms of In­fra­struc­ture

The in­creased force lev­els in the Eastern Theatre will not be op­er­a­tionally sus­tain­able if the road and air­field in­fra­struc­ture does not keep pace with the in­creased strengths of per­son­nel and trans­port. Not only would it be dif­fi­cult to mo­bilise at short no­tice, even sub­se­quent main­te­nance of the troops and equip­ment lo­cated in re­mote high-al­ti­tude ar­eas would be dif­fi­cult, and in war, sus­te­nance of this force on limited ar­ter­ies would be a night­mare. De­fi­cien­cies on the In­dian side have been noted by the govern­ment es­pe­cially in the bor­der ar­eas with China in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The Bor­der Roads Or­gan­i­sa­tion (BRO) has been tasked to com­plete eight roads termed ‘strate­gic’ in Arunachal Pradesh by 2013. Only four have been com­pleted as yet. Monika Chan­so­ria, Se­nior Fel­low at the Cen­tre for Land War­fare Stud­ies (CLAWS), in her pa­per on China’s In­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments in Ti­bet states: “The BRO had been di­rected to com­plete con­struc­tion of 608 km of roads stretch­ing from Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal, at a cost of ` 992 crore ($203,000,000) by 2010. As many as 75 roads with a to­tal length of more than 6,000 km are now un­der con­struc­tion at a cost of ` 5,000 crore. Be­sides this, 7,000 km of roads cost­ing ` 12,000 crore are un­der var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion in the north­east. The Spe­cial Ac­cel­er­ated Road De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme for the North­east (SARDP-NE) was di­vided into two phases: The first phase in­volv­ing 1,300 km of roads, pri­mar­ily in the north­east­ern states, to be com­pleted by 2010; the sec­ond phase in­volves 5,700 km with a 2013 dead­line. Fur­ther, the In­ter-Min­is­te­rial China Study Group pro­posed con­struc­tion of at least 75 roads all along the bor­der, of which 36 have been ear­marked for Arunachal Pradesh alone.”

The In­dian Air Force (IAF) has re­port­edly be­gun up­grad­ing its ad­vanced land­ing grounds (ALGs) in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. The IAF has built four air bases in Ladakh since 2008, with plans to up­grade such bases in Arunachal in a time bound man­ner as well. It has been re­ported that In­dia is also pro­gres­sively re­ac­ti­vat­ing old ALGs like the Daulat Beg Oldi, Phukche, Chushul and Ny­oma airstrips in Ladakh. Sim­i­larly, apart from build­ing new he­li­pads and up­grad­ing air bases, the IAF is also go­ing to soon start bas­ing its Sukhoi-30 MKI fight­ers in larger num­bers in the eastern theatre for the first time.


Glob­ally, the fo­cus is on mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties that make max­i­mum use of mod­ern elec­tron­ics and com­put­ers to im­prove com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties at mod­est cost. This phi­los­o­phy is termed as sys­tem of sys­tems ap­proach to mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion, as it places less em­pha­sis on ma­jor weapons plat­forms than on what they carry and how they are net­worked. One could cat­e­gorise the most im­por­tant tech­nolo­gies into two groups: ad­vanced pre­ci­sion mu­ni­tions and in­for­ma­tion net­works in­volv­ing sen­sors and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems. In the moun­tains, long-range fire­power is also es­sen­tial so as to en­sure sup­port from own side of the bor­der with­out hav­ing to move for­ward too of­ten.

In the moun­tains, foot mo­bil­ity of the sol­dier is im­paired by the rugged ter­rain and high al­ti­tude ef­fects which de­grades the sol­dier’s phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity. This de­mands Spar­tan and self-re­liant char­ac­ter­is­tic and an abil­ity to em­ploy tra­di­tional move­ment meth­ods such as with porter, pony and man-pack. As a part of mod­erni­sa­tion and ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing ex­er­cise, helicopters de­signed to op­er­ate at higher al­ti­tudes are a vi­tal com­po­nent of land forces op­er­at­ing in the moun­tains. This ca­pa­bil­ity will im­part both mo­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity to land forces in the moun­tains and will tend to has­ten the achieve­ment of the mis­sion. Per­sonal weapons, cloth­ing and equip­ment of the soldiers will have to be light and rugged. Per­sonal weapons will have to be in­te­grated with night sights. Sur­veil­lance ca­pa­bil­ity has to be in­built at the lower tac­ti­cal lev­els apart from its avail­abil­ity at op­er­a­tional and strate­gic lev­els. High phys­i­cal fit­ness lev­els and a ro­bust men­tal at­ti­tude, es­pe­cially to fight high-al­ti­tude war­fare, is an in­escapable re­quire­ment.

Avi­a­tion As­sets

Con­flicts in the moun­tains are a likely sce­nario, in our con­text, both in our eastern and north­ern bor­ders. In th­ese set­tings, Army Avi­a­tion as­sets will play a piv­otal role and will con­sti­tute the key el­e­ment of a com­man­der’s plans. The Army Avi­a­tion apart from be­ing a force mul­ti­plier is the only in­te­gral el­e­ment which can im­part mo­bil­ity and flex­i­bil­ity in the moun­tains. Other types of mo­bil­ity are hand­i­capped be­cause of the ter­rain and weather con­di­tions. Hence a higher ca­pa­bil­ity in this re­gard can tilt the bal­ance in any con­flict. It would be per­ti­nent to men­tion here that both our ad­ver­saries, China and Pak­istan, have fully evolved Army Avi­a­tion Corps con­sist­ing of all class of helicopters in­clud­ing at­tack helicopters and fixed-wing air­craft as part of their in­ven­tory, whereas the In­dian Army cur­rently pos­sesses only light ob­ser­va­tion helicopters with some armed ca­pa­bil­ity be­ing in­ducted in the next few years. The Army at the op­er­a­tional level of a Corps, is look­ing at an at­tack/armed he­li­copter unit, a re­con­nais­sance and ob­ser­va­tion he­li­copter unit and a light/tac­ti­cal bat­tle sup­port he­li­copter unit with each of its Corps in the plains, deserts and in the moun­tains. The heavy-lift helicopters and light fixed-wing air­craft, which is also on the wish list of the Army, when cre­ated would be com­mand/theatre as­sets, for en­hanc­ing the lo­gis­tics and lift ca­pa­bil­ity as well as their util­i­sa­tion for com­mand and con­trol pur­poses. In the ab­sence of ad­e­quate and suit­able in­fra­struc­ture on our eastern bor­ders this could be a very crit­i­cal re­source. The con­cept of Corps Avi­a­tion Bri­gades has al­ready been im­ple­mented, the first one be­ing al­ready ef­fec­tive in 14 Corps with three he­li­copter units un­der its com­mand.

Equip­ping the Man­power

A moun­tain strike corps is vi­tal for the moun­tain­ous ter­rain of the Eastern theatre where the chal­lenge from our prin­ci­ple ad­ver­sary, China, is loom­ing large. China has laid claim over the en­tire ter­ri­tory of Arunachal Pradesh. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, In­dia has no op­tion but to en­gi­neer a po­tent de­fen­sive and of­fen­sive ca­pa­bil­ity in the Eastern Theatre. How­ever, the mere avail­abil­ity of man­power of two or three moun­tain/in­fantry di­vi­sions with­out the nec­es­sary equip­ment and force mul­ti­pli­ers will not im­part any ad­di­tional ca­pa­bil­ity. Our pro­cure­ment process is in such a bad state that no new weapon sys­tem has been in­ducted in the last two decades or so in the Army. The pro­ce­dure is so com­pli­cated and lengthy that both the buyer and the seller get tired by the end of it. A process which should take 24-36 months ac­tu­ally takes about 8-10 years or more and thus by the time the equip­ment is in­ducted, it is con­sid­ered tech­no­log­i­cally out­dated.

De­ter­rence has been de­fined as the preven­tion from ac­tion by fear of the con­se­quences. De­ter­rence is also de­fined as a state of mind brought about by the ex­is­tence of a cred­i­ble threat of un­ac­cept­able coun­ter­ac­tion. It is also ac­cepted by mil­i­tary strate­gists that de­ter­rence is a prod­uct of mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity plus po­lit­i­cal will to use the ca­pa­bil­ity when re­quired. In­dia’s self im­age and its per­ceived im­age abroad do not qual­ify the na­tion to be in this league de­spite the mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­ity it may ac­quire. Hence this is one area we need to pay at­ten­tion to, apart from our de­ci­sion-mak­ing and pro­cure­ment process, if our de­ter­rence has to work.


In­dian Army’s Lancer he­li­copter in moun­tain­ous ter­rain

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