Need for Seam­less In­te­grated Plan­ning

SP's MAI - - MILITARY -

For­ever a vic­tim of its die-hard habit of sen­sa­tion­al­is­ing any and ev­ery bit of news, the In­dian me­dia has once again tried to give an omi­nous twist to the in­ter-ser­vice re­la­tions within the armed forces. This time it has picked up the newly ap­pointed Army Chief Gen­eral Bikram Singh, who is re­ported to have launched an ‘ag­gres­sive’ cam­paign among the top ech­e­lons of the gov­ern­ment de­mand­ing that the Army be al­lowed to have its own at­tack he­li­copters. And, true to its form and char­ac­ter, the me­dia lost no time sug­gest­ing that the move has trig­gered a fresh round of stand-off be­tween the Army and the In­dian Air Force (IAF).

Be­fore com­ment­ing on the is­sue, it would be worth­while tak­ing a closer look at the pre­vail­ing sce­nario and the developments al­ready in the off­ing. It is com­mon knowl­edge that the IAF cur­rently fields two squadrons of Rus­sian-built Mi-25/Mi-35 at­tack he­li­copters pri­mar­ily in sup­port of the ar­moured for­ma­tions of the Army on as re­quired ba­sis. Dur­ing ex­er­cises and in ac­tual op­er­a­tions, these op­er­ate di­rectly with the af­fil­i­ated Army for­ma­tions from ‘FAARP’ (For­ward Area Arm­ing and Re­fu­elling Point) lo­ca­tions, thus pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary syn­ergy be­tween the two ser­vices. These could also be used in com­ple­men­tary roles such as com­bat search and res­cue, etc, when re­quired. The IAF is known to have opted for 22 US Apache Long­bow AH-64Ds, as an ini­tial or­der through im­port to aug­ment/re­place its age­ing Mi-25/Mi-35s.

On the home front, how­ever, HAL is fever­ishly de­vel­op­ing In­dia’s own at­tack he­li­copter called the light com­bat he­li­copter (LCH) which is de­rived from the ad­vanced light he­li­copter (ALH) Dhruv. Of note are the facts: first, ALH is al­ready oper­at­ing in the IAF as well as the Army, and sec­ond, LCH is be­ing de­vel­oped for both the ser­vices with the Army’s ini­tial or­der for 114, far out-strip­ping the IAF’s 65. Con­cur­rently, the HAL is also ‘weaponising’ the Dhruv in its ALH weapon sys­tems in­te­grated (WSI) avatar called ‘Ru­dra’, to be sup­plied to the Army and the Navy for com­bat sup­port and maritime ASW roles, re­spec­tively. In­ci­den­tally, not only the LCH but also the weaponised Ru­dra will have the ca­pa­bil­ity to carry dif­fer­ent types of weapon loads such as airto-air and air-to-sur­face mis­siles, rock­ets, etc—even chin-mounted can­nons—just like any other at­tack he­li­copter. The dif­fer­ence, if any, lies pri­mar­ily in the all up weight (AUW) be­tween the light com­bat and heav­ier at­tack he­li­copters. For ex­am­ple, the in­dige­nous LCH and ALH (WSI) fall in the five­tonne AUW class, while the IAF’s Mi-25/Mi-35 and, to be ac­quired AH-64D Apache Long­bow, be­long to the 10-tonne+ class.

It is clear there­fore that the Army is al­ready on the way to get its own light-weight at­tack/com­bat he­li­copters and from that point of view me­dia’s frenzy would be mean­ing­less. Un­der the Joint Army Air In­struc­tion of 1986, the Army is em­pow­ered to op­er­ate light util­ity he­li­copters for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, di­rect­ing ar­tillery fire, etc. To that, it is also adding the light-weight com­bat he­li­copters in sup­port of ‘contact bat­tle’, etc, as men­tioned above. How­ever, ma­jor prob­lems could arise— in­clud­ing for the Army—if it went pitch­ing for the heav­ier spec­i­mens too.

It is not clear at this stage whether re­ports em­a­nat­ing from a sec­tion of the me­dia that Army has de­manded he­li­copters heav­ier than five tonnes, in­clud­ing at­tack chop­pers for it­self, in the long term in­te­grated per­spec­tive plan (LTIPP) for 201227, are true or not? In the same con­text, it has also been re­ported that though LTIPP for the mil­i­tary was ap­proved by the De­fence Ac­qui­si­tion Coun­cil, headed by De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony, in April; this as­pect has been re­ferred to a panel, headed by the Deputy Chief of the In­te­grated De­fence Staff (Per­spec­tive Plan­ning and Force De­vel­op­ment) and com­pris­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous ser­vices. In the event, these re­ports do turn out to be real, it is sin­cerely hoped the panel (in line with the IDS’ char­ac­ter and man­date) will not hes­i­tate to dis­agree with the pro­posal. Be­cause, more than pre­vent­ing avoid­able turf wars, such a move will do great ser­vice to the Army it­self. Lack of do­main ex­per­tise plus lo­gis­tics and main­te­nance sup­port is­sues could prove to be crip­pling fac­tors and the Army would do well not to in­vite trou­ble at this stage.

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, more than phys­i­cal own­er­ship, what re­ally mat­ters is for the ser­vices to in­te­grate them­selves for mod­ern war­fare—with each do­ing what it is best at—to de­liver the de­ci­sive knock­out com­bat punch against the en­emy. It is be­lieved, the In­dian mil­i­tary plan­ners have al­ready ar­tic­u­lated joint doc­trines for fight­ing such a bat­tle. But are they also ready to im­ple­ment these through true joint plan­ning and seam­less in­te­grated ex­e­cu­tion?

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