The Chi­nese Way

Dr Manoj Joshi on

Vayu Aerospace and Defence - - Vayu -

Ex­tracted from his lec­ture given at the Col­lege of Air War­fare (CAW), Dr Manoj Joshi analy­ses the Chi­nese ap­proach to ‘ Trans­for­ma­tion and Joint­ness’ with the PLA’s shift from be­ing a con­ti­nen­tal Army to an in­te­grated joint force ca­pa­ble of op­er­a­tions within and with­out China’s bor­ders. In­dia’s ex­pe­ri­ence with the A&N Com­mand has cer­tainly of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment in this realm.

Trans­for­ma­tion and joint­ness are two con­cepts that need ex­am­i­na­tion, the first ob­vi­ously be­ing a more ex­pan­sive con­cept in­cor­po­rat­ing con­cepts, doc­trines, equip­ment and or­gan­i­sa­tion. Rightly un­der­stood, mil­i­tary trans­for­ma­tion is less about emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, hard­ware and soft­ware, and far more about the mind­set of mil­i­tary and civil­ian pro­fes­sion­als deal­ing with de­fence.

The term ‘joint­ness’, means dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple; in the US Dic­tionary of Mil­i­tary and As­so­ci­ated Terms, ‘joint’ is as in any ac­tiv­ity, op­er­a­tion or or­gan­i­sa­tion in which el­e­ments of two mil­i­tary de­part­ments par­tic­i­pate. In this analysis the term is used to mean the ef­fec­tive in­te­gra­tion of the com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the three ser­vices. In the United States, the evo­lu­tion of this ‘ef­fec­tive in­te­gra­tion’, as well as the mind set among mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who fa­cil­i­tate it, has pro­gressed un­evenly since the pas­sage of the Gold­wa­ter Ni­chols Act of 1986.

Amer­ica now fights wars al­most solely un­der joint com­mands. Most re­cently and vividly, this was seen in the in­te­gra­tion of com­bat ef­fects in Afghanistan and Iraq. In ad­di­tion, there were op­er­a­tions in the so-called global war on ter­ror­ism. What these op­er­a­tions re­vealed that from the top to the tac­ti­cal level, there was a great deal of in­ter­op­er­abil­ity. I re­call an ex­am­ple of an ar­ti­cle I read which said that a cap­tain seek­ing a strike against a par­tic­u­lar tar­get could ex­pect his needs to be met through an air force jet fly­ing over­head, an Army ATACMS mis­sile or a cruise mis­sile fired by a Navy ship or sub­ma­rine.

There also have been less pro­nounced but con­sis­tent suc­cesses to­ward joint­ness made in peace­time—the steady evo­lu­tion in joint doc­trine and ex­er­cises, for one ex­am­ple. But it is also the case that joint­ness has failed to evolve in other ar­eas in which it was an­tic­i­pated and in­tended by the framers of the Gold­wa­ter-Ni­chols Act. There are still only few stand­ing joint forces ready for joint de­ploy­ment and em­ploy­ment and, rather, forces are, by and large, still as­sem­bled only at the time of de­ploy­ment. Fur­ther, there has been only glacial move­ment to­ward such joint force.

The Gold­wa­ter Ni­chols per­spec­tive was to lever­age the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of in­di­vid­ual ser­vices to meet the re­quire­ments of the joint force. While the chal­lenge now is to move to­wards a joint in­ter­de­pen­dency where, as the Chi­nese see it, 1+1+1+1 will be greater than 4, or in other words, ser­vice ca­pa­bil­i­ties are mag­ni­fied through in­te­gra­tion.

In­te­grated Joint Op­er­a­tions (IJO)

Com­bined arms op­er­a­tions have been tak­ing place since WW II where the ser­vices broadly tended to fight their bat­tles sep­a­rately. Of course the value of ‘ co­or­di­nated joint op­er­a­tions’ was well un­der­stood and most of our mil­i­tary ex­er­cises have sought to prac­tice these. The shift now is to­wards ‘in­te­grated joint op­er­a­tions’. In the for­mer, ser­vices con­duct op­er­a­tions to­wards the same op­er­a­tional goals but with lim­ited in­ter­ac­tions at the lower ech­e­lons. But IJO is what coun­tries like the US, and now China, be­lieve is vi­tal for win­ning wars. IJO is all about highly in­te­grated and net­worked op­er­a­tions and joint force group­ings down to the tac­ti­cal lev­els.

Field­ing an in­te­grated C4ISR ar­chi­tec­ture is the key to IJO. This is not a sim­ple step as it re­quires ef­fec­tive in­te­gra­tion of sys­tems and train­ing of op­er­a­tors, as well as com­man­ders at the cam­paign and tac­ti­cal lev­els.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of IT to weapons and equip­ment– what the Chi­nese call in­for­ma­tion­i­sa­tion– re­quires a change in all as­pects of the mil­i­tary : strat­egy, op­er­a­tions, tac­tics, or­gan­i­sa­tion, equip­ment, force struc­ture, train­ing and ex­er­cises.

The US and China be­lieve that IJO are a more ad­vanced form of Joint Op­er­a­tions where mod­u­lar or­gan­i­sa­tions can pro­vide the ideal force mix from ex­ist­ing or­gan­i­sa­tional di­vi­sions which can be in­te­grated through joint com­mand and a com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems ar­chi­tec­ture.

The Gold­wa­ter Ni­chols De­fence Re­or­gan­i­sa­tion Act of 1986 fo­cused a great deal of at­ten­tion on joint of­fi­cer man­age­ment poli­cies so as to fo­cus on the qual­ity and ca­pa­bil­i­ties of of­fi­cers serv­ing on joint staffs and joint mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions. There is how­ever a de­bate as to the ex­tent to which joint­ness can be spread. In an in­flu­en­tial ar­ti­cle in 2003, Don Snider ar­gued that there was need for fur­ther leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate a new joint war­fare pro­fes­sion, a new joint doc­trine and ed­u­ca­tion com­mand and a new joint per­son­nel com­mand. While Michael A Coss ar­gued that the US al­ready had a joint pro­fes­sion and the pro­cesses to de­velop and man­age the body of joint knowl­edge, in his view, the process of dif­fu­sion of joint­ness has to be done with the view that fu­ture con­flicts re­quired de­cen­tralised op­er­a­tions where in­ter­de­pen­dent joint ca­pa­bil­i­ties and as­so­ci­ated forces would hold the key to vic­tory.

In essence, there has to be an un­der­stand­ing that ser­vice iden­ti­ties must re­main strong be­cause they are the core of the ex­per­tise, which is re­quired in ever greater mea­sure in the mod­ern bat­tle­field but their per­spec­tive needs to be joint to not only meet the new warfight­ing chal­lenges but to mag­nify the ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

What is hap­pen­ing in China

The first Gulf war trig­gered the in­ter­est of the PLA on the RMA based on pre­ci­sion strike and IJO ca­pa­bil­ity, be­gin­ning as an ex­per­i­ment and to ex­er­cise in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents of joint­ness. Fi­nally, af­ter many stum­bles, China is mov­ing to­wards a mil­i­tary trans­for­ma­tion based on the PLA analysis of IT- driven rev­o­lu­tion in mil­i­tary af­fairs. This has arisen be­cause of the aware­ness that the many tra­di­tional strate­gic and op­er­a­tional con­cepts and prac­tices must be re­vised as po­ten­tial threats and eco­nomic im­per­a­tives that China con­fronts have changed. An im­por­tant as­pect of this was con­tained in the China Mil­i­tary Strat­egy doc­u­ment of 2015 which de­clared that “China is a ma­jor mar­itime as well as a land coun­try.”

The other im­per­a­tive has been the growth of tech­nol­ogy : new mis­sile, naval, air, as well as cy­ber and elec­tronic war­fare ca­pa­bil­i­ties which de­mand in­te­grated com­mand and con­trol. The re­forms un­der­taken by Xi Jin­ping are aimed at ac­cel­er­at­ing the long- term mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion pro­grammes that had been slowed down by in­er­tia and wide­spread cor­rup­tion.

This has in­volved new multi-ser­vice joint head­quar­ter or­gan­i­sa­tions at the na­tional (strate­gic) level and the theatre (op­er­a­tional) level. The for­mer is the new Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Com­mis­sion which has folded the erst­while Gen­eral De­part­ments into fif­teen de­part­ments, in­sti­tu­tions and com­mis­sions (three com­mis­sions on dis­ci­pline in­spec­tion, pol­i­tics and Law, S&T; five in­sti­tu­tions on strate­gic planning, re­form and or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­ture, in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion, au­dit, agency for of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion; seven de­part­ments in­clud­ing gen­eral of­fice, joint staff, po­lit­i­cal work, lo­gis­tics sup­port, equip­ment de­vel­op­ment, na­tional de­fence mo­bil­i­sa­tion and train­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion).

This new ‘flat­ter’ com­mand struc­ture of the CMC pro­vides greater po­lit­i­cal over­sight over PLA af­fairs. These new head­quar­ters will seek to build an In­te­grated Joint Op­er­a­tions (IJO) sys­tem and en­hance the PLA’s abil­ity, in the words of Xi Jin­ping, “to fight and win” an ‘in­for­ma­tionised’ war.

The Theatre Com­mands which will, through the Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand Cen­tre, be di­rectly com­manded by Xi Jin­ping, are now re­spon­si­ble for the planning of joint op­er­a­tions in a par­tic­u­lar zone, and have the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the joint train­ing of the forces, keep­ing in mind the po­ten­tial joint mis­sions they could be en­trusted with.

Each of the four ser­vice HQ—the new Army HQ, that of the Air Force, Navy and the PLA Rocket Force—will su­per­vise their force de­vel­op­ment and train­ing.

The re­forms which have ac­tu­ally led to a re­duc­tion of the PLA strength by 300,000, also stresses the en­hance­ment of the pro­fes­sional mil­i­tary ed­u­ca­tion, joint train­ing, of NCOs and so on. The cur­rent re­forms are aimed at op­er­a­tional­is­ing a joint op­er­a­tions doc­trine through a joint com­mand sys­tem. This in­volves en­hance­ment of joint of­fi­cer de­vel­op­ment and im­prov­ing joint train­ing, doc­trines, tac­tics, lo­gis­tics and stan­dard­i­s­a­tion and work­ing out pro­ce­dures in es­tab­lish­ing joint com­mand pro­ce­dures to sup­port the weapon and equip­ment mod­erni­sa­tion. This cy­cle is ex­pected to con­tinue till 2020.

The three-stage phase ac­tu­ally in­volves a long and com­plex process that would go on till the mid­dle of the 21st cen­tury. The PLA’s joint op­er­a­tions re­search and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion has re­vealed weak­ness in its mil­i­tary train­ing in­sti­tutes, joint pro­fi­ciency of its of­fi­cer cadre, joint train­ing, doc­trine and tac­tics and lo­gis­tics, and com­mand struc­tures, all of which are be­ing ad­dressed in the cur­rent re­form.

Ac­cord­ing to an­a­lyst Kevin Mc­Cauley, what the PLA is seek­ing to do is to suc­cess­fully im­ple­ment, what he says, is a sys­tem of sys­tems op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity which would syn­er­gise the com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness of the var­i­ous com­po­nent sys­tems : weapons, equip­ment, units beyond their in­di­vid­ual ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In other words, this sys­tem of sys­tem op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties based on in­for­ma­tion sys­tems is viewed as the key en­abler for IJOs.

The PLA is de­vel­op­ing a the­o­ret­i­cal ba­sis for a new joint op­er­a­tions doc­trine : in­te­grated joint op­er­a­tions which is aimed at en­hanc­ing its ca­pa­bil­i­ties to ex­e­cute con­tin­gency op­er­a­tions in po­ten­tial crises. De­vel­op­ing this ca­pa­bil­ity is slowly but surely mov­ing the PLA away from the Army-dom­i­nated sys­tem.

In essence, the de­vel­op­ment of such ‘ sys­tem of sys­tems’ op­er­a­tions and IJO are vi­tal for the PLA’s trans­for­ma­tion. Sys­tem of sys­tem op­er­a­tions are es­sen­tially sys­tem war fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity based on in­for­ma­tion sys­tems. Suc­cess here re­quires the de­vel­op­ment of an in­te­grated C4ISR sys­tem link­ing the ser­vices in a joint op­er­a­tions com­mand sys­tem down to the tac­ti­cal level, re­al­is­tic train­ing, bat­tle labs and sim­u­la­tion cen­tres for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and in­no­va­tion in joint op­er­a­tions and tac­tics, bet­ter mil­i­tary aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions,

op­ti­mi­sa­tion of the force struc­ture and the creation of new type of op­er­a­tional forces.

The PLA has been ex­per­i­ment­ing since 2009 with ‘Joint­ness’ in the erst­while Ji­nan Mil­i­tary re­gion which cov­ers the north east­ern part of the coun­try and in­cludes the Shan­dong penin­sula. They have val­i­dated var­i­ous ideas and con­cepts for im­plant­ing the IJO sys­tem. An im­por­tant el­e­ment of this is to train a new gen­er­a­tion of joint op­er­a­tions com­man­ders and staff of­fi­cers and evolve mech­a­nisms to se­lect, train and ap­point joint op­er­a­tion com­man­ders. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the PLA ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems and uni­ver­si­ties need to adapt their cur­ricu­lum and stu­dent com­po­si­tion to pre­pare of­fi­cers for the joint as­sign­ments.

By 2020, one will get a clearer idea of whether the PLA moves have been suc­cess­ful and the one in­di­ca­tor of this is the pro­por­tion of non-Army se­nior of­fi­cers who get the new bil­lets in the Theatre com­mands. Al­ready the South­ern Theatre Com­mand has a naval com­man­der, Vice Ad­mi­ral Yuan Yubai and we may soon see an Air Force of­fi­cer head­ing the East­ern Theatre which is ori­ented to­wards Tai­wan and Ja­pan.

The shift of the PLA from be­ing a con­ti­nen­tal army to an in­te­grated joint force ca­pa­ble of op­er­a­tions within and with­out China’s bor­ders could take at least a gen­er­a­tion. The se­nior mil­i­tary lead­er­ship un­der­stands the chal­lenges, even though there is some un­ease among the younger of­fi­cers as they con­front a ca­reer which could be quite dif­fer­ent from the one they en­vis­aged.

In­dian per­spec­tives

In In­dia the three ser­vices have their dis­tinct cul­tures which go back a long time and all of them have tended to fight their fight sep­a­rately. Not for noth­ing did the Army term its cam­paign in Kargil as Op­er­a­tion Vi­jay and the Air Force this as Op­er­a­tion Safed Sa­gar. But as the Karachi op­er­a­tions re­vealed in 1971, the bat­tle space could get crowded with over­lap­ping op­er­a­tions. Sub­se­quently, this chal­lenge has only grown and the Army and the Air Force, for ex­am­ple, learnt to co­or­di­nate their air and ground at­tacks so that there was no over­lap.

Var­i­ous ex­er­cises have also re­vealed that both ser­vices saw joint­ness as a means to an ef­fec­tive end. Where the US devel­oped an en­tire doc­trine, the Air Land Doc­trine to take on the Sovi­ets in Europe, in In­dia the co­or­di­na­tion came sans any doc­trine since there was no in­sti­tu­tional or leg­isla­tive im­per­a­tive to change. We have, of course, seen a joint doc­trine emerge in 2016, but this ap­pears to be se­verely flawed.

Not that there have been no ef­forts : var­i­ous com­mis­sions have in­clud­ing the Arun Singh Com­mit­tee which was set up in the spe­cific con­text of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of 1990-91. The idea of the Com­mit­tee which was called the ‘ Com­mit­tee on De­fence Ex­pen­di­ture’, was to pro­pose ways of man­ag­ing In­dia’s se­cu­rity chal­lenges within the bud­gets avail­able. In line with this, Arun Singh pro­posed ma­jor changes, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of a Chief of De­fence Staff and the move to­wards joint theatre

com­mands. How­ever, this re­port never saw light of the day, leave alone move to­wards any kind of im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The Group of Min­is­ters pro­pos­als for re­form in 2001 was led by the top-most min­is­ters of the Union Cabi­net, in­deed, they were all mem­bers of the CCS. How­ever, they were as­sisted by spe­cial­ist task forces and the one on mil­i­tary is­sues was headed by Arun Singh. This, too, pro­posed the creation of a CDS as a start­ing point of a process of cre­at­ing joint war fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The Naresh Chan­dra Com­mit­tee was an ex­pert com­mit­tee which also rec­om­mended a CDS-like ap­point­ment : a Per­ma­nent Chair­man of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee: He would be se­lected from the three chiefs and have chief of staff from an­other ser­vice; He would co­or­di­nate and pri­ori­tise the 15 year LTIPP, the 5-year Plan and the An­nual ac­qui­si­tion plan of the three Ser­vices; He would ad­min­is­ter the tri-ser­vice in­sti­tu­tions; He would com­mand the A&N Com­mand, Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions forces and those forces for out-of-area con­tin­gen­cies (ex­pe­di­tionary forces); He would have ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol over the SFC, and be an in­vi­tee to the NSC and CCS meet­ings; He would plan joint ser­vice ex­er­cises to lay the foun­da­tions for op­er­a­tional, lo­gis­tics and com­mand con­trol of fu­ture op­er­a­tional con­tin­gen­cies.

Such ex­er­cises would serve as prov­ing ground for the In­te­grated or Theatre Com­mand con­cept, and he would also push the in­te­gra­tion of com­mon func­tions now per­formed by in­di­vid­ual ser­vices such as lo­gis­tics, train­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tive ar­eas. He would be re­spon­si­ble for the prepa­ra­tion of the an­nual De­fence Op­er­a­tions Sta­tus Re­port and the idea of joint lo­gis­tics. Fur­ther, among the tasks of the CDS would be to be­gin ex­per­i­men­ta­tion for im­ple­ment­ing the Theatre Com­mand idea.

Ex­pe­ri­ence of the A&N Com­mand

The An­daman & Ni­co­bar Com­mand has cer­tainly of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment, es­pe­cially on is­sues like joint lo­gis­tics, joint cam­paign for­ma­tions, joint tac­ti­cal for­ma­tions, re­fin­ing joint com­mand and co­or­di­na­tion pro­ce­dures and field­ing an in­te­grated com­mand sys­tem. Yet, the first such ex­er­cise took place only re­cently ! The ANC has suf­fered ne­glect, again be­cause of turf wars, lack of re­sources and gen­eral bu­reau­cratic ap­a­thy and the fact that it does not have an “owner”. How­ever, there now seems to be a shift un­der­way.

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of an ad­vanced in­te­grated joint op­er­a­tions doc­trine is the key to our abil­ity to em­ploy mod­ern weapons and equip­ment, form and em­ploy ex­pe­di­tionary forces at the cam­paign and tac­ti­cal level to gen­er­ate in­creased com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness to fight and win wars in South Asia and the IOR.

The de­ploy­ment of in­te­grated com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­puter, in­tel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance and re­con­nais­sance C4ISR will be foun­da­tion of the in­te­grated joint op­er­a­tions ca­pa­bil­ity (IJO).

Chal­lenges to­wards cre­at­ing an In­te­grated Joint Op­er­a­tions ca­pa­bil­ity are of course man­i­fest and re­quire : In­te­grat­ing op­er­a­tional the­o­ries of the dif­fer­ent ser­vices. Stan­dar­d­is­ing the joint op­er­a­tions or­ders and pro­ce­dures which will also take into ac­count the level of in­de­pen­dence of the com­po­nent ser­vices The es­tab­lish­ment of a joint com­mand struc­ture with clearly de­fined au­thor­ity. Cre­at­ing an in­te­grated C4ISR ar­chi­tec­ture go­ing down to the tac­ti­cal level. Above all, there is the need to in­te­grate knowl­edge by hav­ing trained per­son­nel at all lev­els of joint com­mand and op­er­a­tions with ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of the op­er­a­tions and ca­pa­bil­i­ties of all ser­vices at all times.

New Flat Com­mand Struc­ture from PLA Sys­tem of Sys­tems Op­er­a­tions : En­abling Joint Op­er­a­tions (as per an­a­lyst Kevin Mc­Cauley)

The Chi­nese SH-5 am­phibi­ous mar­itime pa­trol air­craft has been devel­oped by the Harbin Air­craft Man­u­fac­tur­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (HAMC) for mar­itime war­fare, SAR and trans­porta­tion of key stores to ships at sea

In­dian Naval land­ing craft dis­gorg­ing troops and ex­er­cises in the An­damans

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