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RELOOK AT THE GROUND FORCES

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by NS52, Oct 25, 2018.

  1. NS52

    NS52 MILITARY STRATEGIST

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    The recent hype in media for review and restructuring of Indian Army and the nuclearization of South Asia has brought in focus the Role of Ground Forces in future operations. The massive weaponization programme of Pakistan especially in manufacturing tactical nuclear weapons have increased the possibility of surprise nuclear attack from Pakistan although a very remote possibility but can be assumed in as an option in times to come. Hence, the national Policy on deterrence and the role of ground forces need an in-depth appreciation and a 360° appraisal.

    India has a very long disputed border which is active. It needs constant manning to prevent any nibbling or occupation by adversary. The constant occupation prevents any adventure, surprise attacks as also ‘brush-fires.’

    The problem for India in arriving at a strategic doctrine is identical to one faced by NATO in greater dimension in 50’s in determining its military strategy and capabilities. Which contingencies should India prepare for? From a rising China to a collapsing Afghanistan, Weakening and free movement of terrorist groups in Pakistan, the evolving security environment presents a myriad array of possible challenges. Any number of these could involve the commitment of Indian ground troops, potentially in large numbers, and for operations that could be far different from the counterinsurgency/ anti-terrorism wars the Indian military has fought for the past decade-plus.

    At the same time, the scope and character of possible ground operations has evolved far beyond easy characterizations between counterinsurgency vs. conventional operations, irregular vs. regular. Non-state actors possess increasingly capable advanced weapons, such as precision-guided anti-tank weapons (ATGMs); guided rockets, artillery, mortars, and missiles (GRAMM); man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS); and low-cost commercially-available drones. These will allow them to contest Indian forces for control of terrain. States have also adapted their tactics and approaches on the ground, relying on proxies, deniable operations, propaganda, and cyber-attacks to achieve their strategic objectives without deploying overt military forces.

    The battlespace itself in which Indian forces find themselves is also evolving. The rapid diffusion of information technology connects and empowers civilian populations, upending traditional relationships between people and authority. Ubiquitous smartphones mean that every citizen can be a global reporter, a node of an ad hoc network, the leader of a spontaneous flash mob, or the symbol for a cause. In future ground operations, Indian forces are likely to find themselves in an environment where the location and disposition of Indian troops is known to anyone interested and where every action – and inaction – of Indian servicemembers is broadcast in real-time.

    Complicating these challenges is the reality that different contingencies represent qualitatively different operational problems. India does not have a luxury of a single opponent. Indian ground forces must be able to fight guerrillas and terrorists all the way up through nation-state militaries. Structuring, training and equipping a force for these diverse challenges is not a simple task. The U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan shattered the naïve belief in “lesser included,” that a military prepared for nation-state war could succeed in “operations other than war.”

    Adversaries have a broad array of potential strategies at their disposal to accomplish their political aims, from terrorism to insurgency to combined arms manoeuvre warfare. Just as the guerrilla tactics Indian Army faced in North East were not new but ages old, many of the strategy’s adversaries use on the battlefields of tomorrow may look like the challenges of yesterday. Whether it is Pakistani forces in the West or Islamic militants in Kashmir, seizing terrain by direct force remains an effective tool for would-be aggressors, and one the Indian military must be prepared to counter. Threats to Indian interests can come from instability and disorder or from enemies attempting to create or extend an unfavourable order. The Indian military therefore, must be prepared to address both kinds of threats; to seize, control, and defend terrain; and to build a favourable security order conducive to Indian interests.

    The Increasing Human Interactions

    Wars may be fought with bullets and bombs, but these are fought by people; in a violent clash of wills. Many factors such as– urbanization, globalization, resource stresses, and information technology – is increasing the volume and speed of human interactions. The result is a shift not only in the physical landscape of war but, even more importantly, the social landscape in which war occurs. Just see the how stone pelters are mustered in minutes moment a terrorist is surrounded by security forces.

    Urbanization

    Urban warfare is likely to be a larger component of future wars for the simple reason that there are more people on the planet living in denser urban areas than ever before. Not only is the total population growing, it is becoming increasingly urbanized. Most people today live in urban areas; by 2040, two-thirds of all people will live in cities, many of which will be in coastal areas.

    Not all military operations will be conducted in urban areas. Remote regions, like the mountains in the North, the deserts of Rajasthan, or the jungles of East and Central India, will continue to be attractive hiding places for insurgents and terrorists looking for safe havens. Many of the challenges of disorder will continue to come from disconnected regions that are not integrated with the political economy. However, key terrain increasingly will be urbanized, and the scale of cities will be larger, making preparing for urban operations an essential component of military readiness.

    Resource Stresses and Migration

    Just as the number of people living in cities is increasing, the interaction between people around the globe is growing as well. Conflicts or humanitarian crises in one region can quickly spill across borders, sometimes with far-reaching dramatic effects, as we see today in the impact of the Rohingya from Myanmar in North East. The migration from Bangladesh which have changed the demographic profile of the State of Assam.

    Media

    The traditional fourth estate has been replaced with a sprawling jungle of articles, blog and wall posts, tweets, photos, and viral videos. Anyone with access to the internet can spread his or her message, and ordinary people can become famous (or infamous) overnight. The result can be a dizzying pace of information, with governments struggling to keep up as decisionmakers are whipsawed by the crisis of the day. This democratization of information dramatically changes the social landscape in which conflict occurs. War depends upon two or more social groups in opposition – an “us” vs. “them.” In the new media landscape, any digitally connected person can now shape the narrative of a conflict. The next viral movement is only a hashtag away. Social identity is the engine that fuels conflict. Bullets do not fire on their own. Wars are fought by people.

    Human Terrain is Key Terrain

    To divorce ground combat from the people – including civilians – among whom armies fight is to ignore the fundamental raison d’ être for land warfare. While militaries may occasionally perform short-duration raids on land to capture high-value individuals or seize loose WMD, most ground campaigns will be fought to change the political end state of a piece of territory and its occupants. Establishing a favourable political order conducive to Indian interests is effectively impossible without the support of the people living on the ground. It is violence that separates war from other means of political conflict. Rather, it is the acknowledgment that war is a contest between people, not hardware. The tools of war – tanks, missiles, bullets, etc. – are important, but destroying them alone does not necessarily result in victory.

    Destruction of the enemy’s military capabilities is a prerequisite to a political end but not an end, means that violence in war must be modulated first and foremost to support the war’s desired political end state. India achieved success in Bangladesh by not destroying Pakistan Army but by pacifying and securing the local population. Indian withdrew it forces from Bangladesh thus winning the support of the population.

    Information technology

    Information technology does more than simply connect people; it also empowers. Information technology brings down the cost of recording, copying, and spreading information, and as a result puts tools that traditionally were reserved for large organizations in the hands of individuals and nonstate groups. Combined with the proliferation of military-grade weapons and increasingly destructive improvised weapons, conflict is becoming more democratized, empowering individuals and non-state actors.

    The pervasive use of smartphones has ushered in an age of radical transparency, and many governments are not ready for it. The ability of any individual to record and spread in real time information about abuses by authorities has upended relationships between citizens and traditional authorities around the globe. In India, defence forces have struggled to adapt to an era where abuses – real or perceived – can be recorded by bystanders and broadcast globally. Abuses that previously might have existed in the shadows have been dragged into the open. Incidents that previously would have been isolated, with only immediate bystanders aware of what occurred, can now be replayed over and over on social and traditional media. Pictures and video bring an objective record of events, or at least the appearance of one, as well as a visceral emotional quality that resonates with viewers. Debates over whether this new reality is changing defence forces behaviour and what that means overshadow a deeper point: Information technology has fundamentally altered public transparency over forces behaviour.

    Transparency will also force the Indian military to rethink operational security practices for forces operating among populations. The standard practice of troops publicly displaying nametags and unit patches on military operations poses a significant force protection risk in a world where so much personal information is available online.

    Precision-Guided Munitions Revolution

    Changes are also coming to the world of infantry, as miniaturization brings precision-guided weapons into the hands of the infantry soldier. Today, early signs of a new revolution in infantry combat are apparent, one that could potentially be as big as the introduction of the machine gun. Improvements in computer processors and sensors are enabling smaller, lower-cost, and more ruggedized electronics. These, in turn, are bringing the same game-changing advances in precision guided weapons that have revolutionized Indian airpower down to the section level.

    Continuities in Ground Warfare

    The future operating environment becomes more contested, transparent, and lethal for Indian forces, many other elements in ground warfare are unlikely to alter. The causes of warfare, which are as old as human nature, are not likely to change; nor is the inherent nature of warfare as full of friction and uncertainty. Transparency will not peel away the fog of war. Militaries will have access to large amounts of information, but it will never be complete, will invariably include conflicting information, and may be infused with enemy deception. Militaries that do not train leaders to make decisions amidst conditions of uncertainty will find themselves paralyzed, drowning in a deluge of data but still mired in the fog of war.

    Information alone cannot lead to success. Information is not protection, mobility, or lethality. It can enhance those but cannot replace them. Non-physical weapons such as electromagnetic warfare or cyber tools will also play a critical role on the battlefield, but they will not negate or usurp physical force. The physical and the digital will become increasingly intertwined as the internet colonizes the battlefield, but the end state of these contests will remain the threat or reality of violence.

    Ground Force

    Indian ground forces must adapt to these emerging challenges by evolving their capability investments, training, doctrine, and policies. Some specific initiatives are included below, although this is by no means an exhaustive list

    Indian Army needs active protection systems – both “soft” and “hard” kill systems – to help defend ground vehicles against increasingly lethal ATGMs and RPGs. Counter-drone capabilities, both kinetic and non-kinetic, will also become increasingly important, including for on the-move defence against enemy drones.

    Indian Army will need to modernize their communications, electronic warfare, and fires capabilities to operate against modernized ground forces. Investments that aid in concealing Indian forces, such as protected communications on the move, jamming, decoys, and deception are particularly valuable to help Indian forces operate within range of artillery, which has lately shown great lethality.

    Training

    Training will similarly need to adapt to these emerging challenges. While Indian Army has fought extensively at the section and platoon level in North East and Kashmir including in high reaches of mountains, these fights did not require battalion, brigade, or division level coordinated fire and manoeuvre. Future conflicts could require combined arms manoeuvre warfare conducted on these scales, however, and large-scale military exercises must be an important element of training.

    Doctrine and Policies

    Doctrine and policies likewise must evolve. The Army is already working on distributed and dispersed operations, and these concepts will need to continue to mature. The ground forces have an important opportunity now, as they transition from a decade-plus of counterinsurgency operations, to solidify the role of the human domain of warfare as an essential component of land warfare. Policies on operational security and publicly displayed personally identifying information for troops should evolve to a world of radical transparency. Policies that restrict the information Indian troops post on social media are prudent but are undermined by the public display of sensitive information on every Soldier’s uniform.

    Finally, tactics and doctrine will need to adapt to a world of increased lethality at the section level, potentially in ways that cannot be foreseen today. In all these challenges, wargaming and experimentation is critical to trying new ideas ahead of the crucible of combat.

    There undoubtedly are also new challenges that cannot be foreseen today, or solutions that seem appropriate but for one reason or another fall short on the battlefield. This points to the broader need for a force that is agile enough to adapt to a range of challenges.

    Strategic Agility

    Current trends can point the way to potential future challenges, but the character of future fights is anything but certain. The only certainty is surprise. Even if Indian Army do their very best to adapt to emerging challenges, enemies will seek to attack Indian Army with tactics and methods that minimize Indian Army advantages. Asymmetry in tactics should be expected, not treated as an exception. To continue to succeed on a changing battlefield, Indian Army must be more agile than the enemy. Indian Army must be able to recognize and understand new challenges, experiment with solutions, and implement effective responses faster than the enemy. This is no small task for the world’s largest bureaucracy competing. MoD’s track record of adaptation is less than inspiring. The MoD is ill equipped to address urgent needs that arise during wartime. While the Indian Army adapts its tactics, equipment, and strategy to fight, the process of doing so takes years. Those delays cost Indian service members their lives. Example is Bullet proof jackets, machine guns etc.

    Vital equipment procurement is stymied by a sluggish acquisition system and a bureaucracy overly focused at the expense of current challenges. There is no accountability of bureaucracy or MoD. Tomorrow’s wars will invariably require different solutions but institutionalizing the processes that enables adaptability will result in a more agile Indian Army that is able to respond to whatever challenges future conflicts may bring.

    Strategic agility depends first and foremost on building agile and adaptable leaders. They must be supported, however, by acquisition processes that allow rapid technology refresh to keep pace with a fast-moving technology landscape. Similarly, warfighting concepts must evolve over time to adapt to new threats and opportunities on future battlefields.

    The deliberate acquisition process should emphasize modularity, so that combat systems can be upgraded incrementally. Investments should emphasize “payloads over platforms” and “software over payloads,” with major platforms seen as “trucks” that can be updated over time. (Of course, for the ground forces, sometimes the platforms will literally be trucks)

    Today there is a need to spread manufacturing so that competition could be there. India is the largest importer of weapons, and it needs to develop its own industry. The old philosophy that Arms will not be exported has to be changes to build competition and have scale of production to have cost competitiveness not like Sukhoi 30 which is ₹ 150 crore more than the imported one.

    Effectively responding to near-term needs requires more than the right processes, however. It also requires a shift in the mindset within MoD, especially if the solutions needed in the present aren’t the same as those anticipated for the future.

    Warfighting Concepts

    The ground forces need to implement a regular program of experimentation to explore new warfighting challenges and solutions across the spectrum of conflict. Indian need to challenge conventional thinking and doctrine to rapidly evolve warfighting concepts ahead of adversaries. Shifts in the operating environment such as transparency and handheld precision-guided weapons could so dramatically change ground warfare that they would call for entirely new concepts of operation. Experimentation has different incentives than unit training, where commanders may not want to take risks or depart too far from accepted doctrine. Experimentation therefore should be a separate, ongoing effort that incorporates both new technologies and tactics.

    Mobilization
    In modern conditions, it thus becomes important to maintain high state of combat readiness to repulse the enemies’ sudden attacks. The India’s policy of ‘non aggression’ and ‘no first use’ set new requirements for the combat readiness. The defensive character of the military doctrine of the Indian military doctrine does not lessen the requirement of high state of readiness but considerably increases it. The aggressor being prepared for war beforehand chooses the moment and point of attack, and India should be ready as a defender to repulse the attack. It should be possible with immediate reaction to reduce the danger by a defender to repulse the attack. It should be possible with immediate reaction to reduce the danger by organized commitment of forces under most difficult conditions. The armed forces therefore, provide for fast reaction to any military conflict or aggressive actions their strategic composition should include: forces located ab initio, mobile forces to move forward rapidly, follow up troops and reserves.

    Structuring

    All large organizations tend to be conservative in retaining outmoded policies and organizational concepts. This is true of military organizations for whom the tried and true is understandably more attractive than the new and risky. However, the time is ripe for the Army to eschew the conventional wisdom, shed the legacy of the past, and look to the future. The time has come for the Indian Army to adopt the combat brigade as its basic combined arms organization instead of the division. New weapons provide increased lethality and range for all parties to a future conflict, making it desirable to reduce the size and increase the flexibility of fighting formations. New communications and information processing capabilities make it possible to do so. The division has served the Army well in previous wars, but the division is too large and cumbersome to fit the needs of the battlefields of the 21st century. The Army adopted divisions for an Army equipped with short-range rifled muskets and artillery that could shoot about as far as the musket. Although the conditions and technology of warfare have changed drastically, the Army has stayed with the division. The current division is a combined arms formation composed of three relatively fixed combat brigade task forces, an artillery brigade and support elements. It would be possible to convert the existing Divisions to combat brigade groups composed of all arms. These brigade groups will operate under new corps headquarter.

    Corps would be formed with a mix of combat brigades, as well as artillery, air defence, engineer, signal, and services. Doctrine, organization, and procedures would be about the same as now, but the formations would be smaller. Here it would not be possible to discuss each in detail.
     

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