India – Jointness For The Armed Forces – Indian Perspective


Gen Chakravorty talks of Synergy and Jointness in the Indian context. He cites extensively, examples from recent global history. We must look at the American and the UK experience of integrating their armed forces. The first step is the issue of Defence Policy Guideline. The US Secretary of Defence issues a Defence Policy Guideline which includes national security objectives. The Congress passed the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986. The act reorganised the US Department of Defence (DoD), placing more authority with the Secretary of Defence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theatre commanders. The aim was to bring all forces under the theatre commanders to ensure unified application of the full range of military power to meet national objectives and policies, the priorities of military missions and the availability of resources.

This article is published with the kind permission of „Defence and Security Alert (DSA) Magazine“ New Delhi-India

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Napoleon was probably the first military commander who understood the need for a combined arms battle. He synergised the employment of cavalry, infantry and artillery while conducting operations which resulted in victory for the French in many battles. The First World War witnessed the introduction of the tank and air power. Possibly the war was the harbinger of jointness between the services. The Second World War was the occasion for joint operations. Operation ‘Over Lord’ was possibly the biggest joint operation launched in the history of warfare. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the landings at the beaches of Normandy by Allied Forces operating under General Dwight Eisenhower. The amphibious assault was preceded by an air assault by 12,000 aircraft, the flotilla comprised of 7,000 ships and the landings involved 1,60,000 troops. The countries which participated in the operations were Canada, UK, USA, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands and Norway. The beach heads were secured and the break out resulted in the capture of Paris on 25 August 1944 and the German retreat across the Seine River. Post World War II peace lasted for about a decade and a half. The year 1950 saw the North Koreans attacking South Korea. During this campaign, General Douglas McArthur launched the famous Inchon landings which was again a joint operation executed with military precision leading to the victory of US forces in September 1950. The Vietnam War heralded the era of Air Land battles. The striking comparison between the Battle of Dien Bien Phu and the battle of Khe Sanh brings out how jointness can make a determined force victorious in operations. The battle of Dien Bien Phu was fought between the French and the North Vietnamese from 13 March to 07 May 1954. The French were defeated as they made limited use of their joint firepower resources. On the contrary in the battle of Khe Sanh (21 January to 08 April 1968), the Marines held on to the position due to the joint use of fire power from the air and ground. Apart from the artillery US forces had 377 sorties per day being undertaken by 2,000 airplanes as also attacks by 3,300 helicopters (UH-1, Hueys). This devastating firepower resulted in extremely heavy casualties which compelled the North Vietnamese to call off the offensive on Khe Sanh.

Despite the need for operational jointness each service in the US to guard their turf preferred to remain as individual entities. Being a nation where strategic think tanks are respected for their dispassionate views, the Congress passed the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986. The act reorganised the US Department of Defence (DoD), placing more authority with the Secretary of Defence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theatre commanders. The aim was to bring all forces under the theatre commanders to ensure unified application of the full range of military power to meet national objectives. General Colin Powell, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff of USA stated through a message on 11 November 1991 that, ‘Joint Warfare is team warfare. When a team takes to the field, individual specialists come together to achieve a team win. So it is when the Armed Forces of the United States go to war. We must win every time. Every soldier must take the battlefield believing his or her unit is best in the world. Every pilot must take off believing there is no one better in the sky. Every sailor standing watch must believe there is no better ship at sea. Every marine must hit the beach believing that there are no better infantry men in the world. But they all must also believe that they are part of a team, a joint team, that fights together to win. This is our history, this is our tradition, this is our future.’

Need for jointness

The need for jointness has arisen due to the current dynamics while undertaking operations. Technology has revolutionised warfare by providing us real time Battlefield Transparency as also enhancing range and precision of weapon systems. The current battle space is filled with advanced surveillance and target acquisition devices like Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS), Battle Field Surveillance Radars (BFSRs), Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs), Sound Ranging Systems, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), Reconnaissance, Communications and Navigation Satellites which provide an increased degree of transparency to the battlefield. These devices could be providing inputs to all three services and thereby need to be integrated. This has been further accentuated by long range and precise Firepower. The Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired against Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan as also against targets in Libya and Sudan. These surgical strikes were carried out from naval platforms, passed through the medium of air, were guided by space based assets and struck targets on land. These missiles were procured by the Navy, guided by the assets of US Air Force and contributed to land warfare against unconventional adversary. Further currently we are operating in a network centric environment where there is integration between the sensor, the command elements and the shooter. This entails coordination of all elements of the three services to degrade / destroy targets. By jointness we are able to successfully fight Air-Land battles, Sea-Air battles, Sea-Air and Land battles digitally thereby attaining seamless application of land, sea and air power.

Indian perspective

The need for jointness was felt in all operations undertaken by our Armed Forces. In the First War with Pakistan after Independence, Dakota aircraft were utilised to land our first battalion into Srinagar. Further tanks were air dropped at Zozila pass. In the 1962 war against the Chinese, we did not use our Air Force despite our superior flying skills and aircraft. The 1965 war was fought with the Army and Air Force fighting in a coordinated manner. However, 1971 conflict with Pakistan saw the jointness being optimised, thereby resulting in the liberation of Bangladesh. The credit must go to the Indian Air Force for achieving air superiority over East Pakistan in 48 hours, thereby providing the Indian Army the freedom to undertake offensive operations relentlessly. Aircraft from our aircraft carrier INS Vikrant flew effective missions destroying Pakistani patrol boats making their flotilla ineffective. Further the Navy undertook a raid with missile boats on Karachi causing damages to the port and oil installations. The Air Force in conjunction with the Army undertook heliborne operations at Sylhet and across the Meghna river as also paradropped a battalion at Tangail which hastened the liberation process. The surrender of Pakistani forces in Dacca in 14 days can be attributed to joint operations.

1971 conflict with Pakistan saw the jointness being optimised, thereby resulting in the liberation of Bangladesh. The credit must go to the Indian Air Force for achieving air superiority over East Pakistan in 48 hours, thereby providing the Indian Army the freedom to undertake offensive operations relentlessly

However post 1971 there have been problems in executing joint operations. This was felt particularly during Op Vijay (Kargil conflict) in 1999. Though these were professionally resolved, there was a requirement of modifying our organisations to improve jointness in conduct and execution of operations. Accordingly a committee under K Subrahmanyam was set up which submitted its report and the same was reviewed by a Group of Ministers in 2000. To improve jointness, there was need for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and integration of the three services. In the 11 years that have elapsed we have established a tri-service Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), a tri-service command, Andaman and Nicobar theatre command and a Strategic Forces Command. There is no jointness of command and control and the three services are operationally independent with limited coordination being undertaken by the Ministry of Defence. To find an answer to the current impasse, the government has appointed a 14 member task force headed by Shri Naresh Chandra a former bureaucrat on 14 July 2011 to review the unfinished tasks of the Kargil Review Committee and suggest a plan of implementation. The panel has been given six months to complete the task.

It may be pertinent to note that we must look at the American and the UK experience of integrating their armed forces. The first step is the issue of Defence Policy Guideline. The US Secretary of Defence issues a Defence Policy Guideline which includes national security objectives and policies, the priorities of military missions and the availability of resources. This document is prepared with the advice from the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff. In our case the National Strategic Policy is not issued. At best a generic chapter on National Security Environment is included. Today there is no single point military guidance on strategic matters to the Defence Minister and Prime Minister. On most of the occasions it is the Defence Secretary who is coordinating military issues. This is certainly incorrect for a country fighting insurgency and dealing with sensitive borders. Presently there is no unified action and a lot depends on individual perception of a situation which often leads to lack of optimisation of resources in dealing with critical situations.

Structure required in the present environment

The present organisational structure is not suitable from the security point of view. Our nation is fighting insurgents and in a worst case scenario should be prepared for a conflict on two fronts. With each service viewing from its own perspective, the nation will not be able to take a unified pro-active stand with panache and precision. To respond effectively to any situation there is a need for a unified Command Headquarters under a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). All of us should look at national objectives, rather than guard our turf and procrastinate on this critical subject. While the task force will be submitting its recommendations, it is incumbent on the government to take this step to provide strategic equilibrium to our nation at this critical juncture. The organisational structure should have the CDS with the joint commands responsible for the operations and the Service Headquarters would be responsible for acquisition of equipment and training.

The role and mission of the CDS would be the principal military advisor to the Government of India. He would have direct access to the Raksha Mantri and the Prime Minister. The three Service Chiefs would function under him. There would be broadly two types of theatre commands. Northern, Western and South Western Commands would comprise of Army and Air Force units whereas Eastern, Southern, Andaman and Nicobar, Strategic Forces and Training Commands would be tri-service in composition. This will enable us to undertake network centric warfare with speed and precision. The inter service structure would improve our logistics and improve our acquisition of equipment which would enable us to modernise and thereby enhance our capability development. This process has to be undertaken by Parliament as the services would try and guard their turf.

Conclusion

Operations against state or non-state actors need to be meticulously planned and executed in most cases by more than one service. Our country today has one of the biggest armed forces in the world. In a network centric environment, there is a need for speedy response from the command elements to inputs received from sensors. This would be possible in an integrated services environment. Further in a full spectrum war with a nuclear backdrop decisions would be needed at the highest level with regard to use of critical weapons. On such occasion there would be need of a single point military advice to the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister.

While the CDS and three Service Chiefs would synergise the operations, acquisitions and training the Defence Secretary would be concerned with policy, budget, personnel, infrastructure, civilian management and administration. He would continue to be responsible for coordinating the functions of the department of defence, department of defence production and the DRDO. He would be the interface of all departments of the Ministry of Defence and Parliament. As a matter of fact the CDS, Service Chiefs, Defence Secretary, Secretary of Defence Production, the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister have responsibilities to evolve a common defence perspective.

This will pave the way for strategic equilibrium in our force structure. We are confident that Shri Naresh Chandra with his team will suitably recommend measures on issues critical to our national security. We are confident that the long pending issues would be decided expeditiously.

About the Author
Maj Gen P K Chakravorty VSM (retd) – The writer is an alumnus of National Defence Academy who was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery on 31 March 1972. A Silver Gunner who has undergone the Long Gunnery Staff Course, Staff College and is a graduate of the National Defence College. He has commanded a Medium Regiment and a Composite Artillery Brigade. He was Major General Artillery of an operational Command, Commandant of Selection Centre South in Bangalore and Additional Director General Artillery at Army Headquarters. He has also served as the Defence Attaché to Vietnam and is a prolific writer on strategic subjects.

Note by the Author:
The US Congress passed the Goldwater Nichols Act in 1986. The act reorganised the US Department of Defence (DoD), placing more authority with the Secretary of Defence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theatre commanders. The aim was to bring all forces under the theatre commanders to ensure unified application of the full range of military power to meet national objectives. General Colin Powell, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff of USA stated through a message on 11 November 1991 that, ‘Joint Warfare is team warfare. When a team takes to the field, individual specialists come together to achieve a team win

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