Reorganising the military into integrated theatre commands: It’s too late to turn around now - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.
1576073447DefExpo202025719_00

Home Top Ad

Breaking

Thursday, 6 October 2022

Reorganising the military into integrated theatre commands: It’s too late to turn around now

The air force opposes the division of 30-35 fighter squadrons between 5-6 integrated theatre commands, leaving all of them with a little but none with enough

 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 7th October 22


With the appointment last fortnight of Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan (Retired) as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the attention of the defence ministry and the military should focus once again on the much-delayed task of setting up joint theatre commands, in which elements of all three services – the army, navy and air force – work in an integrated manner to maximise the military’s combat power. This would involve restructuring India’s single-service commands, merging 17 army, navy and air force commands into five-to-six tri-service commands. While a CDS has been appointed to oversee this process, the creation of tri-service theatre commands, crucial for enhancing battlefield performance, is still to get off the blocks. The Andaman & Nicobar Command and the Strategic Forces Command are India’s only tri-service commands. 

 

One of the military’s worst-kept secrets is that the army is in favour of joint theatre commands, the navy is equivocal, and the air force opposes it internally, but pays lip service to the concept. In this context, it is significant that the air force chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, publicly stated this week that the air force is not opposing the broad process. What the air force does have reservations about is the setting up of joint command structures without having thought through the process, and its consequences, adequately.

 

One of the concerns of the air force is said to be the idea of dividing their 30-35 fighter squadrons between five-to-six integrated theatre commands, leaving all of them with a little but none with enough. In its perception, planning should be centralised and execution decentralised. For example, in the Balakote strikes of February 2019, in which the Mirage 2000 fighters that bombed the terrorist seminary took off from Gwalior, in one air force command, the Sukhoi-30MKIs that provided them air defence cover operated from another command and the MiG-21s that were fielded against the Pakistan Air Force’s retaliatory strikes the next day got airborne from yet another command. The air force argues that only centralised planning could have got together all these fighters from widely separated bases.

 

Driving home the point further, the air force says that it would be perfectly conceivable in wartime for a sortie of Sukhoi-30MKIs to take off from Pune, in Southern Air Command, bomb a target located in the South Western Air Command theatre, deliver the rest of their bomb payload in support of Western Air Command, and then top up from air-to-air refuellers from Central Air Command before landing in Kolkata, in the Eastern Air Command, in preparation for a mission in the Sikkim sector the next day. Centralised planning is essential for such multiple tasking, with aircraft viewed as flexible assets that can be switched around between theatres.

 

Nevertheless, the air chief voiced his support for integrated theatre commands, subject to certain provisos. He said the new structures needed to be “future ready”, or prepared for new forms of warfare such as cyber and space warfare. With multiple tasking in mind, he stipulated that the decision-making levels must reduce. It is essential that the air force’s concerns be addressed so that there is buy-in from that service. At the same time, the air force must realise that the military as a whole has walked a long way down the road to integrated commands. It is too late to stop or turn around now.


2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Recent Posts

Untitled%2Bdesign
Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last
ad-placeholder
ad-placeholder