Coordinating in the battlefield

Source– The post is based on the article “Coordinating in the battlefield” published in the “Business Standard” on 2nd June 2023.

Syllabus: GS3 – Internal Security

News– Speaking at an annual gathering of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi last week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asked defence forces to innovate in futuristic technologies “to transform India from a follower to a leader”.

How has the nature of warfare changed in recent times?

Azerbaijan’s rout of Armenia in 2020 and Russia’s failure to subdue Ukraine signal a major change in interstate warfare.

In the battlefield of today, survival faces a different set of challenges. Systems like the Switchblade, Kamikaze drone, are used by Ukrainians against the Russians.

Switchblade flies to its target and crashes into it. It detonates itself in a suicidal manner.

Kamikaze drone attacks force adversaries to change their patterns of operations. It reduces the effectiveness of the field force.

What are the challenges faced by India from the defence capabilities of China?

China is a key player in autonomous weapons. The PLA has been developing unmanned systems since 2013. It has incorporated them into their theatre planning.

China has a sophisticated understanding of India’s cyber vulnerabilities. The PLA is believed to have mapped the strategic vulnerabilities in our critical infrastructure.

These systems include hardware that is full of Chinese components. They maintain complete control over it even after it has been installed in Indian servers.

What is the way forward for Indian defence forces to tackle the Chinese challenge?

There is a need to rethink the hardware realm. Swift decisions are needed.

Banning Chinese hardware such as 5G networks would serve little purpose. There is a need to replace the major systems and networks.

India needs creativity. Our acquisitions processes are focused on buying military hardware, rather than creating new capabilities.

The synergistic integration of the shortened BrahMos cruise missile into the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter has been successful. This has given the BrahMos a deep strike capability cheaply and with available Indian technology.

The Indian Air Force’s requirement of 42 combat aircraft squadrons includes many MiG-21 squadrons, especially for air defense. But the induction of force multipliers and platforms that perform the same job is overlooked.

For example, S-400 surface-to-air missiles and airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) have enormously boosted our air-defence capability. Yet, the IAF’s stated requirement remains 42 fighter squadrons.

The Indian Navy has not revised its requirement of 200 warships, stated in its Maritime Capability Perspective Plan. But, its capability as a fighting force is more potent today than ever  before.

It has a heavily armed fleet. The navy is planning for six more conventional submarines and six nuclear-propelled submarines (SSNs) for the deep waters of the Bay of Bengal. There is ample scope to reduce the surface fleet.

There is inadequate discussion of the Indian Army’s manpower policies. These include beefing up our defences against China by three new mountain divisions into Eastern Ladakh and two new mountain divisions in Arunachal Pradesh in 2007-09.

Indian army is planning for the conversion of India’s plains strike corps into a mountain strike  corps. This involves shifting two infantry and one armoured division from the Pakistan frontier and re-tasking, re-training, and re-equipping them for offensive operations on the China border.

Some key projects of three services have not achieved much progress. Since 2009, work has not progressed much on the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle.

The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System  is high in priority. The Tactical Communications System is also being neglected.

For all these weapons, the military must obtain strike platforms and fighting tools to serve an operational plan.

India’s military can no longer afford to create a patchwork of small and relatively inconsequential systems, purchased from here and there.

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