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Contemporary Operational Thought and MDO

India armed forces envisage jointness through coordination.

As the concept Note for DefCom 2019 stated, ‘coordination approach’ implies each service will plan, “ train, equip and prepare for their respective missions and agree to ‘coordinate’ their operations when required”.

This is perhaps a realistic assessment of the present level of jointness however the common perception is of ‘ integrated approach’ of jointness with a degree of unity of command for the three service elements in a force to operate under a single commander.

This is evident from organization of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) which will comprise of all arms of the Army to create a cohesive force tailored for modern day operations. The army appears to be transiting to the integrated approach. Integration of the Indian Air Force in the IBGs which could be in the form of the newly inducted AH-64EApache Attack Helicopters as well as strike aircraft will be a given as the resources are available at the operational level in the Army Corps.

Success in today’s battles can best be achieved most economically through joint operations, there is a need for dovetailing air force combat support for IBGs the soonest if not already done.

This will be facilitated by the fact that air combat forces by their nature are highly flexible and operate on the principle of centralised control with decentralised execution.

Allocation of air effort to support IBG operations which require urgent and sustained reconnaissance, surveillance or close air support is thus feasible. This will enable exploitation of potent platforms as the Apache 64 E helicopter which includes air to ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets and air to air Stinger missiles. Apache also carries one 30 mm chain gun with 1200 rounds as part of area weapon sub system.

The helicopter has fire control radar, nose mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems. This will enhance the capability of IAF to support army strike corps and the IBGs.

There are mainly two factors which have possibly contributed to transformation to IBGs – operational conditions and advances in communications.

Operational conditions favour a smaller integrated force in the nuclear environment. Thus a battle group based on an infantry or a mechanised brigade can be decisive with resources provided to enable it to conduct an all arms battle.

The second factor is communications and command and control. There are mainly three layers of HQs involved in military operations – Corps, Division and Brigade Thus a corps Hqs controls three divisions while a divisional HQs three brigades. Advances in communications facilitates a corps HQ to directly control a brigade or a battle group thus the IBG concept seems viable.

The IBG is a microcosm of integration, this has to be transcended to theatre commands where forces will live and fight jointly. When that will come about is not clear so far despite the seminal appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15 August 2019. Even as the Indian armed forces are moving towards greater jointness and integration, the operational environment has transitioned to that of conflict exploitation in parallel domains.

Thus there could be a case for transition from integration to Multi Domain Operations (MDO).

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