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India Defence Capability List

Updated: Aug 26, 2022


What constitutes defence capability of a nation will depend on a number of factors essentially emanating from the overall strategic environment. Mapping defence capability of a large nation as India with vast land borders parts of which are disputed, extended maritime frontiers to include hundreds of island territories and situated in one of the geopolitically most sensitive areas in the 21st Century is complex.

An attempt to list some of the essential vectors of defence capability of India have been listed herein. This is a general listing, details of capabilities envisaged and actualized have been covered in various segments of the web site [] and will remain for obvious reasons a work in progress. To begin with definition of defence capability and responsibility for defence of India.

Definition and Responsibility for Defence of India

The most apt definition of defence capability is by NATO – North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) which takes a systemic view. NATO definition of defence capability is, “the ability to create an effect through employment of an integrated set of aspects categorized as doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership development, personnel, facilities, and interoperability.”[1] The operative phrase in this definition is, “create an effect,” by employing a military force with linkages laid down in the various facets thereof.

Defence capability in India is laid out through various perspective plans such as the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) a document that is not available in the public domain, a Maritime Capability Perspective Plan (MCPP) of the Indian Navy and so on. The MCPP is being replaced by the 10-year Integrated Capability Development Plan (ICDP) as per a quote by the Indian Navy Chief in December 2021. The three services are preparing ICDP’s which would be integrated in 2022.[2]

As per the Government of India, Ministry of Defence website, “Government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India and every part thereof……………. The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet which is discharged through the Ministry of Defence, which provides the policy framework and wherewithal to the Armed Forces to discharge their responsibilities in the context of the defence of the country. [3]

The principal task of the Ministry of Defence is said to be to, “obtain policy directions of the Government on all defence and security related matters and communicate them for implementation to the Services Headquarters, Inter-Services Organisations, Production Establishments and Research and Development Organisations”. The Ministry is also required to, “ensure effective implementation of the Government's policy directions and the execution of approved programmes within the allocated resources”. [4]

Services – Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard are the implementing agencies

Within this broad framework, a summary of India’s Defence capability could comprise of the following which will be separately elaborated in sections here from-

Dissuasion and Deterrence

As a developing country, “War Avoidance,” is an objective that has been stated in the Indian Armed Forces Joint Doctrine 2017. Given lack of a National Security Strategy or Doctrine, this is the is seen as the closest to what could be officially accepted.

War Avoidance would require Dissuasion and Deterrence which are interlinked concepts.

Dissuasion will precede deterrence and includes "actions taken to increase the target's perception of the anticipated cost and/or decrease its perception of the likely benefits from developing, expanding, or transferring a military capability that would be threatening or otherwise undesirable…..”. [5]

Dissuasion is also viewed by some as, "pre-deterrence" that is to discourage a potential adversary from creating such a capability. In case an adversary acquires such a capability dissuasion will move to deterrence. [6] Dissuasion is thus futuristic in nature and includes national as well as military means. [7]

Deterrence on the other hand includes those military capabilities to influence the intent of an adversary from launching a military operation. Simply speaking deterrence discourages an attack.

Patrick Morgan concludes that “challenger motivation is the most important factor in deterrence success or failure.”

Deterrence is targeted and also includes measures that will be taken if the adversary ignores the threat and launching an offensive. For this build up of defence capability is essential. This alone will ensure that the potential aggressor believes that the defender has the capability and also is willing to use the same.[8] Usability of a capability is therefore important factor in deterrence.

India’s primary focus for war avoidance has been dissuasion as deterrence requires considerable investment in defence. How much is adequate to deter an adversary in the strategic environment obtained is a moot question and needs to addressed separately.

All or Multi Domain Integration

Given expansion of mediums through which a war can be conducted – surface, sea, sub-sea, aerospace, cyber, information, electronic and so on multi-domain integration (MDI) is essential not only in defence organisations, doctrines, operations, tactics and logistics but also at the national level. The UK Government emphasis on multi domain integration seek to ensure inter workability of, “equipment and technology, in all domains.”, works together.

MDI provides the commander, “full range of military options available to choose from, safe in the knowledge that regardless of the combination, they will work seamlessly together”.[9]

Reconnaissance Surveillance and Target Acquisition

Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Targeting Acquisition (RSTA) facilitate a clear-eyed view of the strategic as well as the battlespace and facilitate domination. This enables, “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, Indications and Warning, situation development, force protection, Battle Damage Assessment, targeting and collection queuing”.[10] Thus RSTA today, “supports military operations at a strategic (national defense policy), operational (theater level), or tactical (individual unit) level, either by dedicated RSTA forces or those which possess the capability”.[11]

Strategic Deterrence

As a nuclear weapons state India possesses a strategic arsenal based on a policy of minimum credible deterrence. This entails maintaining adequate number of warheads, delivery systems, command and control, protection and sustenance.

Strategic Air Power

The strategic component of air power has considerable significance in establishing a favourable air situation and providing the necessary cover for the vast array or operational tasks as well as strategic bombing.

Maneouvre and Mobility

Maneouvre and mobility is the essence of combat in war fighting. At each level this provides the commander flexibility in application of combat resources at the point of decision to achieve the desired impact. These resources include and are not restricted to armoured and infantry fighting vehicles, infantry formations artillery fire power assets and air, ground and sea transportation.

Operational and Tactical Fire Systems

General and close support fire systems have become an essential component of combat. Employment of varied resources of fire power was demonstrated during the most recent war fighting in Ukraine where missiles, multiple launch rocket systems and artillery played an important combat role. Air also forms an important component of this vector

Air and Missile Defence

Air and missile defence has emerged as a separate component of capability given the necessity to protect key assets from neutralization and destruction.

C4 I2

C4I2 is Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence and Interoperability and essential for effective control and coordination of operations at multiple levels including strategic that is nuclear forces.

As per Brig Mandip Singh’s notations for the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, the C4I2 frame work comprises of the following elements:- [12]

· Command responsibility for conduct of mission

· Control measures provided to the commander for direction and management of resources to achieve the mission.

· Communications could be varied from “radio, secure communication transmission networks, VSAT, satellite transponders, etc,” and need to be assured achieved normally through redudancty.

· Computing has assumes significance providing the commander enhanced capabilities in multiple domains.

· Intelligence is a process of acquisition, collation and synthesis of information collected in real time, “by satellites, air or ground sensors, integrated observation aids, radars, etc,” and fed into the common picture.

· Interoperability of mediums of command control and communication.

Brig Mandip Singh highlights that the importance of a C4I2 network to be reliable and survivable thus robust as well as cost effective. C4I2 systems have particular significance in the strategic context with India being a nuclear weapons state.

Operational Sustenance

Sustaining forces in operations requires long term planning, placement of stocks in the critical zones of operations and provision for fighting a war for envisaged periods at intense or normal rates. Movement of munitions and other logistics assets in wartime assumes importance under an adverse air situation.

Defence Acquisition

Acquisition of arms and ammunition for the armed forces is the function of the Ministry of Defence in India which includes procurement as well as production. Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 outlines the procedure for the purpose.

Operational Readiness and Training

Validation of operational capabilities in times of war is validated through operational readiness exercises and drilled during training.

Leadership and Human Resources

Even in the era of high technology, the man behind the machine and his leaders assume importance. This includes political and higher direction of war to the operational and tactical commanders in the field. Raw courage can overcome the tyranny of technology and numbers. Nurturing human resources requires considerable time and investment given the level of specialization that is to be imbibed in the military field.

X Factor

Finally, the X Factor as Clausewitz has said chance and probability for in wars simplest things are the most difficult.

[1] Notes on military capability concepts and their relevance for analysis of system characteristics. Kent Andersson, LtCol/Ph.D. [2] Vishal Thapar. December 2021. [3] About Us Ministry of Defence. [4] About Us Ministry of Defence. [5] Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. Executive Director, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Dissuasion Strategy [6] Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. [7] Rushton, James A. Operationalizing dissuasion. Naval Postgraduate School. [8] Mike Mazarr. Understanding Deterrence. Rand. ttps:// [9] Multi-Domain Integration. UK Government. [10] Intelligence Doctrine Working Group. Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition Collection Planning--Embedded Within the MEF Intelligence and Operations Cycles. [11] DBPedia.,_surveillance,_and_target_acquisition_(United_States) [12] Brig Mandip Singh. Ask an Expert. IDSA.


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