The project of theaterisation, integrating three services – army, navy and the air force under a single service commander in an operationally relevant geographic area is the theme that has gained momentum in recent months.
Nomination of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with General Bipin Rawat taking over as the first CDS in January has led to momentum towards conceptualisation of theaterisation and establishment of joint functional commands as Air Defence and Logistics Command amongst others.
CDS General Bipin Rawat in recent remarks on the launch of Himgiri, the stealth corvette on December 14th indicated that integration is on stream and misconceptions are being overcome. “We strongly believe that no single force or no single service can succeed in any conflict situation if we are to face conflict with our adversaries anywhere -- whether it is land, air or sea,” he said.
“We have successfully overcome some of the misconceptions about force restructuring by allowing space to each force to develop niche capabilities based on their strengths, and thus enhance our overall combat power,” he added as per the Hindustan Times.
Importantly he also indicated technology integration stating, “Time has come now to look at the future of war fighting, imbibing technology into our systems.”
Theaterisation was proposed two decades back with multiple fora of discussion, the shape of organisations to come is continues to be debated. For an armed forces which have to, “fight and modernise,” concomitantly there are limitations and time penalties in the latter as operational priorities consumes more energy.
Indeed, Indian armed forces are far behind the curve as far as creating theatres integrating multiple HQs – Army, Navy and Air Force within the same geographic area are concerned. There are 17 separate services commands to look after the same geographic area which are being streamlined with various options that could vary from five to seven.
Correspondingly with emergence of multiple domains in and through which wars of the future will be fought there is necessity for integration thereby achieving simultaneity rather than undertaking another transition in the future.
Commonly known land, sea and air mediums have expanded to space, cyber, electronic and information the last named having multiple connotations.
Space, cyber, electronic and information facilitate the traditional domains of land sea and air. While at the same time, active offensive and defensive operations are independently conducted in these domains for disrupting or gaining control for superior advantage over an adversary.
Such operations in the new domains can be conducted during peace as well as war and are being actively so. Nations and armed forces constantly accuse each other of having targeted their cyber space and infrastructure.
This also implies that integration of domains would entail a, “whole of government,” rather than, “whole of military,” approach as many of the zones in which the enemy will be targeting us are under the control of different silos government, public and private. Integrating these assumes importance for working on a 24/7 zero day situation.
Simultaneous integration of domains along with theatres will also have another advantage that of stitching across levels of war – strategic, operational and tactical.
As is well known space, cyber and electronic have an impact at all three levels. The soldier in the tactical battle area is as much dependent on satellites for communications and navigation as the planner in the operational war room for real time intelligence.
The process will no doubt be complex and time consuming but simultaneous throughputs will ensure that there is seamless integration in a much shorter time frame than sequential execution of theaterisation and MDI.