India confident of getting into NSG, says External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj | India is working with China to win support | India will not oppose any country's membership proposal, EAM told a news conference | India gets first women fighter pilots | A history was created when the three women fighter pilots conferred with the President’s Commission | The pilots are Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi, Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth and Flying Officer Mohana Singh | The commissioning ceremony, witnessed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, held at Air Force Academy, Dundigal | India joined the select few nations in the world that have women fighter pilots in their Air Forces | Boeing, Tata Establish Aerospace Facility in Hyderabad | Defence Minister Parrikar initiated the ground-breaking ceremony to establish the facility | India's indigenous Basic Trainer Aircraft HTT-40 takes to the skies on inaugural flight June 17 | Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar witnessed the flight in Bangalore | The HTT-40 was built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd | HTT-40 all set to be the IAF's trainer aircraft | Civil Aviation Ministry Unveils New Civil Avaition Policy | IAF MiG-27 Crashes near Jodhpur | The aircraft was airborne from Jodhpur Air Base and was on a routine training-flying sortie | The two pilots, onboard the fighter jet, ejected to safety | A Court of Inquiry ordered to investigate the accident | After Switzerland, Mexico supports India's entry into NSG | Modi thanks Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto after bilateral talks | Modi receives unprecedented applause in US Congress | Recalling Abraham Lincoln, Modi describes Capitol Hill as a Temple of Democracy | India will never forget the solidarity shown by the US against 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 | Modi supports cooperation in maintaining Freedom of Navigation in the Seas | India, US Civil Nuclear Deal changed bilateral ties | Modi describes terrorism as a big global threat and calls for isolation of those who harbour terrorism | India joins MTCR | Italy, which had blocked india's entry into the missile control regime, let it happen this time | President Obama had promised US help to India, and he has fulfilled it just as Prime Minister Modi is visiting Washington | India had applied for membership on June 1, and as there was no objection, its entry was automatic | Modi lays wreath at Space Shuttle Columbia memorial | India-born Kalpana Chawla was among the seven astronauts who perished in the tragedy in 2003 | Modi also meets Sunita Williams, another India-born astronaut | Hillary Clinton winning Democratic nomination for US presidency | Formal announcement in July | Switzerland categorically supports India for NSG membership | Mexico also expected to express support as US anchors India's entry into MTCR and NSG | Indian PM Modi lands in Washington June 6 for a bilateral summit | Entry into MTCR likely to be announced June 7 or 8 | Italy agrees to India's entry in the Missile Technology Control Regime after return of both its marines held in India | Prime Minister Narendra Modi Embarks on 5-day 5-nation Tour June 4 | The Prime Minister is to Visit Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, US and Mexico from June 4-8 | PM Modi inaugurated Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam in Herat, Afghanistan | Mr Modi Conferred with the Highest Civilian Honour of Afghanistan 'Amir Amanullah Khan Award' | President Ashraf Ghani bestowed the award to PM Modi after inauguration of the Afghanistan-India Friendship Dam | India Signs Hague Code against Missile Proliferation | India, US Sign Arrangement for the Exchange of Terrorist Screening Information June 2 | The Arrangement Signed by US Ambassador Richard Verma and Indian Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi |
 

Future Wars Require Strong Army Aviation

 

 
 
By Maj Gen Dhruv Katoch (Retd) Published: January 2012
 
 
 
 
   

New Delhi. The Defence Minister, while speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies last year, had said that the government was aware of the pace of military modernisation by countries in the neighbourhood and stressed the point that modernisation and transformation of India’s conventional forces must focus on capabilities to enable reacting on a real time basis. This then must lie at the heart of India’s war preparedness for future conflict. Later, last month in December, in another seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies to commemorate India’s greatest victory in 1971, a key lesson of the war which emerged was the need to apply all elements of combat power in the limited time available to achieve decisive results before conflict termination takes place.

 

That future wars will be short and intense is well accepted by the military. Geostrategic factors and the reality that conflict will take place in a nuclear environment points to wars of limited duration in which all elements of combat power must be optimally used to achieve decisive results. The fluidity of operations in the tactical battle area demands quick decision making and swift deployment and utility of response resources. Failure to do so will lead to sub optimal utilisation of combat resources and missing out on fleeting opportunities which such conflicts bring about. This could well lead to stalemate rather than outright victory and in some cases even to suffering disproportionate losses in battle. Two key elements for achieving decision in the close battle are firepower and manoeuvre.

Exploiting the third dimension through the rotary wing is essential to achieving quick success in the tactical battle area as it is both an element of manoeuvre and a deliverer of firepower. Integration of all resources within the tactical battle area is thus critical to achieving battlefield success. In high intensity battle, dual command and control of resources is undesirable and could have potential adverse consequences. While the land based resources are integrated in a single command, attack and utility helicopters which are part of army resources in all modern armies in the West and also in the armies of Pakistan and China are still being maintained exclusively as Air Force assets in the Indian military. While the Air Force may continue to have helicopters based on its role, the Army must have its aviation units equipped with attack and utility helicopters in addition to the helicopters used for reconnaissance which it currently holds. They must be further be organised into aviation brigades at the Corps level to fight the close battle, both in defensive and offensive operations.

Why is it necessary for the army to have its own aviation brigades? Is it simply a matter of expansion and getting into the turf of a sister service? The answer is an emphatic No. The concept of fighting modern wars revolves around the all arms combat team concept wherein all infantry, artillery and mechanised forces resources are placed along with all operational and logistic support elements under one commander. In modern wars, the rotary wing is part of this combat team concept. All troops have to not only live and train together, but must have complete understanding of each other’s strength and capabilities and a total comprehension and knowledge of ground warfare. This is what is being done by US and NATO forces currently engaged in Afghanistan and earlier in Iraq. The Pakistan Army has already integrated its attack and utility helicopters as part of its army aviation and so has the Chinese Army. India cannot afford to be lax on this score. Fluidity of the battlefield imposes exceptionally heavy demands on the Force wherein change in battlefield tasks will occur in an ongoing battle. Such tasks will be impossible to execute unless the Indian Army’s aviation corps is equipped with attack and utility helicopters. We cannot afford to fail on this count.

There is a fear in some quarters that the growth of army aviation would be at the cost of air force assets. There is however no basis for such an apprehension. All professional armies of the world have their own fully equipped aviation arms, because even the best air forces have severe limitations in carrying out many operational tasks which are intimately concerned with the land battle, especially in the tactical battle area. The report by the Kargil Review Committee was specific on this point and recommended that Army Aviation have its own attack and utility helicopters for the close battle. While our Air Force is highly professional and competent in performing its well-defined strategic role, it should not be asked to do what the Army is supposed to. The Air Force is a strategic asset, best employed in depth areas.

Army aviation being equipped with attack and utility helicopters is thus not at the expense of the Air Force which has a major role to play in suppressing enemy air capability, causing attrition to and preventing the movement of his strategic reserves, destroying his communication infrastructure and command and control facilities among other strategic tasks. But certain operational and logistics tasks are best performed by integral resources of the Army because of the intimate nature of support and the need for immediate application of aviation assets. It is not possible for air forces to carry out such tasks, however efficient they may be. Conflicts in various parts of the world have further reinforced this, as it is only integral aviation resources that would provide the field force commander real-time battlefield flexibility and consequent enhancement in combat power.

The Indian Army must be given the capabilities currently available to the Western Armies and, more importantly, to both Pakistan and China. As stated by India’s Army Chief, ‘Army Aviation is the arm of the future and must be appropriately equipped’. We cannot afford to tarry any longer on this score. We are already a couple of decades late.

The author is Additional Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.

 
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