Rajiv Lather © Indian Defence Review, Oct-Dec 1999
List of abbreviations used in this article
The Kargil conflict has brought into focus the urgent need for change in our defense forces’ setup and organization. Glaring shortcomings have been highlighted in the intelligence gathering system of our armed forces. The neglect of our mountain divisions, with respect to specialized clothing and equipment, was in sharp contrast to the well-equipped Pakistani forces in the Kargil conflict. The continuous decline of our defense budget from 3.5% of the GDP in the 1980s to the present 2.3% shows a criminal disregard of our country’s security needs. The present system of different commands for the three services is outdated and is not suited to fight present and future high technology wars. The decision of the Government to become a declared nuclear weapons state has put additional requirements for command and control of the nuclear weapons. The reorganization as suggested below would be able to remove most of the shortcomings of the present system.
By increasing the number of mountain divisions and the raising of the mountain strike army, the weakness in our mountain warfare capability will be removed. This reorganization will also help in the country having a quick reaction force by having a separate command for the Rapid Action Force. This force will be held in readiness at all times and it will be able to react and move quickly to trouble spots either inside or outside the country. This army will be sort of a surplus military power to be used for power projection. It will be able to handle jobs like the one given to IPKF in Sri Lanka and will also be able to move rapidly to the defense of Andamans & Nicobar Islands or any other friendly country if required. The deficiency in the intelligence directorates will be overcome by combining them into a single Defense Intelligence Agency. This agency will report directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The command and control of the nuclear weapons and their delivery systems will be looked after by a separate Strategic Command.
7 ‘Four Star’ and 1 ‘Three Star’ Commands
Western Theatre: Headed by Army Officer - 1st & 7th Army + 1st Air Group.
Northern Theatre: Headed by Army Officer - 2nd Army + 2nd Air Group.
Eastern Theatre: Headed by Army Officer - 3rd Army + 3rd Air Group.
Southern Theatre: Headed by Navy Officer - 4th Army + 4th Air Group + 1st Fleet + 2nd Fleet.
Central Theatre: (including Delhi) Headed by Air Force Officer - 5th Army + 5th Air Group.
Rapid Action Force: Headed by Navy Officer - 6th Army + 6th Air Group + 3rd Fleet.
Strategic Defence Command: Headed by Air Force Officer - Command, Control, Security & Maintenance of Strategic Weapons and their delivery systems.
FORTRAN: Headed by Navy Officer - Amph Bde + FORTAN Air Group + FORTAN Naval Squadron.
Indian Army: 7 Armies - 14 Corps
• AHQ Reserve: (1st Para Bde + 3 SSM Regts + 3 MRLS Regts + 3 SAM Groups)
• 35 Divisions: 5 Combined Arms Divs (CADs) + 12 Mtn Divs + 14 Inf Divs + 2 Amph Divs + 2 Air Divs
• 15 Ind Bdes: 1 Amph Bde + 4 Mtn Bdes + 2 Lt Armd Bdes + 2 Med Armd Bdes + 6 Heavy Armd Bdes
• 2 Para Brigades
• 14 SAM Regiments
• 7 Helicopter Regiments
• 7 Independent Artillery Brigades
• 7 Commando Regiments: 3 Mtn Cdos (MC) + 3 Plains Cdos (PC) + 1 Sea Cdo (SC)
All the three strike armies i.e. the 5th, 6th and the 7th should have mobile HQs, which will be able to move along with the attacking armies. Out of the three strike armies, two i.e. 6th and 7th should not be used for internal security duties. Some formations of the mountain strike army i.e. 5th Army can be used for internal security duties in J&K and the eastern states during peacetime. To make proper use of the Sea/Airborne Strike Army i.e. 6th Army, the Navy should procure a Helicopter carrier/assault ship and the number of LSTs should be increased. During war, use can be made of civilian RoRo ships if required. If RoRo ships are not available with the Indian Merchant Fleet, then the Government Undertaking ‘Shipping Corporation of India’ can be asked to procure them by subsidizing their procurement.
1st Army: Western Region [5 Divs + 5 Ind Bdes];
11 Corps + 12 Corps + 100 Ind CAD + 1 Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 PC Regt
• 11 Corps: 111 Inf Div + 112 Inf Div + 11/1 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy) + 11/2 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy)
• 12 Corps: 121 Inf Div + 122 Inf Div + 12/1 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy) + 12/2 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy)
• 100 Ind CAD: 2 Tank Bdes + 2 Mech Inf Bdes + 1 SP Arty Bde + 1 AD Regt + Div HQ (defense/reserve tank regt)
2nd Army: Northern Region [5 Divs + 3 Ind Bdes];
21 Corps + 22 Corps + 200 Ind Mtn Div + 1 Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 MC Regt
• 21 Corps (Kashmir): 211 Mtn Div + 212 Inf Div + 21/1 Ind Mtn Bde
• 22 Corps (Jammu): 221 Inf Div + 222 Inf Div + 22/1 Ind Mtn Bde
3rd Army: Eastern Region [7 Divs + 1 Ind Bde];
31 Corps + 32 Corps + 300 Ind Mtn Div + Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 MC Regt
• 31 Corps: 311 Mtn Div + 312 Mtn Div + 313 Inf Div
• 32 Corps: 321 Mtn Div + 322 Mtn Div + 322 Inf Div
4th Army: Southern Region [4 Divs + 3 Ind Bdes];
41 Corps + 42 Corps + 1 Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 PC Regt
• 41 Corps: 411 Inf Div + 412 Inf Div + 41/1 Ind Armd Bde (Medium)
• 42 Corps: 421 Inf Div + 422 Inf Div + 42/1 Ind Armd Bde (Medium)
5th Army: Mountain Strike [5 Divs + 3 Ind Bdes];
51 Corps + 52 Corps + 500 Ind Mtn Div + 1 Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 MC Regt
• 51 Corps: 511 Mtn Div + 512 Mtn Div + 51/1 Ind Mtn Bde
• 52 Corps: 521 Mtn Div + 522 Mtn Div + 52/1 Ind Mtn Bde
6th Army: Sea/Airborne Strike [4 Divs + 3 Ind Bdes];
61 Corps + 62 Corps + Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 SC Regt
• 61 Corps: 611 Amph Div + 612 Amph Div + 61/1 Ind Armd Bde (Lt)
• 62 Corps: 621 Air Div + 622 Air Div + 62/1 Ind Armd Bde (Lt) + 2nd Para Bde
7th Army: Plains Strike [5 Divs + 3 Ind Bdes];
71 Corps + 72 Corps + 700 Ind Inf Div + Ind Arty Bde + 1 Helo Regt + 2 SAM Regts + 1 PC Regt
• 71 Corps: 711 CAD + 712 CAD + 71/1 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy)
• 72 Corps: 721 CAD + 722 CAD + 72/1 Ind Armd Bde (Heavy)
• Combined Arms Division: 2 Tank Bdes + 1 Mech Inf Bde + 1 SP Arty Regt + 1 SP AD Regt + Div HQ (Defense/Reserve Tank Regt)
• Amphibious Division: 2 Amph Bdes + 1 Inf Bde + 1 SP Arty Regt + SP AD Regt + Div HQ (Defense/Reserve Regt)
• Airborne Division: 3 Inf Bdes + 1 SP Arty Regt + SP AD Regt + Div HQ (Defense/Reserve Regt)
• Infantry/Mountain Div: 3 Inf/Mtn Bdes + 1 Arty Bde + AD Regt + Div HQ (Defense/Reserve Regt)
• Ind Army Bde (Heavy): 3 Tank Regt + 1 Mech Inf Regt + Bde HQ (Defense/Reserve Sqn)
• Ind Army Bde (Med): 2 Tank Regt + 2 Mech Inf Regt + Bde HQ (Defense/Reserve Sqn)
• Ind Army Bde (Lt): 1 Tank Regt + 3 Mech Inf Regt + Bde HQ (Defense/Reserve Sqn)
The 7th Army (Plains Strike) will require 1875 frontline tanks or 35 regiments. This should not be difficult because the Indian Army has a total of approx. 3500 tanks in about 60 regiments and out of these, 1875 Arjuns, T-72s and T-90s can be managed. The raising of 5 CADs is possible by combining the present three Armored Divisions and the Mechanized Infantry Brigades from the RAPID divisions. RAPID divisions will be reverted back to normal infantry divisions. Shortfall, if any, in the number of tanks will be made up by removing some tank regiments from the infantry divisions. To make the CADs more mobile and flexible, the artillery component in these divisions should be reduced which will make them slimmer and faster. These artillery assets should be transferred to the infantry divisions to compensate for the taking away of the tank regiments.
A map displaying the various commands
This reorganization will strengthen the infantry divisions in their defensive role while making the CADs more capable in their offensive role. Diesel vehicles should replace all petrol-fueled vehicles of the CADs. Any other equipment using petrol or kerosene as fuel should also be replaced by equipment fueled by diesel. This one step will increase the mobility and logistics of the CADs.
Each helicopter regiment will have three squadrons. The regiment will operate as a whole for the maintenance purpose. That will mean a total of 21 helicopter squadrons. Each squadron can have one flight of AOP and utility copters and two flights of attack helicopters. The total requirement for helicopters will work out to be approx. 210. Out of these, at least 130 should be attack helicopters, so that each regiment has a minimum of 18 attack helicopters. If finances permit, the strength of the copter regiments can be gradually increased to 45 helicopters each and therefore have 30 attack helicopters per regiment. Any attack helicopters with the Air Force should be taken over by the Army Aviation Corps.
Total Requirement of Battalions/Regiments:
• 320 Inf Btns + 6 Para Btns + 7 Cdo Regts
• 60 Tank Regts + 32 Mech Inf Regts
• 120 Arty Regts + 15 SP Arty Regts
• 3 SAM Groups + 14 SAM Regts
• 26 AD Regts + 9 SP AD Regts
• 3 SSM Regts + 3 MRLS Regts
• 7 Helo Regts (21 Squadrons)
Indian Navy: Three Fleets + FORTRAN Squadron
• 1st Fleet: Western Coast - Mostly coastal combatants
• 2nd Fleet: Eastern Coast - Mostly coastal combatants
• 3rd Fleet: Offensive Fleet - Blue Water combatants
• FORTAN Squadron: Andamans & Nicobar Islands
Indian Air Force: 6 Air Groups + FORTRAN Air Group
• 1st Air Group
• 2nd Air Group
• 3rd Air Group
• 4th Air Group
• 5th Air Group
• 6th Air Group
• FORTAN Air Group: Andamans & Nicobar Islands
- Amph - Amphibious
- Armd - Armored
- Arty - Artillery
- AD - Air Defense
- AOP - Air Observation Post
- Bde(s) - Brigade(s)
- Btn(s) - Battalion(s)
- CAD(s) - Combined Arms Division(s)
- Div(s) - Division(s)
- FORTAN - Fortress Andamans & Nicobar Islands
- Helo - Helicopter
- Ind - Independent
- Inf - Infantry
- Lt - Light
- Mech - Mechanised
- Med - Medium
- MRLS - Multiple Rocket Launchers
- Regt(s) - Regiment(s)
- RAF - Rapid Action Force
- SAM - Surface-to-Air Missile
- SSM - Surface-to-Surface Missile
- SP - Self Propelled