Air Defence and Maritime Commands with better interoperability to come later this summer; Know what experts say

Victory in the future battlefield will depend a great deal on interoperability, integration and level of jointmanship achieved in all dimensions.

The Maritime and Air Defence Commands are going to be established much ahead of the Land based Theatre Commands of the Indian Army. (Representational image: Reuters)

Victory in the future battlefield will depend a great deal on interoperability, integration and level of jointmanship achieved in all dimensions. Later this summer, the announcement of setting up a new Air Defence (AD) and Maritime Command is expected. This new AD formation, as reported by Financial Express Online, last October is expected to be located near the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Central Command in Prayagraj (Allahabad).

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Importance of IAF’s Central Command

Some of the most important bases of the IAF are controlled from this command.

The formation of the new Air Defence Command is part of the restricting plan of the Indian Armed Forces as was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat last year. The restructuring is part of the Department of Military Affairs — which will be working to words the creation of Joint Military Commands along with Theatre command, as reported earlier.

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Why Theatrisation?

The office of the CDS is planning to complete Theatrisation over the next three years. The Maritime and Air Defence Commands are going to be established much ahead of the Land based Theatre Commands of the Indian Army.

Why? Because the Indian Army has larger representation in all the Tri-services organizations.

And, it may be prudent to make Indian Army responsible for centrally implementing the Theatre Level technological solutions (like Tactical Data Link, Software Defined Radios etc.) for the tri-services.

More about the Air Defence & Maritime Command

As has been reported earlier, this command will be controlling air defence assets of the three services and its Commander –in-Chief will be a three star officer from Indian Air Force.

And, in the case of Maritime Command, it will be based in Karwar, to be headed by a three star officer of the Indian Navy. Its primary responsibility based on reports is going to be of securing India from threats that could be from the waters.

What do experts think of this restructuring?

Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Maj Gen Jagatbir Singh, (Retd), says, “We cannot work in silos. While synergy of capabilities is imperative at the same time major transformations need to be implemented with deliberation and care. Transition will not be an easy process, and there will be numerous challenges most of which will be from within the Services.”

According to him the Joint Commands are long overdue and is a welcome step which was inevitable. “Ultimately, the success and viability of these commands will lie in the resources provided to them and mid-course corrections carried out. Capability is the key for success in war, structures can be created including dynamic ones at times based on the threat envisaged.”

“In the US, jointmanship was a top down approach with the Goldwater – Nichols Act in 1986 and the same path is now being followed by us as implementation of ‘Theatreisation’ is a mandate which has been given to the CDS,” opines Maj Gen Singh.

“It is wishful to expect that this will be achieved without any teething problems. The concept varies from country to country and the model applicable to the US, cannot be applied in totality in our context. As for one the US does not defend its own borders and its focus is on global power projection,” the former General observes.

“In our context the primary focus remains defending our territorial integrity and sovereignty. However, various models would have been examined and debated and views of Service Headquarters obtained. In our case the lessons learnt and our experience with the Andaman & Nicobar Command will serve us well,” he adds.

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According to Maj Gen Singh, “There will be issues regarding allotment of resources, command and control, communications, training and the chain of command; whether the Air Defence and Maritime Command will be placed under the CDS or whether the operational responsibility will remain under the Air and Naval Chief respectively. No details are available presently in the public domain, hence it is premature to comment on the contours these organisations will take.”

Maritime Command

As regards the Maritime Command, the Indian Army veteran asks, “do we now presuppose that both Eastern and Western Naval Commands will come under this Command or will they be replaced by this single Command and the Eastern and Western Fleets will now be placed under Command and if so with two vastly different operating environments and wide canvas, what are the structures needed to support operations and whom will the C in C report to?”

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“I am positive these issues have been deliberated at length and will be ironed out during implementation,” the general states.

In conclusion Maj Gen Singh says, “It can be presumed that staffing, manning, procurement and training will continue to be the responsibilities of respective Service Headquarters. However, joint logistics will need to be catered for and established.”

According to Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), “These commands will bring in much required synergy, operational efficiency and put together resources for optimum use.”

“The CDS will be commanding these Joint Commands whereas the Service Chief’s will remain responsible for the training and equipping of the same. This does bring in an anomaly; the office of DMA was created to bring in a single point of advice to the Government of India. The rank is equivalent to a Secretary and there are shades of grey between the responsibility and accountability between the CDS and the Defence Secretary,” says Lt Col Channan.

As the role of DMA/CDS evolves over the next few years, “Will the office of the Defence Secretary be brought under the DMA?” he asks.

He also asks “What would be the role of the Service chiefs’ as the major operational responsibilities will come under the CDS? The CDS will willy- nilly “First Amongst Equals”, as is the current protocol.”

The operational commands will put their paces of training, formulation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and formalising plans and contingency plans for the various operational challenges in the Indian Subcontinent.

“Training is an aspect which would need to be addressed to ensure core competencies of all ranks from different services are at an optimum level. To this end the Army Training Command and its equivalent in the Navy and the Air Force will have to brainstorm the courses of instructions being run at the various Category A training establishments across the country? Perhaps there is a case for bringing synergy in this aspect also as the merger of resources will ensure availability of All Ranks for combat duties,” he concludes.

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First published on: 18-02-2021 at 15:22 IST