Next month the Vice Chief of Naval Staff (VCNS) is expected to hand over the study related to the formation of the Maritime Theatre Command (MTC) to the CDS. The model proposed in the study is expected to be implemented in 2022, with no liabilities towards the creation of additional posts or ranks i.e. an Organisation structure to be culled out from the existing Command Structures of each of the services.
Since the Indian Navy is the smaller than the other two services (Indian Army & Indian Air Force), it shall be first seeing the implementation of MTC, though now with larger assets under its belt.
`Peninsular Command’ is MTC
Earlier this year the CDS in a media interaction had announced his plans of merging the Western and Eastern Command and it was then called `Peninsular Command’, however, since then the name has been changed to the Maritime Theatre Command.
“The MTC may take some time to be fully operationally and well established but shall be a trendsetter for the other two tri-services theatre commands, which are also planned to be created in the next two years. The Integrated Air Defence Command headed under the purview of Indian Air Force shall be more complex activity since IAF assets under the Chief of Air Staff needs a centralized re-location,” Milind Kulshreshtha, C4I expert says.
“The Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of MTC is to report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee headed by the CDS. Now, the role of Navy Chief when the operational role has been re-aligned shall mainly be focused on ‘Raise, Train and Sustain’ the Naval assets.The Command Headquarter of MTC is planned to be at Karwar i.e. C-in-C shall be positioned at the existing INS Kadamba Naval base there. This incidentally too was the earlier aim of Navy so as to decongest Mumbai harbour in the Western Naval Command (WNC) and evolve Karwar as the main WNC base. It is expected that staffing of the HQ personnel shall gradually be enhanced to meet the tri-services components to handle work in an efficient manner to achieve an operational Command and Control,” explains the C4I expert to Financial Express Online.
The MTC Structure
The MTC structure is proposed to integrate the assets of Indian Navy, Army, IAF and Coast Guard to achieve the goals detailed out in the Joint Forces Doctrine of 2017.
“The aim here is to synergize the three-component viz. naval, air and ground forces to form a Netcentric Warfare model so as to gain an advantage over the adversary using a flexible force structure to match the varied geographic domains. MTC shall compose of Army’s amphibious brigades which are already centered on coastal areas of Port Blair and Thiruvananthapuram. The other component are the IAF units and the Coast Guard,” according to Milind Kulshreshtha.
The IAF provides the maritime coverage for Indian Navy using the Jaguars based at Jamnagar, with Su-30MKIs and Tejas based at Thanjavur. According to the study, the Navy proposes to create service verticals so as to allow operational execution of tasks to be handled by specialists themselves. Coast Guard units always held a close association with Indian Navy since inception, even though in the reporting structure it is responsible directly to the Defence Minister. Coast Guard possesses its own maritime sea-going vessels and aviation components. In any case, post 26/11 terrorism incident, the Indian Navy was designated as the principal authority for complete maritime security of India in order to fill the gaps in roles and responsibilities.
Will the implementation process of MTC be easy?
No. According to the C4I expert, “The implementation of MTC surely shall not be a smooth sailing due to various reasons inherent in every military organisation world over. It is not a mere exercise of re-naming and re-designation of Roles and Responsibilities but the creation of a functional matrix targeted at achieving the highest military proficiency.”
Sharing his view, Mr Kulshreshtha says, “The traditional Command structure had evolved from the warfare tactics of the past and was a time tested approach. Therefore, the re-structure process of Indian Armed forces has to be implemented very carefully since we have ongoing border hostility with China and Pakistan. Various vagaries of inter-services rivalries and lack of resources should be well addressed, at all times respecting the expertise of each of the service arms. But additionally, the technological framework for seamless flow of combat information exchange amongst the three service components under MTC shall be the essential factor to achieve the desired operational efficiency. Indian Navy is well placed to undertake these responsibilities due to being already technologically advance and possessing its own three-dimensional arms viz, aircraft, warships and submarines.”
Indian Armed Forces released the Joint Doctrine in 2017 elaborating various Military objectives like preventing war through strategic and conventional deterrence across the full spectrum of military conflict, to defend the nation and its interests and sovereignty.
Presently, the Army and the Air Force each have seven existing commands. The Indian navy is deployed under three area commands, each headed by a flag officer. Various inter-service commands and institutions such as the Strategic Forces Command, the Andaman and Nicobar Command and the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) are already operational. The joint-services Strategic Forces Command has the operational responsibility to handle India’s Nuclear arsenal.
As has been reported by Financial Express Online earlier this year, the agenda for the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) role is aimed at re-organisation India’s existing single-service commands into only five joint commands with a focus on enhanced operational efficiency.
More about Theatreisation?
There will be specific units of personnel from the three services — the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. All will be under a common theatre commander. And, they will all fight as a cohesive unit, just like in the US and China.
“This Theaterisation aims at compiling all the resources of land forces, naval units and aviation assets under a single theatre commander for efficient availability of resources to meet the military objectives in today’s hi-tech warfare. The restructuring shall have Northern, Eastern and Western theatre commands to directly address the hostile China and Pakistan. The Indian Army possess highly motivated manpower which holds a rich combat experience and operational expertise to operate in diverse terrains as per the varied geography at the border’s to be protected,” Mr Kulshreshtha explains further.
What does the Study on MTC suggest?
The study has suggested plans for the Maritime Theatre Command (MTC), under which the Eastern and Western naval commands will be merged and there will be elements from the Indian Army and the IAF, and also the assets of the Coast under its operational control.
This means the assets could be operated by the MTC which is likely to come up by 2022 based on the approval by CDS before the Government takes the final decision, the Coast Guard will continue reporting to the MoD.