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CriticalThought

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This article is inspired by a discussion regarding the defence of Sind . In order to avoid derailing the other thread, I am moving the discussion to a dedicated thread. This article addresses two misconceptions: that the deserts and marshes in Sind are not strategically important enough, and that Pakistan doesn't have enough wherewithal to muster a strong defence along the entire border with India.

At the onset, I invite the reader to take stock of two major PAF air bases, their locations, and their distance from the nearest border with India: PAF Airbase Bholari, and Shahbaz Airbase. The mere existence of these bases should be enough to convey the message that Pakistan armed forces will not tolerate any Indian thrusts that put these bases within range of Indian MLRS. Note that Pinaka has a range of 40 km. Conversely, both bases have the presence of Pakistan's top of the line fighter jets, with massive air launched ordinance support which makes any attempt by Indian army a misadventure of epic proportions.

If approaches to these airfields will be heavily defended, there exists the possibility of flanking maneuvers. This possibility exists, and will be accounted for in the planning. Any attempt at flanking Pakistani defence lines will find the Indians entrenched in a kill box, with a possible use of Nasr in the desert area.

Finally, let us expunge any misconceptions regarding the strategic importance of marshes in Southern Sind. These marshes directly translate into Pakistan's borders, which translates into the sea area that comes under Pakistan's Exclusive Economic Zone. Pakistan doesn't have the luxury of a vast coastline as compared to India, and defending our EEZ along with its wealth of resources will be of top priority for Pakistani forces. In this regard, let us remember that Pakistan has a requirement of 12000 marines that will be dedicated to these marshy areas. The Pak Marines are a cut above regular armed forces in terms of rigorousness of training. The marshy area precludes any armored thrusts. Thus, Insha Allah, attacking Indian forces will find themselves pitted against a well trained, well motivated, well manned, and well equipped force in treacherous terrain.
 
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Cuirassier

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while I can't comment on the current preparations, and I'm sure it's pretty hard to make deep inroads on either side today, the operations in Sindh, or you can say in the whole Desert Sector had very interesting conclusions.

In '65, both sides had minimal forces, especially along the Munabao-Khokhropar-Gadra front. eventual IA strength was brought to two weak brigades as against 51 Brigade of PA's 8 Division; the rest of the formation being sent up north. we took Munabao, they took Gadra. all square.

The major operations however, happened post-ceasefire. PA had correctly realized that with induction of local auxiliaries like the Hurs of Pir Pagaro, they could make major inroads, and bring in newly-raised battalions, like 23 FF, to ensure these gains were retained. Hence Ghotaru, Kishangarh and Sadhewala were taken, and proved significant enough that they allowed a full-return to pre-war borders at Tashkent, despite the fact that at ceasefire the IA had captured more territory.

IA's Southern Command had to make sure such a feat was not to be repeated in the next war, and consequently the formation was beefed up with 11 Div at Barmer, poised against Hyderabad, the 12 Division at Jaisalmer, poised against Rahim Yar Khan, plus two brigade-level sectors (Bikaner and Kutch).

In contrast, the PA had built-up the 18 Division with it's three brigades; 51 and 206 at Rahim Yar Khan, and 55 guarding the Umarkot - Hyderabad axis at Chor. the IA had planned offensives targeting both RYK and Umarkot, and with their greater numbers, this was very much possible.

Operation Labbaik (51 and 206 Brigade offensive at Longewala-Jaisalmer) was a classic spoiling attack. It pre-empted the 12 Div's planned venture, and by ceasefire, except for an insignificant fort of Islamgarh in the Bahawalpur sector, Khambata's men had gained achieved none of their original objectives. The blunting of the offensive can be attributed to poor coordination with the PAF, plus an ill-prepared division for desert warfare in terms of logistics and equipment. maximum credit however, goes to the IAF's Hunter detachment.

thus, it can be said that while the PA had done poor at the tactical level (less due to action and more due to enemy air), the strategic outcome was brighter, if not all good. the north-south link was intact.

the 11 Div's foray from the Khokhropar axis was destined to be more fruitful. here the PA's 55 Brigade was outnumbered 4 to 1, facing two squadrons with T-55s with a old Sherman squadron. the sparsely-populated desert however, gave Brigadier Anwar the obvious option to trade space for time, and hence as Anand's troops poured in, the Indus Rangers fought from delaying positions, to such an extent that the IA contacted Naya Chor - it's primary objective, just a couple of days before ceasefire.

Gul Hassan Khan was forced to reinforce the beleaguered brigade however, as defence in the open desert isn't like the oft-narrated 'repulsed and beaten backs' in the plains of the punjab, or the mountains of kashmir. the terrain has little obstacles and obstructions to allow troops to defend from strongpoints, like the BRBL Canal, or Chand Tekri (Raja and Rani). Thus as the IA closed up, the newly-raised 33 Division, poised to strike with Tikka Khan's II Corps across Bahawalnagar, was broken up.

It's 124 Brigade was sent to 8 Division, where panic struck Irshad, the I Corps Commander, due to the IA bridgehead across the Basantar, threatening Zafarwal. an unidentified brigade was sent to RYK, where it came under 18 Division, which let go of 55 Brigade to the 33 Division, which arrived to take control of the battle with it's 60 Brigade. this late induction would be enough to stop further inroads.

IA forays were successfully repulsed henceforth, and Naya Chor was safe; heck, Anand's men never properly invested or assaulted it.

Close Air Support was MUCH more effective in the deserts, as there was little vegetation like that present on the lush green plains, which could camouflage the armour and other echelons. a war today would see a lot of tanks getting pummeled from the air, and a lot of unfortunate tankers dying before tasting combat.

the deserts are the only areas where the PA can trade space for time, and allow inroads till the enemy makes contact at a favourable defensive position. one factor that dictates this strategy is the availability of troops. paucity of forces made the I Corps choose a passive defensive plan in the Shakargarh Bulge, with delaying troops and layered minefields retarding the enemy advance and inflicting attrition, until it contacted well-defended strongpoints, or till ceasefire was negotiated. this prevented the sucking in of our Army Reserve North to deal with the Corps-sized enemy, and it was in hand for use at our initiative.

another factor is geography. salients jutting into each other's territory are extremely vulnerable to quick capture, as they provide the enemy an opportunity for multi-directional attack, which outflanks the defenders and eventually forces their surrender or defeat in detail, if they don't manage to pull back in time or breakout. this can be avoided if the salient is used as a launchpad for an offensive into enemy territory, with preponderance of forces, but in the PA's case, this opportunity doesn't arise frequently as we're always outnumbered.

long story short; we may certainly expect the PA fighting on the fringes of the border, if a war starts out in the deserts, but a fighting withdrawal is not something to be looked down upon - it's completely normal in military POV, has happened before, and may happen again, according to force-levels and objectives.

the 55 Brigade did give up a lot of territory, but it fought pretty well, as per it's capacity and the challenges it faced. the territory lost was regained at Simla - after all, it was nothing but sandy waste - a buffer.

what I've concluded is that it's better to be mobile in the deserts rather than dig-in with static defences. a well-mechanized force will outflank you with ease and you'll be gobbled up. mechanization though, is not a prerequisite, considering how the 23 FF, raised with old reservists, retook Sadhewala from the crack 3 Grenadiers in November 1965 - inflicting heavy losses in process.

apologies for the long, long reply.
 

TNT

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India have the resources to attack at multiple locations but what india cannot control is the counter offensive by Pakistan. There is an army 5 times bigger than our regular army that will be ready for jihad at a moment's notice, already trained. The waves of mujahideen will be next.
 

Yasser76

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This article is inspired by a discussion with a clueless user who thinks the southern most marshes of Sind are strategically useless. In order to avoid derailing the other thread, I am moving the discussion to a dedicated thread. This article addresses two misconceptions: that the deserts and marshes in Sind are not strategically important enough, and that Pakistan doesn't have enough wherewithal to muster a strong defence along the entire border with India.

At the onset, I invite the reader to take stock of two major PAF air bases, their locations, and their distance from the nearest border with India: PAF Airbase Bholari, and Shahbaz Airbase. The mere existence of these bases should be enough to convey the message that Pakistan armed forces will not tolerate any Indian thrusts that put these bases within range of Indian MLRS. Note that Pinaka has a range of 40 km. Conversely, both bases have the presence of Pakistan's top of the line fighter jets, with massive air launched ordinance support which makes any attempt by Indian army a misadventure of epic proportions.

If approaches to these airfields will be heavily defended, there exists the possibility of flanking maneuvers. This possibility exists, and will be accounted for in the planning. Any attempt at flanking Pakistani defence lines will find the Indians entrenched in a kill box, with a possible use of Nasr in the desert area.

Finally, let us expunge any misconceptions regarding the strategic importance of marshes in Southern Sind. These marshes directly translate into Pakistan's borders, which translates into the sea area that comes under Pakistan's Exclusive Economic Zone. Pakistan doesn't have the luxury of a vast coastline as compared to India, and defending our EEZ along with its wealth of resources will be of top priority for Pakistani forces. In this regard, let us remember that Pakistan has a requirement of 12000 marines that will be dedicated to these marshy areas. The Pak Marines are a cut above regular armed forces in terms of rigorousness of training. The marshy area precludes any armored thrusts. Thus, Insha Allah, attacking Indian forces will find themselves pitted against a well trained, well motivated, well manned, and well equipped force in treacherous terrain.

This should remove the confusions of any morons who are dreaming of trading 1 mile of Punjab for 3 miles of Sind.

@Yasser76 FYI

Please do not @me especially when you just want to throw around insults. Is there an actual moderator on here?> Can we start threads with insults to other members? How can behaviour like this be tolerated?

Well done on the armchair analysis and taking my posts out of context.
 

CriticalThought

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while I can't comment on the current preparations, and I'm sure it's pretty hard to make deep inroads on either side today, the operations in Sindh, or you can say in the whole Desert Sector had very interesting conclusions.

In '65, both sides had minimal forces, especially along the Munabao-Khokhropar-Gadra front. eventual IA strength was brought to two weak brigades as against 51 Brigade of PA's 8 Division; the rest of the formation being sent up north. we took Munabao, they took Gadra. all square.

The major operations however, happened post-ceasefire. PA had correctly realized that with induction of local auxiliaries like the Hurs of Pir Pagaro, they could make major inroads, and bring in newly-raised battalions, like 23 FF, to ensure these gains were retained. Hence Ghotaru, Kishangarh and Sadhewala were taken, and proved significant enough that they allowed a full-return to pre-war borders at Tashkent, despite the fact that at ceasefire the IA had captured more territory.

IA's Southern Command had to make sure such a feat was not to be repeated in the next war, and consequently the formation was beefed up with 11 Div at Barmer, poised against Hyderabad, the 12 Division at Jaisalmer, poised against Rahim Yar Khan, plus two brigade-level sectors (Bikaner and Kutch).

In contrast, the PA had built-up the 18 Division with it's three brigades; 51 and 206 at Rahim Yar Khan, and 55 guarding the Umarkot - Hyderabad axis at Chor. the IA had planned offensives targeting both RYK and Umarkot, and with their greater numbers, this was very much possible.

Operation Labbaik (51 and 206 Brigade offensive at Longewala-Jaisalmer) was a classic spoiling attack. It pre-empted the 12 Div's planned venture, and by ceasefire, except for an insignificant fort of Islamgarh in the Bahawalpur sector, Khambata's men had gained achieved none of their original objectives. The blunting of the offensive can be attributed to poor coordination with the PAF, plus an ill-prepared division for desert warfare in terms of logistics and equipment. maximum credit however, goes to the IAF's Hunter detachment.

thus, it can be said that while the PA had done poor at the tactical level (less due to action and more due to enemy air), the strategic outcome was brighter, if not all good. the north-south link was intact.

the 11 Div's foray from the Khokhropar axis was destined to be more fruitful. here the PA's 55 Brigade was outnumbered 4 to 1, facing two squadrons with T-55s with a old Sherman squadron. the sparsely-populated desert however, gave Brigadier Anwar the obvious option to trade space for time, and hence as Anand's troops poured in, the Indus Rangers fought from delaying positions, to such an extent that the IA contacted Naya Chor - it's primary objective, just a couple of days before ceasefire.

Gul Hassan Khan was forced to reinforce the beleaguered brigade however, as defence in the open desert isn't like the oft-narrated 'repulsed and beaten backs' in the plains of the punjab, or the mountains of kashmir. the terrain has little obstacles and obstructions to allow troops to defend from strongpoints, like the BRBL Canal, or Chand Tekri (Raja and Rani). Thus as the IA closed up, the newly-raised 33 Division, poised to strike with Tikka Khan's II Corps across Bahawalnagar, was broken up.

It's 124 Brigade was sent to 8 Division, where panic struck Irshad, the I Corps Commander, due to the IA bridgehead across the Basantar, threatening Zafarwal. an unidentified brigade was sent to RYK, where it came under 18 Division, which let go of 55 Brigade to the 33 Division, which arrived to take control of the battle with it's 60 Brigade. this late induction would be enough to stop further inroads.

IA forays were successfully repulsed henceforth, and Naya Chor was safe; heck, Anand's men never properly invested or assaulted it.

Close Air Support was MUCH more effective in the deserts, as there was little vegetation like that present on the lush green plains, which could camouflage the armour and other echelons. a war today would see a lot of tanks getting pummeled from the air, and a lot of unfortunate tankers dying before tasting combat.

the deserts are the only areas where the PA can trade space for time, and allow inroads till the enemy makes contact at a favourable defensive position. one factor that dictates this strategy is the availability of troops. paucity of forces made the I Corps choose a passive defensive plan in the Shakargarh Bulge, with delaying troops and layered minefields retarding the enemy advance and inflicting attrition, until it contacted well-defended strongpoints, or till ceasefire was negotiated. this prevented the sucking in of our Army Reserve North to deal with the Corps-sized enemy, and it was in hand for use at our initiative.

another factor is geography. salients jutting into each other's territory are extremely vulnerable to quick capture, as they provide the enemy an opportunity for multi-directional attack, which outflanks the defenders and eventually forces their surrender or defeat in detail, if they don't manage to pull back in time or breakout. this can be avoided if the salient is used as a launchpad for an offensive into enemy territory, with preponderance of forces, but in the PA's case, this opportunity doesn't arise frequently as we're always outnumbered.

long story short; we may certainly expect the PA fighting on the fringes of the border, if a war starts out in the deserts, but a fighting withdrawal is not something to be looked down upon - it's completely normal in military POV, has happened before, and may happen again, according to force-levels and objectives.

the 55 Brigade did give up a lot of territory, but it fought pretty well, as per it's capacity and the challenges it faced. the territory lost was regained at Simla - after all, it was nothing but sandy waste - a buffer.

what I've concluded is that it's better to be mobile in the deserts rather than dig-in with static defences. a well-mechanized force will outflank you with ease and you'll be gobbled up. mechanization though, is not a prerequisite, considering how the 23 FF, raised with old reservists, retook Sadhewala from the crack 3 Grenadiers in November 1965 - inflicting heavy losses in process.

apologies for the long, long reply.
Sir, many thanks for the detailed and insightful reply.

In a modern face-off with India, the strategy of trading space for time has the potential of backfiring spectacularly.

1601433985678.png


And that is because advancing Indian formations, if allowed to enter deep within Pakistani territory, could pivot south and create a defence perimeter, cutting off any help from the North to the marshy southern most areas. I haven't indicated this on the map, but the next logical phase of this maneuver would be amphibious assaults into the marshlands. And the strategic objective would be to diminish the EEZ of Pakistan as much as possible.

In 1965, the concept of EEZ wasn't known, and the enemy was possibly (this is an assumption on my part) not trained and equipped for battle in marshes. Not so in 2020.
 

FuturePAF

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Sir, many thanks for the detailed and insightful reply.

In a modern face-off with India, the strategy of trading space for time has the potential of backfiring spectacularly.

View attachment 674734

And that is because advancing Indian formations, if allowed to enter deep within Pakistani territory, could pivot south and create a defence perimeter, cutting off any help from the North to the marshy southern most areas. I haven't indicated this on the map, but the next logical phase of this maneuver would be amphibious assaults into the marshlands. And the strategic objective would be to diminish the EEZ of Pakistan as much as possible.

In 1965, the concept of EEZ wasn't known, and the enemy was possibly (this is an assumption on my part) not trained and equipped for battle in marshes. Not so in 2020.
A study of the British Army’s operations during the 2003 Iraq war and how they captured the Marshland in southern Iraq could be useful in study how a large military assault similar terrain.

Studying the war game Millennium Challenge 2002 (where coastal assaults were repealed) could also be useful in this regard.

Pakkstan should also consider equipping it’s Marine force with “Combat Boat 90” class riverine boats and arming them with Manpads and ATGMs as well as heavy machine guns and 25-30mm cannons.

putting this caliber of cannons on these boats may now be possible considering the advancement in cannon technology. These cannons could allow for better defense against enemy IFV and even tanks with the right type of rounds.


A few dozen of these boats along with well camouflaged defenses and hiding spaces would severely complicate any enemy movement through the marshland.

A few dozen attack helicopters would also help, but I leave that up to finances.

Also the mountains at Nagarparkar on the border should be dug out and built up as a major Rocket artillery base to form a stongpoint and prevent an enemy force pivoting and cutting off our north south movement. (I created a thread on this some time ago called “Commanding heights”) it could also be the foundation for a counter offensive or even a pre-emotive strike if equipped with thousands of PGM rockets with enough range to take out enemy forces in a large part of Gujrat and Rajistan. the Lebanese are turning simple grad rockets into PGM rockets, which should also be studied by Pakistan, for use in Sindh and all along the border. (Especially to make longer range but cheap rockets coupled with sensor fuzed weapons to rebuff armored attacks)

The objective would be enemy C4ISR and cold start forces in the sector so they are unable to muster enough forces and/or coordination to attack Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general.

 
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CriticalThought

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A study of the British Army’s operations during the 2003 Iraq war and how they captured the Marshland in southern Iraq could be useful in study how a large military assault similar terrain.

Studying the war game Millennium Challenge 2002 (where coastal assaults were repealed) could also be useful in this regard.

Pakkstan should also consider equipping it’s Marine force with “Combat Boat 90” class riverine boats and arming them with Manpads and ATGMs as well as heavy machine guns and 25-30mm cannons.

putting this caliber of cannons on these boats may now be possible considering the advancement in cannon technology. These cannons could allow for better defense against enemy IFV and even tanks with the right type of rounds.


A few dozen of these boats along with well camouflaged defenses and hiding spaces would severely complicate any enemy movement through the marshland.

A few dozen attack helicopters would also help, but I leave that up to finances.

Also the mountains at Nagarparkar on the border should be dug out and built up as a major Rocket artillery base to form a stongpoint and prevent an enemy force pivoting and cutting off our north south movement. (I created a thread on this some time ago called “Commanding heights”) it could also be the foundation for a counter offensive or even a pre-emotive strike if equipped with thousands of PGM rockets with enough range to take out enemy forces in a large part of Gujrat and Rajistan. the Lebanese are turning simple grad rockets into PGM rockets, which should also be studied by Pakistan, for use in Sindh and all along the border. (Especially to make longer range but cheap rockets coupled with sensor fuzed weapons to rebuff armored attacks)

The objective would be enemy C4ISR and cold start forces in the sector so they are unable to muster enough forces and/or coordination to attack Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general.

It would be interesting if networked FAC crafts could provide fire support from further into the sea. Marines would be used as point men for providing target coordinates. That would bring in a huge firepower support into this area. It would also mean Indian navy getting involved, turning this little corner into a hotzone.
 

waz

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The discussion is great.

But no personal jibes, I have removed them. Please don't let me down.

Also, no, not one inch of Pakistan is to be given up inshallah.
 

Yasser76

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The discussion is great.

But no personal jibes, I have removed them. Please don't let me down.

Also, no, not one inch of Pakistan is to be given up inshallah.
Thanks for clearing up the mess.

To clarify, at the end of any war it maybe a case Pakistan has to negotiate the return of some if it's territory in return for captured Indian territory. Punjab simply being more valuable and strategic than the Sind desert in that regard. That was the jist of my argument. No one on this forum would advocate the loss of any Pakistani land.
 

arjunk

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Sir, many thanks for the detailed and insightful reply.

In a modern face-off with India, the strategy of trading space for time has the potential of backfiring spectacularly.

View attachment 674734

And that is because advancing Indian formations, if allowed to enter deep within Pakistani territory, could pivot south and create a defence perimeter, cutting off any help from the North to the marshy southern most areas. I haven't indicated this on the map, but the next logical phase of this maneuver would be amphibious assaults into the marshlands. And the strategic objective would be to diminish the EEZ of Pakistan as much as possible.

In 1965, the concept of EEZ wasn't known, and the enemy was possibly (this is an assumption on my part) not trained and equipped for battle in marshes. Not so in 2020.
Attacking across Kutch is useless, especially with tanks which will usually sink into the ground there. Even if you do cross, the Indus river and delta is waiting for you. And even if you reach Karachi good luck controlling it, we like fighting against hopeless odds.
 

PanzerKiel

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Gentlemen, there are a few things.... Real physical things present on ground, but not present on the maps, or even Google maps....

If you manage to take stock of those things, their details, and their effects on military operations, then you all will begin to get a better idea about the REAL concept of operations in these areas.
 

Yasser76

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Gentlemen, there are a few things.... Real physical things present on ground, but not present on the maps, or even Google maps....

If you manage to take stock of those things, their details, and their effects on military operations, then you all will begin to get a better idea about the REAL concept of operations in these areas.
Thank you for this post, some sanity at last and the reason I did not respond fully (in addition to the personal insults hurled at me).
 

arjunk

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Sindh is pretty easy to defend from the south unless you fk up really badly. There is no way any armoured vehicle can cross and it will be a logistical nightmare to stop troops from starving to death or dying of dehydration in the desert they will enter into:

1601622085182.png

However, I think this area in North Sindh/South Punjab is the most worrying place:
1601622316628.png

Barely enough desert to act as a buffer. Options for retreating are very little. You can risk losing half the country.
 

PanzerKiel

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Let me quote here some of my older posts

1st, defence in Sindh sector are well configured with regards to terrain. Its an almost 5-Division worth of force now. Armor component equals to more than a regular armored division.

In 1971, Indian Southern Command launched a large, corps-sized force into Sind. Its objectives were exceptionally clear to cut the line of communication between Karachi and Lahore at two points, Hyderabad City and Rahim Yar Khan. The secondary objectives which we must not mistake for the primary ones, were to draw down Pakistani reserves from all over Pakistan, thus easing the task of Indian troops advancing in other sectors, and to occupy as much of Sind as possible, to exchange for possible losses elsewhere.


Some thoughts regarding Indian plans to attack in the desert sector……


On a map, getting to Hyderabad (Sind) from Rajasthan is a simple problem. India may have 4 to 1 superiority in combat power on the ground, superiority in the air, and control of the sea, including a diversionary amphibious landing near Karachi. Along the southern axis of the arrow head thrust from Kokhrapar to Hyderabad is 250 kilometers as the crow flies. From Tanot to Rahim Yar Khan or Reti involves crossing 100 kilometers of Pakistan territory. Given a modest advance of 20 kilometers a day, some critics assume that something less than two weeks is perfectly adequate to cut Pakistan in two. Presumably, there will be Indian losses in the Punjab. But these will be more than compensated for by the immense gains in Sind.

In reality, for all India’s superiority of force, the situation is likely to prove quite different. To see this, we will need to examine a variety of different factors.

In one of India not very recent two-sided wargame, Blue advanced against Red at ten kilometers a day or about 70 kilometers for the attack phase. At 10 kilometers a day it might be possible to reach Rahim Yar Khan or Reti in 12 days, but Hyderabad would require a month.

Can the exercise results be replicated in combat? Particularly as Red was not played by troops specialized in this role. The pressures are all to show Blue in a favourable light and Red in an unfavorable one. If 10 kilometers a day was the exercise advance, in real life it will be less, at least until substantial attrition has occurred and Indian forces enjoy an irresistible advantage, At 1 to 5 kilometers a day, no objective on the Karachi- Lahore railroad can be cut in 12 days. India will capture large areas of sand, and nothing else.


Problems of supplying Indian Strike Forces in Desert

Can 13 divisions (1 and 21 Strike Corps, along with supporting attacks by 10 and 12 Corps, plus reserves standing by) be supported in the desert sector? This does not appear likely. Lets see a possible scenario.


· The northern end is anchored by X Corps with two large divisions, an (I) armored brigade and an (I) brigade a total of ten brigades.

· The middle is I and II Strike Corps with may be three armored, one mechanized, one RAMFOR, two RAPID and two infantry divisions plus one or two ( I ) brigades.

· The southern end is XII Corps with two divisions plus at least one (I) brigade.

· The naval component is an amphibious brigade to the west.


The amphibious brigade will be supported by the Navy by sea, so the army does not have to support it .


There should be no difficulty in supplying and supporting X Corps, as it will advance only a short distance from its bases, which are all located on rail heads.

The initial supply of XII Corps is not as simple, because there is only the rail head at Bhuj and the road network is minimal. Still, cross- country movement through the Kutch in winter should be possible along carefully reconnoitered routes, as the marshes would have dried up to a considerable extent.

It is the nine divisions with I and II Corps that are worrying. The supplies required for the war would have been laboriously assembled over the past four months through the rail heads at Barmer, Jaisalmer, and Jodhpur. But this is a huge force, and that too over the worst terrain in any of the plains sectors. Moving the supplies forward and into Pakistan to support the advancing troops will prove almost impossible only some fraction of the troops can be supported, and this reduces the odds that Pakistan faces.

While the armored spearhead has full trans desert mobility, all the wheeled supply vehicles used for support and for the infantry divisions are limited in this respect. It is unclear if the supplies required for an entire corps can be moved along one or two temporary desert roads since normally, a railhead is required to support a corps.

We can estimate that each division will require for each day’s combat consumption a thousand tons a day for an armored/mechanized division and about half that for an infantry division. The usage of the divisions themselves may well be less, but when all the supporting troops are added, and as the distance from the forward dumps to the front increases with the advance, the logistical requirements increase.


It can be argued that a rapid advance reduces the supply requirement because fixed battles, so greedily demanding of artillery ammunition, are avoided. Against this, the lack of proper roads of any sort multiplies wastages in transport. For example, we know from the World War 2 North Africa experience that three times as much fuel is required as might be thought.

In the desert, limited off road mobility creates another problem. Any blockade of the road leads to blocking of all movement behind the block because possibilities of going around the obstruction are limited. On a road where supplies are competing with the infantry moving up behind the armored spearhead, the possibilities for confusion and a breakdown of all movement are only too obvious. And it is not as if the movement is one way: empty vehicles, evacuated equipment and units, and redeploying units will all be fighting for space.

And as yet no account has been taken of enemy resistance and interdiction which will compound the difficulties by a factor of ten.

It may safely be concluded that the possibilities for supporting nine divisions, including four fully armored and mechanized, and two partially so, are dim. It will not just be the lower priority infantry that will be limited by supply constraints, it will be the spearhead itself. This will reduce Indian margin of superiority against Pakistan.

Problem of Air cover in the Desert

In 1971 Pakistan used an adhoc force from 33 Division to attack from Rahim Yar Khan to throw off 12 Division’s attack. This force appears to have consisted of an armored regiment with T-59s and an accompanying infantry brigade. Though referred to as “Pakistan’s attempt at a lightning Israeli style thrust”’ it had no intention of holding any ground or even precipitating a major battle, only of throwing Indian 12 Division off stride and thus preventing the attack on Rahim Yar Khan aimed at cutting the Karachi Lahore rail line.

It succeeded in its aim, as Indian 12 Division never really got going after that, though it captured some insignificant areas. The division was, of course, very badly handled and there were other problems, such as bad intelligence which led the division to believe it had a good (by desert standards) road on which to advance to Reti, whereas only an indifferent track existed.

The contributory factors do not alter the situation that when lateral mobility is limited, a small force can completely throw out of gear a much larger force. Committing less than a brigade to neutralize a division, and that too in an action lasting less than three days, is not a bad investment.

Conversely, the Pakistani attack was held by a lone company of 23 Punjab with a couple of recoilless rifles till daybreak. Then six Hunters from the Armament Training Wing at Jamnager, deputed to Jaiselmer to provide air cover for 12 Division’s attacks began their action. In 30+ sorties over two days the Hunters caused the tank regiment heavy damage. The Hunters included two trainers with limited ordnance capability, and two of the combat Hunters became non- operational during the course of operations. The aircraft used only canon fire and rockets, no bombs, The Pakistani force withdrew in good order.

Doubtless there were special considerations here too: the P.A.F., for example, was largely absent during this time and the Pakistani force had no integral anti-aircraft cover. The example is nonetheless valid.

There are reasons for this. (1 ) Neither India nor Pakistan can really operate in the face of enemy air attacks and the absence of their own air cover. This is no reflection on their courage or their training: only armies with a very long history of working without air cover, such as the North Vietnam Army, can adequately acquit themselves in such circumstances, (2) Acquisition of ground targets in the desert is a most simple affair because of the dust moving vehicles kick up. The dust cloud from a brigade-sized force can be visible at upto 80 kilometers. The ground troops, in effect, solve the problem of target acquisition, a most difficult one in normal terrain, by marking themselves for all to see.

It is easy to see one of the reasons Pakistan was not overly worried about protecting Sind. It would have let India come well in, and then attacked the large, conspicuous Indian armored formations from the air. Because they would be advancing, the Indians would be especially vulnerable.

In South Western Air Command India’s bases are well back. Once Indian force advance any substantial distance into Pakistan, the armored spearheads will outrun their air cover and become helpless. Pakistan, on the other hand, has at least six, perhaps more, bases available in the area.

The I.A.F. has a simple strategy for dealing with the problem of enemy air over the Desert: suppress all relevant P.A.F. air bases in 72-hours, and keep them suppressed. The I.A.F.’s inability to provide extended air cover to the armored spearheads is then of no consequence: the P.A.F. will be in no position to fly, and the few sorties can be handled by the air defence groups.

In 1971 , the IAF quickly put out of commission the seven Pakistani fighter air fields in East Pakistan. It first put Dacca out of action. The airfield was repaired in four hours. The IAF then reattacked and this time the airfield was repaired in six hours. The third time the IAF caught the repair crews in the open killing or wounding about 80 men, and after the PAF simply gave up leaving Dacca permanently out of commission.

In 1971, the PAF failed to keep even one IAF base out of action for one day. Generally bases were repaired within 6 to 8 hours. Today the same would apply to IAF attacks on Pakistani air bases. The 1971 Eastern example is not relevant today. Against the lone fighter squadron based in the East Pakistan, India deployed ten combat squadrons and there was a huge disparity in performance between the F-86 and the IAF Su-7s and Mi G-21s. Today the PAF will fight at much lesser odds, not 10 to 1. When 16 aircraft had to protect seven fighter fields and the entire Eastern wing to boot we need not be surprised that India succeeded so easily. And even then Pakistan was still flying from Dacca as late as seven days into the war. If we reran the scenario with three F- 7 squadrons and two fights of F-16s defending against ten IAF squadrons we would get a totally different outcome. If runway attack techniques and weapons have increased lethality airfield repair techniques have also improved.


Then comes the Pakistani Defence itself….

It is worth examining the Pakistani defences against Indian Southern Command’s attack in 1971. India had two divisions, about four armored regiments, and perhaps two (I) brigade groups plus commandos and BSF troops. Pakistan had its 18 Division out of Hyderabad, plus probably at least two brigades of 33 Division in southern Punjab, perhaps two regiments of armor, Rangers and Mujahids.

India appears to have committed everything except one (I) brigade, so that Pakistan faced seven infantry brigades and four tank regiments. Yet Pakistan held India back with two partially committed brigades. Part of 51 Brigade at Naya Chor held back 11 Division. Part of one brigade from 33 Division opposed 12 Division in the Reti-Rahim Yar Khan area. So Pakistan had the equivalent of four brigades uncommitted.

The results are well known: after an initial long jump to Naya Chor, India was stalled throughout the war.

There were two reasons Pakistan could hold off the Indian attack with minimal force. (I) It was prepared to trade space for time and allow the Indian advance to over stretch itself, and (2) because of the adverse terrain Indian forces could not leave the single axis / road of advance in each sub-sector to maneuver around the defenders. So India may have had a division each at Naya Chor and Ranigarh, but actually only a brigade at a time could fight. Moreover, increasing numbers of troops were required to hold down the line of communications as India advanced, further reducing the number of troops available. In as much as Pakistan itself was limited by the desert, it could not make any effective or decisive counter attacks and so did not throw back the Indians.

The point is that a large Indian force was stuck in the desert a long way from home. Had Pakistan used its 1 Armored Division in this area instead of keeping it facing Indian Foxtrot Sector, and had air cover been available, India would have been pushed out with huge losses.
 

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