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Strike Corps reorientation comes for Ladakh but Army needs larger restructuring

Zarvan

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Strike Corps reorientation comes for Ladakh but Army needs larger restructuring

At last the Army has recognised that it is China, and not Pakistan, that is the principal threat to India’s national security.

LT GEN H S PANAG (RETD) 14 January, 2021 10:36 am IST

Army Chief General M M Naravane addresses an annual press conference at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on 12 January 2021 | Vijay Verma| PTI

Army Chief General M M Naravane addresses an annual press conference at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi on 12 January 2021 | Vijay Verma| PTI


A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind’ goes a Chinese proverb. The Chinese-perpetrated crisis in Eastern Ladakh seems to have inspired the Indian Army to seize the opportunity to initiate structural and organisational reforms. Without much ado, it has given directions for 1 Corps — one of the three mechanised forces, predominant Strike Corps focussed on Pakistan — to be restructured and reoriented as the second Mountain Strike Corps for Ladakh. 17 Mountain Strike Corps will now become the strategic reserve dedicated only to the Northeast, and it will be restructured into three-four Integrated Battle Groups, or IBGs.

This move signals that, at last, the Army has recognised that it is China, and not Pakistan, that is the principal threat to India’s national security. However, it also allows the flexibility of using the Mountain Strike Corps against Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir/Western Ladakh. One sincerely hopes that this does not remain a one-off change but becomes part of larger, holistic reforms for optimisation of the Army through restructuring and reorganisation. The Army is still based on World War-II organisations, living with incremental changes tailored to the wars of the 20th century. We need to come to terms with strategic compulsions that will influence the way we engage in future conflicts/wars.

The strategic compulsions
  • Nuclear weapon armed States cannot engage in decisive conventional wars.
  • Conflict/wars will be fought below the nuclear threshold, will be driven by high-technology and limited in time and space. For this type of conflict/war, agile and multi-capability formations are required.
  • Indian economic compulsions do not permit any substantial increase in the defence budget in the near future. Currently, the bulk of the defence budget goes in sustaining a manpower-intensive army.
And this is why the restructuring of our mechanised and infantry formations becomes important.



Restructuring of mechanised and infantry formations
We are an infantry predominant army, organised in 17 Mountain Divisions (including three, otherwise designated as Infantry Divisions) and 18 Infantry Divisions (including 4-6 Reorganised Plains Infantry Divisions, or RAPID, which also have an armoured brigade in lieu of an infantry brigade). In addition, we have some Independent Infantry Brigades. The mechanised formations are organised into three Armoured Divisions, 18-20 Independent Armoured/Mechanised Brigades, including those part of RAPIDs. All Infantry Divisions operating in plains and two Mountain Divisions also have an armoured regiment. The divisions operate under 14 Corps, seven each for mountains and plains.

A decision has already been taken to reorganise the divisions into tailor-made Integrated Battle Groups, or IBGs, with varying numbers of combat arms and combat support units dictated by the mission and terrain. All modern armies have or are in an advanced stage of adaption to these organisations. The PLA has already implemented this concept in the form of Combined Arms Brigades. India’s progress has been painfully slow and needs to be expedited. Unfortunately, the basic fighting units of the IBGs — armoured regiments and infantry battalions —continue to be organised as they were 80 years ago. We seem to have discounted our own war-fighting experience and the impact of technology. The organisations have become part of regimentation, and the fighting arms remain smug and revel in status quo.

An infantry battalion has four rifle companies of 120 soldiers each. In addition, it has specialist platoons for mortars and anti-tank guided missiles apart from a logistics subunit. Based on the World War experience, particularly causality rates, and the advent of modern technology, all modern armies have switched to a three, instead of four-rifle company system and provide armour protection with Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) or Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC). Our own experience supports this change.

In Kargil War, we suffered 527 killed (462 were due to actual combat) and 1,363 wounded. Thirty infantry battalions took part in the operations. Since 90 per cent of casualties are suffered by the infantry, mathematically, on an average, each battalion suffered 16 killed and 41 wounded, that is just 6 per cent of the unit strength of 800 personnel. As a defending and defeated army, Pakistan suffered approximately 453 killed and 665 wounded, out of nearly six infantry battalions in the battle, that is about 20 per cent of the total strength. These figures justify adopting the three-company system. Modern weapon systems and reconnaissance/surveillance resources further reinforce the logic.

We have 390 infantry battalions (including 10 Scouts Battalions), nine Para Special Forces Battalions, five Para Battalions, 63 Rashtriya Rifles Battalions and 40 Assam Rifles Battalions. If all/most of these are reorganised on basis of three rifle companies, we can spare approximately 50,000 troops, giving us enough infantry battalions for at least 12-18 IBGs, with 4-6 Infantry Battalions each. Alternatively, this manpower could be utilised to meet other shortfalls or be simply reduced.

An armoured regiment in the Indian Army has 45 tanks since 1940, organised into three squadrons and four troops each, with 14 and 3 tanks respectively. Regimental Headquarters has three tanks and Squadron Headquarters two tanks each. Since those days, tank design has undergone revolutionary changes in terms of mobility, protection and firepower. Our war experience makes a very strong case for reducing the number of tanks to 31, that is 10 tanks per squadron with three troops of three tanks each, and one tank each for squadron commander and regimental commander. Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICVs)/Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) can be used for command and control by the regimental/squadron second-in-command and adjutant.

The maximum number of tanks lost by a regiment in 1965 or 1971 wars has been only 15. In the battle of Chawinda in 1965, out of 225 tanks in the battle, as part of five armoured regiments, we lost only 29 (we were on the offensive). Pakistan, out of its 150 tanks, lost 44. In the battle of Asal Uttar, 1965, (we were on the defensive) out of the 135 tanks, we lost only 10-14.
Pakistan, out of its 220 tanks, lost 99, that is 20 tanks per regiment, primarily due to flawed tactics and boggy terrain. The biggest of tank battles of the 1971 War was at Basantar, where we lost 10-14 tanks and Pakistan 46, once again a higher number for Pakistan due to the flawed tactics adopted.

We have approximately 70 armoured regiments, including those that are being raised. If these are reorganised on the basis of 31 tanks, 980 tanks will be available, which is equivalent to 32 armoured regiments organised on 31-tank basis, enough for 16 IBGs at scale of two regiments per IBG.

Similarly, there is scope for reducing one ICV per ICV platoon in mechanised infantry battalions, that is 9 ICVs per battalion. With 50 mechanised infantry battalions, 450 ICVs will become available, enough for nine additional mechanised infantry battalions.

On a transparent battlefield, unprotected infantry cannot carry out any movement without incurring heavy casualties. Hence, in a gradual manner, all infantry battalions operating in the plains and relevant terrain of Ladakh and the Northeast must be equipped with a simple, cost-effective wheeled APC.

The above restructuring/reorganisation will enable us to switch to the IBG concept, fulfilling 100 per cent requirement of fighting arms, including the formations in Ladakh and the Northeast. A similar exercise can be carried out for combat support arms and combat support services. However, in respect of these, it is their need-based allotment as per mission and terrain which is relevant and not placing them under command.

It is time for the Army to get out of inertia and restructure, reorganise and modernise for wars of 21st century, and it can be done from within. Concentration is a principle of war. In future battles/wars, what will matter is agile and usable combat potential at the point of decision and not a huge elephantine mass per se.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.
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Strike Corps reorientation comes for Ladakh but Army needs larger restructuring (theprint.in)
 

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The maximum number of tanks lost by a regiment in 1965 or 1971 wars has been only 15. In the battle of Chawinda in 1965, out of 225 tanks in the battle, as part of five armoured regiments, we lost only 29 (we were on the offensive). Pakistan, out of its 150 tanks, lost 44. In the battle of Asal Uttar, 1965, (we were on the defensive) out of the 135 tanks, we lost only 10-14. Pakistan, out of its 220 tanks, lost 99, that is 20 tanks per regiment, primarily due to flawed tactics and boggy terrain. The biggest of tank battles of the 1971 War was at Basantar, where we lost 10-14 tanks and Pakistan 46, once again a higher number for Pakistan due to the flawed tactics adopted.
@PanzerKiel What were the flawed tactics?
 

PanzerKiel

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@PanzerKiel What were the flawed tactics?
Absolutely no use of recce elements, as a results, all units were operating without having any idea about the enemy they were facing (deployment pattern, weapons dug in, where were they located....etc)

Complete lack of supporting of infantry, as a result attacking armor was forced to withdraw each night, surrendering all gains.....since you require infantry to hold ground so that armor could be freed for further operations...

Absolutely no artillery support was planned nor given....despite there were three major artillery HQs available (Artillery 11 Div, 1 Armored Division and 4 Corps Artillery).....artillery assets were available but were not used to soften up enemy positions nor interdicting enemy's incoming reserves, not even for harassing fire....

Wrong use of armor....instead of going around enemy's defences, they continued to bash on directly against enemy's defences....

1 Armored Div was never used as a whole Div...it was instead used in the form of shallow regimental jabs which were too soft to make any dent...

No ground recce was done in peacetime, the Division staff didnt have even upto date terrain maps of the area they were supposed to operate in war....

GOC 1 Armored Division was completely absent during the battle, he did not try to control the battle and left it to the Brigade and unit commanders to fight their own independent battles.....once he was being appointed, he told himself that he wasnt ready to command an Armored Div but even then he was appointed.

PAF was completely left out of picture and was not utilized at all...
 

Tomcats

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Absolutely no use of recce elements, as a results, all units were operating without having any idea about the enemy they were facing (deployment pattern, weapons dug in, where were they located....etc)

Complete lack of supporting of infantry, as a result attacking armor was forced to withdraw each night, surrendering all gains.....since you require infantry to hold ground so that armor could be freed for further operations...

Absolutely no artillery support was planned nor given....despite there were three major artillery HQs available (Artillery 11 Div, 1 Armored Division and 4 Corps Artillery).....artillery assets were available but were not used to soften up enemy positions nor interdicting enemy's incoming reserves, not even for harassing fire....

Wrong use of armor....instead of going around enemy's defences, they continued to bash on directly against enemy's defences....

1 Armored Div was never used as a whole Div...it was instead used in the form of shallow regimental jabs which were too soft to make any dent...

No ground recce was done in peacetime, the Division staff didnt have even upto date terrain maps of the area they were supposed to operate in war....

GOC 1 Armored Division was completely absent during the battle, he did not try to control the battle and left it to the Brigade and unit commanders to fight their own independent battles.....once he was being appointed, he told himself that he wasnt ready to command an Armored Div but even then he was appointed.

PAF was completely left out of picture and was not utilized at all...
Can you reccomend some reading materials that go into detail like this which go through the events of the 1965 and 71 war?
 

PanzerKiel

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Can you reccomend some reading materials that go into detail like this which go through the events of the 1965 and 71 war?
1965 War by Gen Mahmud
Tragedy of Errors by Gen Kamal Matinuddin
The War That Never Was by Ravi Rikhye
Books on 65 and 71 Wars by Shaukat Riza
....and then there are several small books covering specific battle actions...
 

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@Issam I would recommend the following thread to go through:
 

PanzerKiel

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Absolutely no use of recce elements, as a results, all units were operating without having any idea about the enemy they were facing (deployment pattern, weapons dug in, where were they located....etc)

Complete lack of supporting of infantry, as a result attacking armor was forced to withdraw each night, surrendering all gains.....since you require infantry to hold ground so that armor could be freed for further operations...

Absolutely no artillery support was planned nor given....despite there were three major artillery HQs available (Artillery 11 Div, 1 Armored Division and 4 Corps Artillery).....artillery assets were available but were not used to soften up enemy positions nor interdicting enemy's incoming reserves, not even for harassing fire....

Wrong use of armor....instead of going around enemy's defences, they continued to bash on directly against enemy's defences....

1 Armored Div was never used as a whole Div...it was instead used in the form of shallow regimental jabs which were too soft to make any dent...

No ground recce was done in peacetime, the Division staff didnt have even upto date terrain maps of the area they were supposed to operate in war....

GOC 1 Armored Division was completely absent during the battle, he did not try to control the battle and left it to the Brigade and unit commanders to fight their own independent battles.....once he was being appointed, he told himself that he wasnt ready to command an Armored Div but even then he was appointed.

PAF was completely left out of picture and was not utilized at all...
Just some points from my side regarding PA 1 Armored / 11 Div ops.

PA failed to exploit the unprepared defences of 4 MD after their rout. This gave them time to put up a hasty defence first which then transformed into a deliberate one.

5 AB's initial push managed to find the gap south of the rail line leading towards Khem Karan (6 Lancer's action) which was not exploited and the regiment was called back. IA then managed to plug this gap. Overall, 5 AB's failure was their bad recce of the front which deprived them of any knowledge of IA defences and their gaps.

4 AB then again attacked in a void. First, they themselves were not a potent enough force to force a defensive reaction on 4 MD. Their outflanking move failed in the sense that they bumped again into 4 MD. Again, bad recce....its nothing out of the world, just procedural mistakes...and in this case, as it turned out, bad map reading skills on the part of 4 AB commander who was twice corrected by the CO of under commander MIB but even then did not pay any heed to it.

Moreover, 4 and 5 ABs always started their attacks late in the day, which left precious little day time to operate. Moreover, both brigades made it their business to give up their daily gains after last light and retire to their respective leaguers. They fought for the same area each day.

I am always full of admiration for GOC WC, Gen Harbaksh, for the role he played in 65 War. As commander of almost all the IA troops who took part in 65 war, he proved his mettle. He was always found wherever IA was about to break. He made his personality felt and did not feel shy in visiting the critical sectors of his front whenever there was a need. This thing was found lacking on PA's side. In case of Khem Karan as well, for me, GOC WC played the role of no less than a Strike Corps which strengthened 4 MD.

Some analysis of Khem Karan battle...
It was good tankable terrain, though the tall grass obstructed observation at times.

There was a clear lack of judgement and anticipation on the part of PA commanders.

Southern approach, which was empty and founded by 6 Lancers, was not exploited.

Infantry-tank cooperation was a serious issue.

Poor wireless discipline as well, one PA armored unit continued to transmit everything in clear, without code.

The PA bridgehead was one big mismanaged operation in which almost everything went wrong.

No articulating HQ in the form of a Corps HQ to control and coordinated the ops of 1 AD and 11 ID.

No artillery was used for the attacks against 4 MD defences even though two divisional artillery and one Corps artillery brigades were available.

PAF was not utilized against 4 MD defences.

PA operation in total ignorance of IA strength and defences. It was due to procedures related to recce not being followed.



Now coming to the 4 MD attempts to retake Khem Karan once 1 AD moved out and 11 ID settled for defence.

This time, IA made the same mistake which PA did. Hurling tanks against fixed defences.

PA missed another golden opportunity when 2 IAB was suddenly called to support IA 15 Div. 2 IAB remained away and returned after 48 hours, a fact not seen or detected by PA.

Khem Karan was finally defended by PA's one infantry brigade and an armored brigade.

For IA, it was now a matter of prestige to re-capture Khem Karan. However, there were no reserves with 11 Corps or WC for this task. Therefore, 4 Sikh, which was sorely tired after its capture of Barki, was pulled out and launched in an infiltration op. 2 Mahar was also launched.
CO 4 Sikh was even reminded of 12 Sep, the date of Battle of Saraghari, by GOC WC so that he would make a supreme effort.

CO 4 Sikh initially objected to his unit's op due to...
-ordered to infiltrate the same night on which he arrived, without any rest.
-He had not fully assembled is unit yet.
-Unfamiliar AOO.
- He was given just one night to go through PA infantry brigade supported by an armored brigade.

4 Sikh was subsequently decimated since PA opened fire at close range. 4 Sikh managed to hit a cauldron which was ringed by PA dug-in tanks, SP guns and infantry. Many became POWs. Almost 200 all ranks of 4 Sikh participated in this attack.

IA tried one last, major and desperate attack on 21/22 Sep before the ceasefire.

However, IA had again faulty int regarding PA defences. PA also had dug-in all tanks which proved difficult to eliminate. IA armor, again, was again in support role of infantry instead of leading the infantry. This time, PAF intervened and took out IA artillery gun positions first. IA lack of training in night operations was also evident since they continuously used star shells and flares which provided PA gunners with good indications of IA troops.

....and also, as usual, there was no sign of IAF, which should have intervened massively.
 
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kursed

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Absolutely no use of recce elements, as a results, all units were operating without having any idea about the enemy they were facing (deployment pattern, weapons dug in, where were they located....etc)

Complete lack of supporting of infantry, as a result attacking armor was forced to withdraw each night, surrendering all gains.....since you require infantry to hold ground so that armor could be freed for further operations...

Absolutely no artillery support was planned nor given....despite there were three major artillery HQs available (Artillery 11 Div, 1 Armored Division and 4 Corps Artillery).....artillery assets were available but were not used to soften up enemy positions nor interdicting enemy's incoming reserves, not even for harassing fire....

Wrong use of armor....instead of going around enemy's defences, they continued to bash on directly against enemy's defences....

1 Armored Div was never used as a whole Div...it was instead used in the form of shallow regimental jabs which were too soft to make any dent...

No ground recce was done in peacetime, the Division staff didnt have even upto date terrain maps of the area they were supposed to operate in war....

GOC 1 Armored Division was completely absent during the battle, he did not try to control the battle and left it to the Brigade and unit commanders to fight their own independent battles.....once he was being appointed, he told himself that he wasnt ready to command an Armored Div but even then he was appointed.

PAF was completely left out of picture and was not utilized at all...
Sorry for bringing this old post back to life, but how much of this has changed for us since, specially for armor? Given how dangerous a life has gotten for armor, with Indian investment into loitering munition, mlrs and now even tactical UAVs? I am well aware of PAF's take on this, but did want to know more. Have we improved since?
 

PanzerKiel

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Sorry for bringing this old post back to life, but how much of this has changed for us since, specially for armor? Given how dangerous a life has gotten for armor, with Indian investment into loitering munition, mlrs and now even tactical UAVs? I am well aware of PAF's take on this, but did want to know more. Have we improved since?
The way militaries all around the world work.....in general terms....

You always identify, quantify and specify the threat(s) you are facing....everything springs from this aspect....

Once threat is clear to you, then you prepare yourself...doctrine, equipment, training, validation of concepts in the form of exercises etc.....

Pak Army, like any other army, keeps a close eye on Indian Armed Forces including their purchases (present and future as well).....you do that in order to keep ahead of your enemy at all times....its really a dangerous game...you slip once, you lag behind and then that capability gap cannot be covered....because for any new piece of equipment, its a long process.....staff requirement, tendering, trials, procurement, training of thousands of troops to use that thing, then erecting the maintainence base to support that equipment.....this goes into decades if not years......

You can be rest assured that as a professional military, such events on the other side of the border are being closely watched and anti-dotes are already on the way so that by the time Indian military acquires a specfic capability, we already have the means to counter it....there is no other way to survive in this dangerous neighborhood...

If this was not the case and our Armed Forces werent that good, then we would have been overrun a long time ago and ceased to exist.....maybe in 1965, 1971....maybe once India acquired T-72s, or T-90s, or Su-30s, or Bofors howitzers, or even aircraft carriers.....but if you see the pattern, you will find that our Armed Forces are having the solution to each one of their crucial military capability, thats how you survive as a small nation....

...and in today nuclear environment, if all else fails then Samson option is something which our enemies are not ready to digest...
Sorry for bringing this old post back to life....
You are truly God gifted,,, bringing something back to life... 8-)
 

kursed

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The way militaries all around the world work.....in general terms....

You always identify, quantify and specify the threat(s) you are facing....everything springs from this aspect....

Once threat is clear to you, then you prepare yourself...doctrine, equipment, training, validation of concepts in the form of exercises etc.....
Thank you for the much detailed reply but my question was slightly more in terms of looking over our mistakes and fixing them. What we got wrong in 65', if a war were to happen today, how much are the chances that we'd repeat the same mistakes? I do realize and going by my interaction with people in the Army - a lot has changes since WOT began. PA kind of saw itself coming to life.. for the first time in the truest possible sense.

But does this level of finding faults, plugging issues and fixing faults - has it happened to conventional military side of affairs too? What are the chances of us repeating the mistakes of 65, today?
 

PanzerKiel

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Thank you for the much detailed reply but my question was slightly more in terms of looking over our mistakes and fixing them. What we got wrong in 65', if a war were to happen today, how much are the chances that we'd repeat the same mistakes? I do realize and going by my interaction with people in the Army - a lot has changes since WOT began. PA kind of saw itself coming to life.. for the first time in the truest possible sense.

But does this level of finding faults, plugging issues and fixing faults - has it happened to conventional military side of affairs too? What are the chances of us repeating the mistakes of 65, today?
With regards to reasons of our lack lustre performance in 1965 .....

IT basically had to deal with the command and staff experience in battle, which was almost nil. Speedy promotions happened in the 50s (Gen Yahya became a Brigadier at 34 years of age).

- Pakistan's early military leaders were junior officers during WW2, with no formal exposure to operational strategy.

- Most of them were influenced by the great tank battles fought in the Western Desert. They viewed the situation through the lenses of a junior officer, with focus on local / tactical level.


They then rose to higher ranks post partition, in a telescoped timeframe.

- Understanding of operational strategy was restricted to a few luminaries like Lt Gen Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, that too by virtue of personal interest, study and exposure to a few courses abroad like IDC, UK.

- There was no forum for operational strategy, till beginning of War Course, first at Staff College during late 60s, followed by NDC.

- Therefore, with a few exceptions, the tactical level remained the basis of planning and conduct of military operations from the earliest days of Pakistan till 70s. It may be remembered that our first conflict with India, Kashmir War of 1948, was restricted to a series of tactical actions, although they created strategic effects.

- lack of political will, vision and competence.

- Inadequate understanding of actual capabilities / limitations of formations and arms / services.

- Equipment limitations.

- Predominance of firepower over manoeuvre, and slogging matches.
 

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