Future Battlefield Victory Only Through Joint Warfare

We have come a long way since the debacle of 1962 to have a proper joint warfare doctrine. The year-long standoff with China has shown how strongly India countered the PLA’s attempts to occupy the “No man’s land” in eastern Ladakh. It was the fastest, totally synergised, tri-service mobilisation that forced the Red Dragon on the back foot

Future War

By Col Alok Mathur, SM (Retd)

The current superpowers of the world namely USA, Russia and China have adopted the concept of jointness in their armed forces in the 21st century in big way. Conventionally, all three services i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force used to operate in isolation but now integration is the order of the day. The synergy among the three wings achieves faster and better dividends and shortens the duration of war. World Wars lasting five years will be stories of a bygone era. Now, the new domains in threat perception are Cyber warfare, NBC warfare and space assets, which are being used as force multipliers.

The word Joint simply means linking two distinct parts and in the glossary of military terms, it implies an organisation (org) or an activity in which elements of more than one service participate as part of a Task Force. The term “Jointness” is a concept that denotes possessing an optimal capability to engage in Joint war with National aim and assets and not limited to joint operations, which pertains to just the combined capabilities of various arms and multi services to achieve the military goal.

Joint centralised planning enables the concentration of force at the right time and right place. lt enables high level cross-domain coordination and results in maintenance of high morale and confidence among troops. Jointness requires high level of investment in planning, training, equipment and operations. Jointness involves integration of processes across all operational domains of land, air, maritime, cyber space and aero space towards cost and enhancing operational readiness. Integration is adopted across all functions i.e. operations, intelligence, technology, management, long-term planning, logistics and human resources development. It involves physical as well as mental level adaptation.

Integration is required even beyond the armed forces, it requires collaboration with political, diplomatic, economic and information arenas of the nation at all levels i.e. strategic, operational and tactical level. Integrated structures enable optimisation of resources and outputs, build professionalism, right man for the job, and correct decision-making and dedicated responsibility and accountability through appropriate authority. An integrated approach entails pro active engagement and shared understanding to bring distinct professional, technical and cultural disciplines of various entities together.

The American armed forces manual describes Jointness as multi-services cooperation for operations. Russians termed it as combination of two or more arms in the battle field, coordinated towards one common objective as per higher directions of State. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has also adopted a new model in 2019, that of a Theatre Command integrating all resources of Army, Navy, Air force, cyber and space assets under one commander.

In recent times, the scope of Jointness has widened. Multinational forces have joined together to fight against the menace of terrorism and fundamentalism. The QUAD is a four-nation organisation to neutralise the expansionist policy of the People’s Republic of China in the southwest pacific region.

During the Kargil War in 1999, IAF fighters and gunships were used in a limited manner under Op Safed Sagar. Thus, we came a long way since 1962 in implementing jointness, but in an ad hoc manner, as a proper Joint Warfare Doctrine was yet to be inked

ln the Indian context, the Chinese aggression of 1962 compels us to review our operational preparedness and the causes of a massive defeat. The Indian Air force (IAF) had 22 combat squadrons of fighter-bomber aircraft (Hunters 56, Mysteres, Vampires, Canberras) ready at Tezpur/ Guwahati/ Chabua air bases in the plains of Assam and Adampur and Pathankot in Punjab to strike at the advancing Chinese troops. The aircraft could have hit their logistic bases, concentration areas at Thangla ridge and Aksai Chin and later garrisons of Tawang, Sela, Bombdila in NEFA, once we lost the Mand, Rudok and Noh in Tibet, but political-military paralysis prevented the use of the IAF in an offensive role. Bold use of the IAF would have inflicted heavy casualties on Chinese troops and equipment and saved the day for India.

Fortunately, the mistake was not repeated by General Sam Manekshaw in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. The Tri-services were fully utilised in jointness and after the 16-day war, a new nation was born and Pakistan was dismembered. But the best example of synergy generated by jointness is the Battle of Longewala on 5/6 Dec 1971 in Jaisalmer sector, in western theatre, when Hunters of the IAF and the grit of Maj Kuldeep Singh Chandpuri, A Coy, 23 Punjab, made a graveyard of the Pakistani Patton/ T59 tanks.

Another unique example of integration of the three services and the NSG was Operation Cactus on November 3, 1988. A group of approx 50 local mercenaries supported by the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a Tamil underground organisation, landed in Male and laid a seize to the capital of Maldives in the lndian ocean. President M Abdul Gayoom went into hiding and gave an SOS call to India, US and other countries. Within six hours, the NSG was airlifted from Delhi, followed by the Para brigade Task Force (TF) under Brig Farukh Bulsara from Agra in an AN-32 and IL-76 of the IAF.

The Para TF landed directly at Hulhule island airport and then crossed over and took control of Male. Meanwhile, the terrorists hijacked a ship MV Progress Light with 27 hostages, including the Danish wife of a minister in the Maldives govt. The Ship with its lights switched off was detected by a TU 124 maritime patrol aircraft of the Navy, which directed the INS Godavari, Tir and Betwa. Marine commandos were launched and the terrorists were killed or apprehended and 20 of the hostages were rescued in the high seas.

During the Kargil War in 1999, IAF fighters and gunships were utilised in a limited manner under Op Safed Sagar. Thus, we have come a long way since 1962 in implementing Jointness, but in an ad hoc manner, as a proper Joint Warfare Doctrine was yet to be inked.

ln India, there are different levels at which integration is executed. Firstly, operations are guided by a set of directives issued by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) based on the aims of war as laid down by the government. The Raksha Mantri issues operation directive to CDS/COSC through the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). This is converted into a military objective and an integrated course of action is planned based on capabilities of the forces.

Secondly, a joint operation directive is framed by the Joint Ops Committee (JOC) at the strategic level. Detailed joint planning is required for success of the operation. Joint organisations available at service command level is Advance Headquarters, Maritime Air Ops Centre for joint ops and TAC (Tactical Air Centre) at the corps level, and Ground Liaison Sections at the lower level. The single service planning process will be the responsibility of the Service HQ only but synchronised with joint plan.

Thirdly, joint intelligence (int) structure is also of prime importance, and should support the National Aims. The Defence Intelligence Agency coordinates with all service int agencies and also with other external and internal int agencies like RAW and IB.

Fourthly, Jointness in military training, an imp factor for officers, starts at the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, in Pune. Established in 1954, it is the first tri-service training institute in the world that imparts pre-commission training to Army, Navy and Air Force cadets together for 3 years. It has 3 Param Vir Chakras and 12 Ashok Chakras to its credit.

Subsequently, the cadets move to the Indian Military Academy, Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy for advanced training of service. The next stage of Joint training is imparted for one year at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, to a limited number of nominated officers with 10 to 13 years of service. This is followed by officers of service group of 20 years selected for the College of Defence Management, Secunderabad; and finally at the National Defence College (NDC), New Delhi, for Brigadier and equivalent rank officers of other services with in-service bracket of 27 to 30 years, including IAS, IPS and foreign officers from friendly countries.

Another milestone in jointness is the establishment of the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) at HQ IDS in 2007. The think tank is tasked with undertaking studies and research in joint war fighting and jointmanship among services, ministries and other agencies involved in national security.

Another strategic institution planned is the Indian National Defence University (INDU) with the aim of promoting jointness and coordination among the three services, intelligence agencies, civil bureaucracy and other agencies. It will promote higher education in defence studies, management, technology, acquisition, production and research & development. War gaming or military simulation is a part of Joint training in which theories or options of warfare can be tested and refined without actual hostilities and tactical and strategic doctrines can be developed. The officers can be tested in tactical and strategic decision making in an economical way without the use of troops.

Integration is required even beyond the armed forces, it requires collaboration with political, diplomatic, economic and information arenas of the nation at all levels i.e. strategic, operational and tactical level

Fifthly, integrated logistic structure would be required for provision of medical cover, ammunition, ordnance stores, vehicles, spares, fuel and rations to be supplied by Central Logistics nodes for economy and unity of efforts. Integrated procurement is carried out by the centralised Defence Acquisition Council headed by the RM. Lastly, the emergence of Triad, additional domains of Strategic forces, Cyber warfare, Space assets and Special ops at the strategic level need to be amalgamated for joint operations.

Following the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, the Group of Ministers and the earlier recommendations of the Standing Committee on Defence, the Government of lndia constituted the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff, a tri-service organisation, on November 23, 2001 in Kashmir House, New Delhi, for introduction of Jointness in the armed forces. The organisation is headed by the Chief of Integrated Defence staff (CIDS) of vice-chief rank and has officers /staff from three services as also officers from MEA, DRDO and Defence Accounts. Its main branches are: Policy Planning, Doctrine, Operations, Intelligence and Medical.

The organisation is responsible for fostering coordination and jointness, and enabling prioritisation across different branches of the armed forces. Initially, the senior most among the service chiefs was being appointed as chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC). The IDS finally published a Joint Warfare Doctrine in 2006 and revised it in 2017. On December 24, 2019, the present govt approved the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a four-star general, as a tri-service chief to lead the defence forces. The CDS also holds the rank of Secretary of Dept of Military Affairs and is the permanent chairman of the COSC, changing the old tradition.

The agency motto is “Aligned With Future – Victory Through Jointness”. Former Army Chief General Bipin Rawat was appointed as first CDS on December 31, 2019. He is the seniormost uniformed military advisor to the Govt of India. Among the landmarks of Joint warfare are the raising of the Andaman Nicobar Command, a tri-service theatre command, in 2001, to safeguard lndia’s strategic maritime interest in southeast Asia, the Strategic Forces Command, the Special Operations Command and the Space Cell.

The year-long India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh in 2020-21 has depicted how strongly India countered the Chinese attempt to occupy the “No man’s land” in the Ladakh sector from DBO to Chumar with special focus on Fingers 4 to 8 in Pangong Tso north area. All three services contributed from Day 1. All posts were reinforced, Special Forces were inducted overnight. Armoured brigade and Mechanised battalions, were mobilised and deployed in high altitude areas pre-empting the PLA.

The IAF Chief was the first to arrive at Leh to check operational preparedness. SU-30 MKI, Mirage-2000 and Jaguars were making day and night sorties. C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules were ferrying troops, tanks and equipment day and night. Newly-acquired Chinooks and Apaches were also boldly operating logistics and reconnaissance (recce) missions continuously. The P-8 Poseidon multi-role maritime Deep Patrol Aircraft of the Navy was on daily strategic recce missions. It was the fastest, totally synergised, tri-service mobilisation that forced the Red Dragon on the back foot.


-The writer is an Indian Army veteran and a defence analyst. He has keen interest in Geo-strategic affairs and writes regularly on internal and external affairs issues related to India and neighbours. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda


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