Theater controls need to be integrated seamlessly through concepts like multi-domain operations (MDO), according to an expert.


Initially, a detailed study of all aspects of combat methods is carried out to take advantage of the advantages of each service weapon when deployed in the Joint Force Command. (File photo: Reuters)

Deliberations among the three services and other stakeholders on the proposed military theater commands met in New Delhi on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 with the aim of resolving any issues before the case was referred to the Cabinet Committee on Security ( CCS).

Who participated in the in-depth discussions?

Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat, Heads / Vice Heads of Service, also representatives of three other ministries, including Defense, Interior and Finance. And other senior officials.

Reports say the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not yet on board.

History to date …

Although extensive studies have been carried out, there is still some time before integrated tri-service controls can be deployed. “There are concerns related to many aspects of the proposed theater commands, including asset sharing, interoperability and interoperability,” a senior officer said on condition of anonymity.

While the military and navy fully agree with the plans that have been approved at the highest levels, reports indicate that the IAF is opposed to the concept.

According to Milind Kulshreshtha, strategic analyst and C4I expert, “theater commands must have verticals like maritime command, air defense command, etc. to soak up the concepts of joint warfare in each of the land, air and maritime domains. Although vertically separated in terms of specialization, these theater commands must be integrated seamlessly through concepts such as multi-domain operations (MDO). An MDO solution cultivates “interoperability” and ensures an effective response against real-time targets that move rapidly in a multi-level defense structure. “

As reported by Financial Express Online, India has studied various Western and Chinese war models since the inauguration of India’s very first Chief of Staff, General Bipin Rawat. He set his priorities for executing the synergy between the three services by 2020. Shortly after taking office, he requested a proposal for an air defense command by the end of 2020. He also announced that the Indian military would complete the theatrisation process in 2023. China has already established theater-level orders.

Why is this done?

The idea is to rationalize war resources, the efficiency of executions and to face the threat of war on two fronts. This means that the proposed theater commands will depend heavily on interoperability between the different units of the three services, which is not yet available.

Integration with IAF – what is needed

For inclusive operations with IAF resources under a single theater command, it is necessary for the Army to introspective its doctrines and concepts of warfare.

There must be a digital integration of tank units with the Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets which, during the war, will fly in an air support role.

For the effective exploitation of air resources, the Indian Army must include the defensive and offensive tactics of the IAF in its own real-time patterns of operations.

Each theater command should further highlight its gaps in inter-service interoperability.

This means that joint operations between the military and the IAF are more than a hierarchical organization for communicating orders in modern interoperable warfare.

To address certain concerns such as the inclusion of the paramilitary forces which report to the Ministry of the Interior, a special committee was set up which included the vice-chiefs of the three services, the chief of staff of the integrated defense. , the chairman of the committee of chiefs of staff. There are also representatives of other relevant ministries.

What are the new challenges?

The big question that emerged before the proposal went to the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval after several rounds of meetings between the services – should the theater orders be country-based (adversaries like Pakistan and China) or challenges.

Financial Express Online had earlier reported that the CDS office wanted to set up – Maritime Theater Command and Air Defense Command soon.

Sources say the theater command concept may be announced earlier than the targeted 2022 timeline.

The United States, which was the first country in the world to deploy theater controls, took nine years. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior officer explained: “There seems to be a rush to put in place the theater commands and their structure. While much more needs to be clarified and studied before this concept comes to fruition.

In India, not all stakeholders are on the same wavelength and several rounds of discussions are underway to try to get everyone on board and there is a need for a unified war strategy with integrated means and forces.

The involvement of the Ministry of Finance in the discussions is important because there is the question of the integration of structures as well as the establishment of different theaters. These also have financial ramifications.

Who reports to whom?

Another major issue under discussion is who do the commanders of the different theaters report to?

As previously reported, five theaters are expected to be formed: Maritime Theater Command, Air Defense Command, East Land Theater, North Land Theater (Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Central Sector ) and the Western Terrestrial Theater centered on Pakistan.

Expert view

Milind Kulshreshtha, Strategic Analyst and C4I Expert, says: “Multi-domain operations (MDO) is a well-established paradigm for achieving a philosophy of multilevel engagement based on the specialized capabilities of the Army, Navy and the air force. MDO evolves with the present and future capabilities of known adversaries in mind. The concept aligns resources to achieve multi-domain superiority, with constant improvements occurring through military exercises. Initially, a detailed study of all aspects of combat methods is carried out to take advantage of the advantages of each service weapon when deployed in the Joint Force Command.

“Even before theater commands are taken into account, other core technologies for joint operations such as data fusion for a common operational image (COP) etc. should also be highlighted. In keeping with long-awaited military ethics, once theater command is launched, it will become a race against time for each service arm to operationalize these networks. Hence, a well thought out technological framework for common network protocols, tactical data link, interoperability, etc. can be seen as a common starting point. Once the commonalities of equipment such as the digital communications network, data fusion equipment, radars and various other underlying technologies are comprehensively defined, the defense budget could be allocated to the purchase. centralized such equipment for interoperability and benefit from economies of scale, ”says Kulshreshtha.

According to him, “Modern communications networks on land, air and sea already depend heavily on the diversity of satellite constellations and digital automation. The Indian Navy’s primary focus is on establishing a secure communications network for combatants in maritime warfare. It will not only be a contemporary technology, but also a future capable of meeting the demands of information exchange of high and rigorous data rates (such as future AI-enabled systems). In addition, these technologies should be interoperable not only with joint commands, but also with multinational task forces at sea. ”

Meanwhile, “a separate organization of sub-assemblies for space and cyberspace can be envisioned within the domain of each theater command. However, these technological verticals could be centrally controlled as they have the potential to become full-fledged space command and cyber warfare commands in the near future, ”concludes Mr. Kulshreshtha.

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