Military & Aerospace

Inter-Services Synergy: need of the hour
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Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013 | Date : 11 May , 2013

The Indian Navy (IN) has become a versatile three-dimensional flexible instrument of national power, which can be used independently or in consonance with other services to achieve the country’s security objectives and protect India’s national interests. The roles of the Navy are as given below extracted from the Navy’s Maritime Military Strategy and Doctrine and Doctrine for Information Warfare:-

The location of the Indian peninsula and the status of its Navy make India a fulcrum state geographically…

Military Role

This includes defence of the mainland, India’s maritime assets and shipping, interdiction of the enemy’s maritime forces, sea control, sea denial (to the enemy), blockading the enemy’s ports and harbours.

Diplomatic Role

Showing the Flag, assistance during disaster and force deterrence. ‘Foreign Cooperation’ is the manifestation of the Navy’s diplomatic role. Anti-poaching, anti-smuggling, surveillance of the coasts and anti-piracy.

Benign Role

Benign tasks are those such as humanitarian aid, disaster relief in floods and tsunami, Search and Rescue (SAR), ordnance disposal, pollution control, diving assistance, salvage operations and hydrography. The Indian Navy has assisted littoral nations with surveys of coasts.

By an Act of Parliament, the Coast Guard came into being in 1978 and at first, the Indian Navy transferred few older ships but the force has progressively grown to a strength of 75 ships and 45 aircraft and helicopters, and has traditions akin to the Indian Navy. It is set for a massive expansion post the 26/11 sea-borne attack on Mumbai by terrorists trained in Pakistan.

Air Power and the IAF Doctrine

On September 12, 2012, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne released the ‘Basic Doctrine of the IAF’, with the tenets of ‘Integrity, Mission and Excellence’ and covered what air power stands for and landscaped the contemporary global environment which is characterised by change in a dynamic environment. Browne states, “Seeking optimal solutions to these challenges would be imperative for our uninterrupted growth and development.” This author adds that synergy between all aerial units will be beneficial to the Armed Forces in their role and functions in peace and war.

The 21st century is witnessing the swift rise of China’s PLA (Navy) in the Far East…

Air power is a potent and lethal force that provides the nation a wide spectrum of choices for decision makers in any contingency. Principles of war have evolved over time and Air Forces have three main functions independently and in support of the other two arms. The primary role of an Air Force is to fight a war jointly with the Army and Navy with its swift long range lethal force and logistical and para drop support and intelligence from the air with its fighter planes and helicopters with new innovations like drones, aerostats and AWACS and AEW&C platforms. Second is to decimate the air elements of the opponent in and from the sky and to safeguard, home airfields VAs and VPs and gain air dominance. The third is to hit the centre of gravity of the enemy and its industrial base with a first strike and be prepared for a deterrent second strike capability if nuclear weapons are employed, in an unlikely event. This last factor needs exercising and Government understanding of nuclear war and the context in which nuclear weapons need to be employed as nuclear warfare has its own repercussions and nuances. In peace, the IAF is tasked to provide succour in calamities internal and external, especially to neighbouring countries, and to fulfill an important SAR role at short notice and to co-ordinate with civil aviation and fulfill diplomatic and VIP transport functions. Only joint use of air assets and optimal employment of air power will achieve India’s ‘national security objectives’ with good command and control.

Aerial Assets Under Acquisition

The Indian Air Force has 160,000 personnel with 1,500 aircraft operating from 60 bases and is set to retire its large fleet of MIG-21s and MiG-27s and is upgrading the Jaguar fleet with DARIN 111 attack systems and a more powerful Honeywell 125IN engine is contemplated. The IAF is set to induct some 500 new platforms in the coming decade as per LTTP 2012-27, if all is equal. The IAF’s SU-30MKI fleet is set to rise from the current 129 to a total of 272 SU-30MKIs and an order for 126 Rafale Dassault Medium-range Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for over $12 billion is under negotiations. The IAF is upgrading 69 MIG-29s to MiG-29UPG for $964 million; 50 Mirage-2000H to Mirage-2000-V Mk2 by Thales and Dassault for $2.3 billion and these will be fitted out with 490 MBDA Mica missiles for $1.3 billion. Boeing is to supply ten C-17 Globemaster-III airlifters for $4.1 billion. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) is gearing up to hand over 40 Tejas LCAs to the IAF and facilities are being readied at Sulur for basing. The Russian-Indian Sukhoi Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) called PAK-FA is being jointly developed for induction after 2017. Augusta Westland has begun supplying 12 VIP AW-101 helicopters with EW equipment for $832 million; Pilatus has bagged an order for 75 Pilatus PC-7 trainers for $700 million and BAE is to supply 57 Hawks-132 with Adour 871 engines for $1 billion, of which 17 are earmarked for the Indian Navy. Six Lockheed Martin C-130Js for $1.3 billion have already arrived at Hindon airbase, and a spanking new facility is being readied at the sprawling Agra Air Force Station and six more are due to be ordered.

If the Indian Army and Naval and Air Force assets synergize, future challenges will be met more easily.

The supply of a total of 80 MI-17V armed helicopters is progressing and 71 more were added during President Putin’s visit on Christmas Eve. The 100-strong AN-32 transport fleet is being upgraded and will be replaced by UAC-HAL Medium-range Transport Aircraft (MTA). Plans to induct 22 combat Apaches AH-64E and 15 transport Chinook helicopters into the IAF are under negotiation. The Indian Navy (IN) has ordered 35 MiG-29K/KUB from Russia for $2 billion and aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) from Russia, will be delivered in end 2013. Already 15 Mig-29Ks have arrived at INS Hansa at Goa and are flying. Boeing is supplying eight Maritime Reconnaissance (MR) P8i for $2.3 billion with nose-mounted Raytheon APY-10 and belly-mounted Telephonics APN-143(V) radars. The first P8i has been taken over by an IN crew. The IAF flies six IL-78 air tankers which enhances IAF fighter range as far as to Chengdu and back and will be joined by 6 Airbus MRTT 330. Three IL-76 Phalcon AWACS with two more approved for induction and three DRDO-Brazilian Embraer-145 with CABs side looking radars with send receive switches are due to join from Brazil with AEW&C functions, to enhance direction and intelligence capabilities.

India’s Geographic Location and China’s Game

The location of the Indian peninsula and the status of its Navy make India a fulcrum state geographically. India juts majestically into the Indian Ocean which has become the ‘Global Life-line of the World’. 75 per cent of the world’s trade passes through it with 60,000 ships transiting annually. The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is also called the crucible of the future, where trade, cooperation, conflict, competition, rogue states, failed states, poor states, terrorism and rising states will have to coexist – and in this scenario, India has a pivotal maritime location.

South Africa and India formed the Indian Ocean Rim-Association For Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC) in 1997 with nations of the IOR headquarters at Mauritius but not much has been achieved. The IOR-ARC responsibility is moving to Australia and the USA was recently inducted as a observer, though Pakistan is not a member and not invited. Colin Gray, a strategist has called the 21st century ‘a bloody century’ and India will have to be ready to protect its trade and energy security which comes with the seas. In the future, as the wealth of Eastern nations led by China and India, and ASEAN rise the world will look more and more to the East’s gravity and the large populations with rising aspirations will look to the seas for oil, gas, resources and food. There will be a scramble for the seas so Navies are expanding. The CNS of France Admiral Bernard Rogel Admiral has called this “Martimization of the world in the 21st century.” The IAF and Navy aerial assets will be required to practice synergy over the seas too.


In conclusion, it is relevant to state that since time immemorial, the maritime history of nations has affected geo-strategic equations. The quality and quantity of maritime power has in a large measure contributed to the rise and fall of powers. Air Forces have always co-operated for the long range operations and the first strike ‘Kill Factor’ as was seen in the Falklands and Iraq Wars. The 21st century is witnessing the swift rise of China’s PLA (Navy) in the Far East which has a large air component, including SU-30s. China has displayed ambitions to possess and deploy its large, increasing nuclear and conventional maritime power far and wide, including warships in the Indian Ocean. This poses challenges for India but in recent times the IAF has shown the ability to operate as far away as 1,200 miles with mid-air refueling and soon the SU-30MKIs will get armed with long-range BrahMos missiles. If the Indian Army and Navy and Air Force assets synergize, future challenges will be met more easily. This will need a CDS, accretion of joint commands and re-organisation of the way the Government and the Armed Forces synergize. The ‘Jaise thay’ way may prove more costly.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Cmde Ranjit B Rai

Cmde Ranjit B Rai, former director - Naval Intelligence and Operations, and author of a 'Nation and its Navy at War'.

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