Military & Aerospace

Whither Jointmanship in India?
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Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013 | Date : 23 Feb , 2013

Joint mechanisms need to be evolved to obtain the best value for money and the best operational choice. Which would be more effective in the Himalayas, attack helicopters or fighter aircraft, UAVs or fighter aircraft for dull, dreary and dangerous missions, fighter aircraft or long range missiles, long-range fighter aircraft with refuellers and MR aircraft or a carrier group consisting of ASW craft, submarines, destroyer escorts, minesweepers and the like? Or which combination of these types would provide the optimum combat effectiveness based on a common military strategy and a common vision of the battle space. A SWOT analysis should be done, the battle situation war gamed using simulation techniques and where possible, played out in a simulated setting to determine the optimum choice. A joint approach towards defence planning and development of the armed forces would ensure maximum “Bang for the Buck!”

Domain expertise is also associated with a cost-effective approach towards every aspect of operations…

Domain Expertise

Domain expertise is also associated with a cost-effective approach towards every aspect of operations. This applies principally to the supporting roles by the IAF to the Army and the Navy and to other weapon systems and structures like air defence systems which impinge on the other service.

The main impediment in the air-land collaboration has been the argument on the importance of the air superiority campaign vis-à-vis that of offensive air support missions. It is perceived in many quarters that the battle for air superiority is an air force’s private battle as air power and airmen are detached from the situation on the ground. However, the point that is often missed is that no surface movement would be possible without a modicum of air superiority. The battle for air superiority is as vital for the unimpeded movement of the land or maritime forces as it is for the air force. The battle is thus a means to an operational level end. That the land forces in the Gulf War were able to carry out their tasks, without any Interference from the Iraqi Air Force, bears testimony to the need for air superiority as a pre-requisite in a campaign.

The second and perhaps a thornier issue between the two Services is that of close air support. History has revealed that in most situations, the primary task of air power is to attain air superiority, but priorities can be altered with close air support preceding air superiority. This was done in the war in 1973 by the Israeli Air Force during the 1973 Yom Kippur War to prevent the Israeli army from the Israelis to prevent their ground forces from being overrun by the armoured columns of the Egyptians and Syrians. Priorities can change with offensive and defensive campaigns. This is best done when all air power assets are brought to bear on the centre of gravity when the situation demands.

Joint training offers the most optimum route to enhance ‘jointmanship’ in the three Services…

The other aspect is that aircraft are ubiquitous by design. In fact, practically all fighter, transport and rotary wing aircraft are capable of multiple tasks. Helicopters, for example, can, with modification, perform a variety of tasks such as ground attack, airlift of men and material, casualty evacuation, electronic warfare and even for interception of enemy helicopters or transport aircraft. Take the case of attack helicopters. They are effective not only in disrupting the advance of armoured columns but also for attacking enemy radars, escorting heavy and medium-lift helicopters in the tactical theatre. The attack helicopters, close support aircraft and a number of other platforms when used creatively and with a full understanding of their potential vulnerabilities, are critical to the success of conflict. Ownership or command and control issues will also have to be resolved during peacetime. UAVs and long range missiles are the other systems that would come under this rubric.

Besides operational aspects, one needs to consider the duplication in training and maintenance infrastructure. Take the case of the same type of helicopter being operated by two or three services. As soon as the acquisition of helicopters reaches a respectable figure, that particular service may place a request for setting up separate training and maintenance facilities, to focus on their service specific tasks. This will result in duplication of effort, especially when both services are operating the same type of aircraft. Reducing this type of duplication will free some manpower and funds budgeted for individual service needs in other areas.

Joint Training

The next aspect, joint training offers the most optimum route to enhance ‘jointmanship’ in the three Services. The keystone to joint operations is not structures alone, but synergistic thinking which needs to be developed from the early stages of the career of an officer and a soldier/sailor/airman. Presently, airmen of the IAF of all trades have to undergo basic drill and physical fitness training jointly, before they branch out to their trade-specific training. This initial training can be done at a training institution run jointly by staff from the three Services. Also, wherever possible, joint training for trades such as Mechanical Transport, Communication and Electronics, Logistics can be carried out at one tri-service training institution. Inter-operability of equipment will further make this mode the preferable one.

The National Defence Academy is the first joint training institution for new entrants for the three Services…

As for officers, the National Defence Academy is the first joint training institution for new entrants for the three Services. The initial two years are devoted to academics, general and physical training. Service-specific training is imparted in the third year. This pattern could be modified to expose all trainees irrespective of the service they are recruited for, to all the basics of three services from the very beginning. At the Defence Services Staff College, where junior officers of the three services are trained together in staff work, the pattern of study presently for the army wing is focused on army operations at the tactical level, while the curriculum for the air force and the naval wings is pitched at the operational and strategic level. This pattern may be modified to raise the study of operations for the army wing to the operational level of division/corps. This will make it easier for all service officers to operate at similar levels and also appreciate the impact of air, land and naval power in different operational scenarios.

Furthermore, an analytical study by officers of the three wings of the impact of air, land and naval power in previous wars and how they influenced the course of the war needs to be carried out. Wherever possible, studies of common topics like strategy, doctrine, the effect of technology on the doctrine of the three Services, cyber warfare, information warfare and logistics should also be conducted jointly. Undoubtedly, there would be many more areas where joint training could be made more meaningful.

Joint Training Exercises

It is important for the three Services Commanders at each Command HQ to sit together with their respective staff and formulate joint plans. Plans need to be followed up with simulated exercises employing Operations Research techniques. This would enable the Commanders to plan the sequencing of the actions by two or more services, for each phase of the battle plan. This should be followed by periodic joint exercises where the entire planning and conduct is carried out centrally by a core group of planners from the three Services in each command. These joint exercises should not be an overlay of singly appreciated plans by individual services, as is the case now, but should originate from a jointly appreciated threat leading to the formulation of a joint plan. Significant emphasis should be placed on time spent in formulating the strategic decision and evolving a joint plan rather than focusing on the tactical level activities.

It makes abundant sense to have a common format for appraisal to cover the essential qualities in professional aptitude and character…

Each command’s training capsules would be the basis of forging ‘jointness’ through the entire rank structure of the three Services. Once the common objectives are stated and the individual objectives defined, it will take knowledge, practice and time as officers and men of the three Services interact with each other to understand the commonalities between each Service and their uniqueness. Also, it will be easier to work out a focused ISR approach, a common communications and cyber protocol, a common EW plan, an integrated aerospace defence and logistics plan using air, land and naval assets.

Human Resource Development

Finally, the important aspect of Human Resource Development that will bring the three Services on to a common platform that will serve as an enabler to ‘jointmanship’.

Cross Posting

Cross postings of officers of the three Services at junior levels be made a preferable requirement for promotion to higher ranks. For example, it should be possible for junior officers of the three services to be posted against staff vacancies of other service HQ for a tenure and their performance assessed. They then return to their parent service till completion of a command or staff assignment. Subsequently, they could be posted to staff posts in the other Service’s operational commands, in similar posts in the operations, maintenance, logistics and administrative disciplines. Officers who have done well in these joint appointments be given preference in promotion.

Services must look beyond inter-service conflict and rivalry that result in dysfunctional force applications…

Norms for Promotion

Each Service follows its own pattern of annual assessment and norms for promotion. However, in an environment where there would be a mix of officers of the three Services and required to be assessed by officers of the other Services, it makes abundant sense to have a common format for appraisal to cover the essential qualities in professional aptitude and character.


Appointment of the CDS, an understanding of the importance of domain expertise and impetus to joint training/ HRD aspects, will promote closer interaction and understanding of the distinctive characteristics of each service. This process will enable continuous communication between officers and men of the three services. These measures should ensure adequate inter-service exposure of officers beginning at junior levels to enable them to acquire broader vision with advancements in career. The essence of true ‘jointmanship’ lies not in merely setting up additional operational structures but in breaking established mindsets. This is in fact, the preliminary, but the most difficult part of achieving ‘jointness’. True coherence will come in joint operations when we can think past individual service integration, to think about integrating forces within the domains of attack, manoeuvre and defence. Services must look beyond inter-service conflict and rivalry that result in dysfunctional force applications or the absence of needed war fighting doctrine and procedures. But this will take time and will demand enlightened leadership.


  1. Military Lessons from Desert One to the Balkans by Ike Skelton
  2. A Military for the 21st Century: Lessons from the Recent Past by Anthony C. Zinni
  3. SP’s Aviation,Nov 2012 Issue
  4. Wikipedia-Yom Kippur War.
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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

Air Marshal Raghu Rajan

former Dy Chief of Air Staff, has flown fighter and transport aircraft as well as helicopters.

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2 thoughts on “Whither Jointmanship in India?

  1. I disagree with the fact that Navy fears getting swamped by Army. In many ways other than the number or strength, Navy is far far ahead of Army and air force in terms of Indigenous and the role carried out by Navy can not be done by Army and air force. Every service has got their specific role which can’t be carried out by other services. And moreover Jointmanship can teach us in many ways to excel in our own services by getting best of all… It is not that only in war jointmanship is required. It should be a way for the defence force and should be a vision for all architect of our future..

  2. The military is one identity to the citizenry. It appears that people are interested in the distinction between the armed forces in a manner more pronounced, as they would be in the distinction between The Poona Horse Regiment, The Maratha Regiment and The Gurkha Regiment. These identities would fight in a manner together in a conflict. And with great goodwill. The point is, we will never need an amphibious landing, with regular infantry, and the navy has the MARCOS commandos. I don’t exactly know any commando formation on land, to do with the army. They might be secret, and regular officers also undergo commando training, as they might lead them. It seems really obvious, that such exercises between military arms do take place, and regularly. Not involving the navy, though.

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