Military & Aerospace

Why not have ‘Technical Support Division’ at the Army Corps Level?
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Issue Vol. 29.2 Apr-Jun 2014 | Date : 18 Jul , 2014

The open minded thinking and emphasis on gaining ‘domain knowledge’ will liberate the stress-induced mindset of the majority of gifted and intelligent officers of our Army, so that they aspire to be greater than mere career minded automatons. They will have to prove their worth and create reputations by publishing articles and papers thereby contributing to product development in the most productive phase of their careers, when they are still driven by sincerity of purpose to make a mark. In this endeavour, we have a lot to learn from the Navy who have the best of domain specialists in the Indian Armed Forces at present.

The Indian Army’s senior commanders are frittering away resources while in a defensive posture…

In order to improve technology absorption and technical excellence in our combat arms units, there is the need to consider posting Engineers/Signals/Electronics and Mechanical Corps officers to combat units after they have put in eight years of service for a full tenure of two and a half years. This ‘criteria posting’ should be made compulsory for holding selection grade command appointment in their respective Corps.

The glaring aspect of lack of linguistics capability training should be addressed by putting selected Staff College Course qualified officers through a full time foreign language Diploma course within three years of their doing the Staff Course. These officers are the best lot that the Army system can produce, and they should be equipped with international level sets of skills especially of the languages spoken by our adversaries and collaborators. Only then can their vistas get broadened and their employability for Foreign Postings become worthwhile. They will be able to contribute inputs into the Army system which are not run of the mill type.

‘Theory’ of Optimisation of Resources available in an Army Corps Zone

In a defensive Corps zone, at least one-third of the resources available at combat unit and above should be held back as Reserves to influence the subsequent stages of a battle after the enemy has achieved a penetration or even break-in. Alternatively, these same resources should become available for limited offensive actions or carrying out large scale spoiling attack actions. Only by having one-third troops in reserve can a higher commander achieve tactical balance and flexible response. Today, we find that the Indian Army’s senior commanders are frittering away resources while in a defensive posture by pushing everything available forward – be it in the plains, mountains or even the deserts because they want to cater for every enemy contingency ab initio. So on the defender’s side there is always a shortage of troops, and inadvertently the best possible scenario is created for the attacker.

The Army needs to concentrate on modernising its internal processes to world standards…

A deep study of the reverses suffered in the 1962 India-China War and the battles of Chamb-Jaurian in 1965 and the 1971 War with Pakistan clearly reveal that the major cause of defeat was non-adherence to this fundamental maxim of offensive defence which, as per the attacker’s calculation, predictably led to escalation into panic situations and loss of morale on our side. When will the Army learn the perils of adopting the ‘defeatist’ Forward Policy, even after the shameful experience of 1962? It is agreeable when a politician utters the words that not an inch of Indian territory will be allowed to be occupied by our enemies, as this is meant for public consumption and boosting the morale of the general public; but if a senior general repeats these words, it will make Clausewitz laugh in his grave.

The essence of successful conventional defensive battle is in maintaining elasticity and cohesion; thereafter debilitating the enemy’s combat power to the danger zone of exhaustion and over-reach, then in launching own counter-offensive after minimum pause or by use of the ‘indirect approach’ offensive stratagem to topple/unhinge the enemy’s balance and make him reel back, and end up with the destruction of his main force and irrecoverable loss of his territory. In the Korean War, China committed 320,000 troops in two Army groups but could only achieve a stalemate whereas by committing a mere 30,000 troops mainly under 46 Corps, they were able to gain victory over us in 1962, without losing a single Chinese soldier as Prisoner of War.

This is where the infusion of TSD at the Corps level will make a great difference in our calculations. The TSD does not have active Combat Formations under it yet it plays the role of a force multiplier by effectively employing Tactical Reserves and deciding the right timing and objective for such Counter Strike. Its main aim and battle effort is to look deep into enemy territory and discern correctly his pattern of operations almost to a predictable certainty. This is the finesse the US Army has achieved and demonstrated during the last 15 years at Army Corps level force groupings, and the Israeli Defence Force and British Army at lesser force levels.

The tendency to create more bureaucratic structures at different Army levels should be avoided…

In a conventional threat scenario, the US Army does not have to earmark a large size force for a defensive role and almost 80 per cent of its combat power in a Corps zone is regenerated for offensive action, thanks to the high expertise and calibre of its TSD resources to orchestrate the re-forming of combat power. This is the secret of the ‘thought process’ behind the seemingly unstoppable US war machine. Imagine the transformation that will come to the Indian Army over the next four to six years, if by having a full-fledged TSD, the difference between Holding Corps and Strike Corps gets blurred due to our exploiting fully the ‘Inflexibility-Time lag’ syndrome suffered by the enemy. The role play would be like that of a large Hermit Crab approaching a lurking Giant Squid.

Cohesive Approach at Army HQs for Offensive Capabilities Technical Support

He who depends on himself and constantly develops his strength will never have to bite the dust when the crunch comes, goes an old saying. The Army’s dependence on RAW and its predecessor IB for external military intelligence has proved to be its Achilles’ heel during war. That is the way the Indian system works. Therefore, let us learn at least from experience to insulate our dependence on inputs for military decision making from such national channels, which should only be seen as a complementary or even as sweetened pills. The military advice to the political leadership should be of prognostic nature and not of ‘reactive’ nature, as is the case at present. This requires careful orchestration of the Army’s inherent capabilities and internal strengths. In the pre-Independence times, the Commander-in-Charge of the Indian Army had extensive intelligence gathering and analysis assets both to inform the Viceroy’s Council as well as to the UK War Department separately. If we have not built up on this legacy, we have nobody else to blame, especially if we do not succeed in operations.

In today’s circumstances, there is the urgent need to create the new post of a Principal Staff Officer to the Chief called Operational Technical Support General (OTSG). He should have the following Heads of Army HQs Departments reporting to him, in order to strengthen coordination of war support capability enhancement in Technical and Specialised fields:-

  • Director General Military Intelligence.
  • Director General Signal Intelligence.
  • Director General Electronics and Mechanical Engineers.
  • Director General Army Air Defence.
  • Director General Weapons and Equipment.
  • Director General Army Trials and R&D Establishments and Central Workshops.
  • Director General Military Training.

The military machines created by Shivaji and Aurangzeb and their underlying thinking should serve as ready historical guidelines…

The OTSG should be leading the Army’s war efforts during peacetime in order to get a clear picture of the enemy’s intentions, short-term plans and long term strategy. He should be mandated to formulate the required counter strategy for consideration of the Army’s decision making body. He should be the leading interface of the Army with the DRDO, MoD bureaucracy, Foreign Policy establishment, defence hardware production department and civilian intelligence establishments. This sort of constant interactions, if it leads to better understanding and working relationships, would help the Army to get superior dividends which would benefit the Operations Branch by giving it ‘lead time’ and better resources.


The tendency to create more bureaucratic structures at different Army levels should be avoided, in the holistic effort to multiply the Army’s flexibility and operational response at the cutting edge – which is the Army Corps level. This should meet the needs of the period of ‘apparent peace’, period ‘prior to hostilities’ and period of ‘active operations’. The Indian Army should further introspect and metamorphosize to be ready to fight future wars under modern conditions’, with the caveat of not increasing manpower strength. The Revolution in Military Affairs which has happened in the militaries of the First World in the last twenty years also has ramifications in our sub-continent in the present context; we should not be caught napping.

Instead of blindly going for more and more costly imported platforms, the Army needs to wrest the responsibility for its own modernisation from the MoD civilian manifestations, who, though not being stakeholders are nevertheless very well entrenched as they can continue to control all expenditures in our name. For this change in outlook to fructify, the Army needs to concentrate on modernising its internal processes to world standards, and gain expertise and ‘lead managers’ in not only its own spheres but also in all supporting spheres of work within the MoD. This is essential for gearing up for effective responses to contingencies and to develop assured war winning capability.

Let us do an annual ‘Planning Exercise’ in January on how to fight the wars in our regional context five years hence. This would throw up relevant and feasible challenges to work upon with achievable urgency. Converting defensive assets to dual use offensive capabilities is the essence of the principle of war of economy of effort. This requires new thinking to develop our capabilities, so as to assure a Corps Commander credible battlefield transparency, to enable ‘risk taking’ ventures to be undertaken with high guarantee of success. The Corps commanders should be involved in the annual planning exercise in January at the Army HQs level. The military machines created by Shivaji and Aurangzeb and their underlying thinking should serve as ready historical guidelines.


  1. History of Self Defence Counterattack Operations on the Sino Indian Borders – Jiang Siyi and Li Hui (Beijing Military Sciences Press, 1994).
  2. Chinese Warfighting – The PLA Experience since 1949 – Mark Ryan, David Finkelstein and Michael McDevitt (KW Publishers Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 2010).
  3. War in High Himalayas – The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962 – Maj Gen DK Palit (C Hurst & Co Ltd, London, 1991).
  4. Chamb Battles: Recollections of Pakistani Commanders – Internet.
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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

Col JK Achuthan (Retd.)

8 GR was commissioned in June 1980. 

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8 thoughts on “Why not have ‘Technical Support Division’ at the Army Corps Level?

  1. Col Achuthan, you seem to be suffering from a common malady that prevails in our Army – its the ‘Staff College Fixation’. The same malady fixates the functioning of the MS branch. Only a PSC will go on the foreign junket etc etc. What staff college does is that it closes the mind of a person and fixates him to ambition. Ambition curtails flexibilty and narrows the horizons of the mind. Foreign language has nothing to do with a PSC. We can train many officers and men in foreign languages if they are willing to learn and not have a one year break. We waste talent in our Army as we close our doors to logic and flexible thinking. We loose out on good officers who leave the service and do well in the corporate sector. Our Officer management is in poor form and is afflicted with a disease called the MS Branch where people begin to consider themselves to be demi-gods once they sit in the comfort of the South Block. We dont have specialsation we think officers are flexible pegs to be fitted into anykind of hole. Ambition – the desire to acquire the next rank is destroying the fabric of this army. The Army today is mentally stagnated; it basically runs on day to day basis. We are the third largest Army in the world but we dont influence a yard across our borders, we are not factored into our foreign policy. Our Generalship contentedly somnambulates in service – a very apathetic attitude. Two heads get chopped off on the LOC and we do nothing. Thats the most glaring example of of dissonance in our service. Nobody knew what to do?? Why ?? They perhaps just sacked the Co and moved on. Btw .. i am not a disgruntled element. I enjoyed my time in service but I didnt block my mind to the realities around me and do like to express my opinion about it and did so while in service too. Regards.

  2. Even take example of Pakistan in its current operations in North Waziristan where only about 20 casualties have been reported,they dont do hand to hand combat instead are using too much air power and long range weaponry,thats logical in such hilly terrain…most of army casualties previously have come from IED blasts not in direct conflict…learn something positive even if its from enemy

  3. Why not have ‘Technical Support Division’ at the Army Corps Level? It is an excellent idea, however, intelligence is also very sophisticated equipment dependent, which would require a paradigm shift in the way the army procures equipment, thinks and handles ideas and innovation. Under the current system of procurement well laced with bribes, the army will be many-many years behind in applying any appropriate technology.

    On the subject of – India can make major defence equipment? conceptually, I am sure it can happen, however from a practical standpoint it must await a systematic evolution of a superlative degree. The corruption that has evolved in India is testimony to the fact that basic intelligence, ambition and survival instincts are present in abundance; only the energy has to be re-channelized.

    It is a collective responsibility of the citizenry that India has been plagued by very poor leadership at all levels: political, administrative and defence, which is the bane the country has been carrying. Thus the awakening must come at a collective level before the seeds of a ‘Golden Hind’ can germinate.

  4. More than structural reorganization, India needs a change of attitude and re orientation. Starting at the top. Simplicity and directness in objective definition and attainment. We need, above all, to do away with the dissimulation (and corruption) of the Netas and the obfuscation (and congenital incompetence) of the Babus and their profound influence on the thinking and working of the Armed Forces.

  5. I entirely endorse the comments of Tony Sarao. I am, of course, not privy to the latest organizations of a corps and division. If, indeed, they have a divisional surveillance centre and a corps surveillance centre, tasked with the responsibility of furnishing real-time intelligence inputs to their own headquarters, all that needs to be done is to provide them with the equipment and wherewithal essential for such tasks. It should be clearly understood that more independent entities make it that much more difficult to perform a given task. It has often been seen that the most difficult task in both war and peace is the aspect of coordination between disparate entities. It is always preferable to place units under the corps headquarters / divisional headquarters for optimum and real time utilization of resources.

  6. Why reinvent the wheel . You have the Divisional Surveillance Center and the the Corps Surveillance Center. Ideally, with proper manning, communications and equipment as authorised to the Division and Corps SATA Batteries/Regiments to include the inputs from AA / R and O, UAV’s , Satl terminals, LORROS / WLRs, BFSRs(at all levels) and with the Corps Tac and the Int Branches being another input / surveillance provides , this organisation is tailor made to cater for all needs , atleast till the requirement of the Corps area of interest ! The problem is harnessing , amalgamating,collating and coordinating our available resources for real time requirements . The same problem will be faced by the TSD , it is better to streamline the functioning of the Surveillance Center , rather than make another organisation.

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