Guest Column - Force Magazine
Separated at Birth
Jointness of the armed forces is essential for the true combat power to be unleashed
AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd)By AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd)
Air-land battle is a term coined by the Americans following their experiences in the Korean and Vietnam wars. They realised that tenets of fighting wars were no longer those based on the World War II model where large ground formations took on the adversary in what were basically variations of the frontal assault and large infantry and tank engagements. With precision guided munitions coming into the inventory from the end of the Vietnam War and technology driven air power getting a bigger say through the capability asymmetry that it introduced, a concept of synergising tactics in conjunction with operational art to generate the desired strategic effects took shape in the form of the air-land battle model.

The air-land battle concept underwent many modifications through upgraded versions of the US Army’s field manual FM 100-5. Very soon it was the buzzword in military circles (just as the new air-sea battle concept is on every strategist’s lips nowadays following the American pivot to Asia to counter a rising Chinese threat in the South China Sea, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region). Basically, though it is an army document, in the terminology of yesteryears, the air-land battle concept is the synergisation of the land and air power capabilities of a nation using their intrinsic potentials and those of its C4ISR assets. So, where does India stand in its endeavour to synergise the capabilities of its army and the air force in the 21st century?

The terms being used in Indian defence circles, unfortunately interchangeably, are jointmanship and joint operations; jointmanship is the spirit, the essence and the chi of the readiness to work and fight together while true joint operations are those that are conceived, planned, worked-up, practiced, directed and executed under a joint commander. In the former, the plans may be different but there is a readiness to see each other’s viewpoint and give ‘assistance’ when asked for, while the latter demands seamless integration in all aspects of planning and war-fighting; this implies that jointmanship is subsumed and is a given in joint operations. Joint operations, thus, stand on a higher pedestal in the hierarchy of amalgamation of the sense of purpose and quality of execution of a military task. The difference between the two terms also implies that equipping and training in a joint manner is a sine qua non for true jointness to be achieved. Only when this is done would the true combat power of the forces get focussed on the target in a synergistic manner. As the US Army’s FM 100-5 puts it, '…overwhelming combat power is achieved when all combat elements are violently brought to bear quickly, giving the enemy no opportunity to respond with coordinated or effective opposition.'

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