Force Protection

Indian soldiers will soon get made in India bullet-proof jackets

Lt Gen. Rameshwar Yadav (retd)

In our pursuit to enhance our national power, priority is being accorded to big ticket weapons and platforms in order to create a credible military deterrence. The significance of acquiring such compatible force ratios also lies in the fact that both our adversaries have a reckonable nuclear calculus which has reduced the window for conventional operations.

Hence, it is imperative to have force projection capabilities which can be applied in a short span of time in a decisive manner. Looking at the emerging competing military capabilities of our adversaries to strike deeper and swifter with high lethality quotient, makes it even more important to lay due emphasis on force protection especially when we have a weak and dismal defence production capabilities. While the acquisition is the buzzword in the armed forces, safeguarding the military and human resource assets is equally important to maintain the cutting edge.

Gone are the days when force protection was perceived as a domain of troops in contact in a conventional confrontation leaving the hinterland with minimal local defence structures. Nuclear and sub-conventional dimensions have added hybrid content to our threat paradigm. Therefore, the scope and reach of threat of the inimical elements goes much beyond the front line. We have sub-conventional afflictions in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast for quite sometime, besides incidents of externally-sponsored terrorist attacks across the length and width of the country. The threat seems to be lurking around almost everywhere prompting us to strengthen our protective mechanism in all its dimensions irrespective of geographical location of our vulnerable points and areas.

Within military parlance, the force protection is seen as a mechanism for not only the physical protection of military personnel and assets but it also looks at the overall capability of the armed forces. The strategic scope of force protection envisages protection of men, material, information and cyber domain over land, air, sea and space. The design would include detection–recognition-intervention and neutralisation of the hostile elements through a multiple tier mechanism spread astride the border, tactical deployments in immediate depth and VAs and VPs in the hinterland. The response cycle would be contingent on seamless information awareness at all echelons of command, control and execution for optimisation of assets available for the force protection. The best form of force protection is through force projection, thereby putting the enemy on defensive mode. Hence, there’s a need to induce offensive content in apparently a defensive mechanism.

The facilities and infrastructure in the hinterland need protection of assets like factories, ammunition dumps, ordinance depots, airfields, ports, headquarters, habitat of troops, training areas and ranges, weapon and vehicle parking areas etc. While there are dedicated troops for physical protection of such assets, there is a need to upgrade the protective mechanism through state-of-the-art technology. The smart fences, radars, night-enabled surveillance equipment, situation awareness systems and sensors, drones and artificial intelligence for data analysis and command functions may be employed to reduce the human interface which is the costliest and least productive means for the task at hand. The list is exhaustive and what matters the most is security consciousness and sensitivity towards force protection all across the military as well as requisite civilian domain.

Vehicle and movement protection of the forces is another important operational logistics activity which requires protection against interdiction by the enemy. This assumes importance as enemy would always try to delay and destroy the military hardware before it reaches the battlefield so as to attain favourable force ratios at the point of contact. It would entail ground and aerial protection of the railway, airfields and ports of embarkation and all through the routes of induction and designated projection areas. Within the tactical battle field, there would be requirement of protecting the troops and vehicles against the enemy fire, minefields and other destructive obstacles. Therefore, armoured protective vehicles, mine clearance devices and dispersion of forces are important attributes for force protection.

In insurgency-infested areas, militants are known to use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to inflict casualties and impose caution on the troop movements. Troops also require protection against small arms, grenades and rocket launchers while operating or transiting through insurgency areas in vehicles. Since there is a requirement of transportation of large body of troops, bullet-proof vehicles are required. As an interim measure, the formations have modified their trucks through improvised means to reduce the casualties from the IEDs and small arm fire. Such modifications have made the vehicles heavy making it difficult to move in negative terrain with restricted low capacity roads and tracks. There is a need to provide protection for troop movement in insurgency prone areas using state-of-the-art lighter yet more effective materials for the protective shield on the vehicles.

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