Empower the Infantry

Latest technology should aid the infantry for smooth mobility especially in tough terrains

Lt Gen. Rameshwar Yadav (retd)Lt Gen. Rameshwar Yadav (retd)

Infantry is the only combat component which has the capability to be mobilised on land, air and sea and forms part of the task forces of all configurations in all terrains and operational contingencies. It is also ‘the ultimate’ in military parlance because victory is considered as achieved only when the enemy ground is captured and thereafter held and denied to the enemy.

No other arm or sister services can do this task on their own due to their structural make-up for a specific role as part of the integrated battle without the support of the infantry. Therefore, the notion of destruction and capture as a military objective in conventional operations by aerial, naval, and army fire assaults cannot be achieved unless there are boots on the ground.

The fire assaults per se in any manner have their utility in shaping the battlefield and softening the objective for ultimate assault by the infantry and capture or secure the tactical ground. To do that, combat power must build up ‘fastest with mostest’ to achieve superior combat ratio at the point of decision in the tactical battlefield. Hence, the need to ensure compatible infantry mobility alongside mechanised forces and supporting arms for effective manoeuvre, and capability of its projection in enemy areas across negative terrains as obtainable in Indian context ranging from tactical to strategic level operations including out area contingencies.

While the mechanised forces are fully mobilised, and the supporting arms have optimal means of mobility in their war establishments, it is the infantry which does not have integral transport except for the essential fighting echelon equipment. It, in fact, has been done with a design to ensure operational flexibility of the infantry which in turn entails options for its mobilisation through varied means of transport plus reduce its logistics incumbencies. If there is nothing available, or not feasible to move transport, it marches on foot.

Having established the conceptual frame for infantry mobility, it would be appropriate to analyse the mobility requirements in varied terrains and operational contingencies. In that, the scope of discussion would be focused on conventional and sub-conventional operational context with peripheral reference to NBC environment to complete the picture. In that, infantry mobility for its varied roles to include Special Forces/ Para, mechanised, amphibious and regular infantry units employed for defensive, as well as offensive tasks in varied operational situations including counterinsurgency would form part of the discussion.

The Para battalions and Special Forces are the first responders to any military power projection tasks which entail their mobilisation by aerial means over strategic distances. It may be a tri-service, or standalone army operation. Moreover, once they land on the ground they need transport for essential weapons and operational activities. In order to insert a large number of paratroopers in a short time-frame, it would require large capacity aircraft with long-range endurance to reach the designated objectives instead of medium size aircrafts with limited carrying capacities which may lead to loss of surprise and consequent mid-air vulnerabilities. The transport after landing should be state-of-the-art light vehicles which can be Para dropped and preferably have a reasonable capability to move cross country.

Technologically superior aircrafts with a large turnaround, kitted with Para specific equipment, capable of survival in hostile territory and land at shorter field airstrips would be ideal for the Special Forces. Besides above, such aircrafts can be utilised for the air transported operation wherein regular infantry unit can be airlifted over strategic distances in minimal numbers of aircrafts. Aircrafts like C-130J, C-17, IL-76, C-295 etc., would be appropriate for the strategic aerial mobilisation tasks. The civil aviation aircraft fleet can also be utilised for transportation of infantry troops as back-up to the military aircrafts, when required.

Amphibious operations entail carriage of infantry and affiliated other arms in naval ships as far as possible close to the objective. It is the move from the ships to the shore which happens to be the crucial combat activity as it may be conducted in the face of hostile enemy fire. Accordingly, it requires lighter amphibious vessels yet capable of protecting the troops while conducting beach landing.

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