Deep Air Land Battle
Collective training is a ritual continually performed by Army formations. It aims at validating new concepts and weaving the different elements, which form a part of any formation, into a homogeneous entity, making each part work in sync and coordination with the other. The exercises also aim at rehearsing various operational contingencies besides promoting inter service integration. And last but not the least, draw lessons from the experience so that improvements can be affected, where necessary and the creases ironed out.
It is towards these ends that South Western Command conducted Exercise VIJAY PRAHAR employing approximately 20000 troops in the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Rajasthan. A wide variety of equipment to include tanks, attack helicopters, artillery and aircraft of the IAF were employed during the high tempo joint air and land operations.
The aim of Exercise VIJAY PRAHAR was essentially to practice troops in penetrative manoeuvres across obstacle ridden terrain under a nuclear umbrella. It also envisaged employment of attack helicopters in the air cavalry role and bold and offensive application of the Special Forces in a networked scenario.
During the exercise, certain innovative concepts were tried out. The exercise took place in a ‘networked environment’ where in sensors were integrated with weapon platforms, seeking to translate the information advantage, thus available, into a competitive advantage through robust computer networking of geographically dispersed forces.
The induction of the ‘Weaponised helicopters’ into the Indian Army is in the offing in the foreseeable future. These would provide a potent offensive platform on the battle field. As these are equipped with ultra-modern sensors and high precision weapons they would enhance the ability of the ground commanders to act decisively, boldly and offensively. Success in tomorrow's battlefield will be dependent on the lethality of the combined offensive punch delivered by the mechanised forces on the ground and the weaponised helicopters, which are the new cavalry in the air.
Needless to say, the combined effort between the two- mechanised forces on the ground and the helicopters- would require a very high degree of coordination so that their collective impact can be maximised. It is to achieve this, that the strike formations of the Command rehearsed and perfected offensive manoeuvres involving mechanised forces and helicopters to destroy enemy armour. The concept is being called the ‘The Air Cavalry’ and further sharpens the teeth of the forces to deliver punitive blows.
Indigenous Tacsim equipment was used by the opposing sides during the exercise to draw out correct tactical lessons and realistically assess the effectiveness of the firing by opposing sides. Simfire adds realism and makes up for the lack of firing which has been a persistent drawback in our tactical training.
Our army is also gradually gearing itself to fight in a contaminated battle field. A fair amount of equipment and requisite gear is already available with us for this eventuality. Drills and procedures have also evolved over a period of time. The exercise provided an opportunity to fine tune the drills and assess our capabilities. Troops were made to practice and fine tune drills for fighting in a ‘dirty’ battle field, where a nuclear bomb has been exploded by the adversary.
Lt Gen Cherish Mathson, Army Commander of the Sapta Shakti Command witnessed the final offensive of his forces and at the end of it stated that “designing an offensive campaign on the principles of Operational Art in a deep Air- Land battle with real time Intelligence – Surveillance and Reconnaissance using space-based surveillance marked the beginning of VIJAY PRAHAR. The concept of AIR CAVALRY employing attack and weaponised helicopters has also been validated. Participating formations are now confident of ‘fighting dirty’ and continuing the offensive even after a Tactical Nuclear, Chemical or Biological attack by the adversary by our modern CBRN capability. With contemporary ‘Just in Time’ logistics, our deep thrusts can be sustained effectively. Effective Jointmanship with the Indian Air Force has been validated beyond doubt.”