Synergised MobilisationGiving Indian Army a Strategic Head Start
The writer goes on the suggest supplementing our existing tank transporter fleet with CHTs which are readily available to the mechanised columns, for speedy mobilisation, through an institutional framework
It is well established that speedy military mobilisation holds the key to success in operations across the board and particularly so for mechanised ops. Not only is it important to deploy the holding formations at the earliest to establish operational balance, there is a necessity to position the strike assets in their launch pads as fast as possible in terms of time. It is no secret that mobilisation of mechanised formations to their launch pads is the deciding factor as to the day/ time of launch of offensive operations, longer the delay, more time it gives to the enemy to fill his voids and beef up the defences, thus reducing the chances of surprise, shock and success of the offensive force. Therefore, the key to success lies in finding innovative methods of mobilising the mechanised formations from the military stations/cantonments to their launch areas in the quickest possible time. Currently we resort to a combination of move by rail and road to mobilise our formations. For the road move, the army utilises the integral tank transporter resources supplemented by some civil hired tank transporters(CHTT).
Integral tank transporter resources of the army are limited in numbers. It would be extremely uneconomical to maintain a large number of regular stand-in tank transporter units for mobilisation as they cannot be optimally utilised during peace time. Though tank transporters are utilised for immediate logistic support during battle after carrying tanks to the battle areas, holding them in numbers larger than the present holding just to expedite mobilisation may not be justified from the point of view of economy. Hence the need to employ a mix of integral and hired tank transporters. There are load carriers in the civil which comprise of a prime mover and a flat bed trailer which are primarily used to carry containers. They are also suited for carriage of ‘A’ vehicles, of the army with minor modifications. Since the movement will be restricted to highways the power of prime mover is adequate to pull the trailer loaded with an ‘A’ vehicle without any problems. As regards the dimensions of the trailer, its length is more than adequate to load any ‘A’ vehicle but width is a handicap. These trailers are narrow thus needing improvisation to make them fit to carry tanks or Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) .In order to meet the requirement and to utilise the civil hired transport, a kit has been improvised by the army to make them fit for carriage of tanks or ICVs. Civil Hired Tank Transporter (CHTT) kit is fixed onto the trailer of the civil vehicles so that the bed of the load carrying trailer is widened to accommodate the BMPs width wise. As per government regulations, a load carrier in India is permitted up to a width of 2.7M. Incase, there is a need to operate a vehicle wider than 2.7m, there is a requirement of obtaining an over dimensional clearance(ODC) from the Govt of India, this obviously involves additional charges. Needless to state that smooth operation of such vehicles must be matched by highways of appropriate dimensions and classification so that the cumulative effect of vehicles and the highways becomes a strategic advantage. A famous Chinese dictum states that strategic infrastructure must as far as possible have an economic dividend. Consequently, a proposal to create strategic infrastructure or assets must ideally create corresponding commercial activity to benefit the economy in terms of earnings and job creation.
Dual use military/ strategic infrastructure specially in terms of rail or road communications results in economic development of the region. In fact, location of operational formations in the remote areas results in substantial development in terms of jobs created to support day to day requirements of the troops.
There is ample opportunity to create dual use infrastructure along our Western frontiers which will not only expedite mobilisation for operations but also generate adequate economic and developmental activity, along the border to improve the quality of life of population at large and reduce their dependence on agriculture and outdated economic activities.
India’s Western frontier in plains starts from Jammu/ Akhnoor , passes through large parts of Punjab and Rajasthan with Haryana echeloned towards the East. This Western alignment of the highways further leads to coastal Gujarat and onto the port city of Mumbai which caters for large quantum of cargo movement into and from the country. Hence this is a natural route for movement of cargo between the Western ports and Northern states of the country optimising the load carrier traffic between the Central route (passing through Madhya Pradesh) and the Western route to the ports on the Western coast. In fact , this can be developed as a subsidiary/alternate industrial corridor to the existing Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor. Some industrial clusters /SEZs can be established along this route. A large number of military formations are also located along these routes which need tank transporters to mobilise. Therefore, a transport company holding civil trucks with trailers which can carry tanks of all dimensions without major modifications, will become a dual use asset for mobilisation. These vehicles will operate as commercial carriers when not engaged with the military. It is obvious that such vehicles will need Over Dimensional Clearance (ODC) to operate, which is accorded by the central government. Needless to state that dimensions and Classification of the highways along these routes should be such that they enable smooth and safe operation of these vehicles.
In order to supplement the limited number of tank transporters available with the Army, it is proposed to create a “National Transport Company” equipped with commercial vehicles capable of carrying ‘A’ vehicles, on a Public Private Partnership model, which will operate as a commercial entity during peace time and facilitate mobilisation of mechanised formations by carriage of tanks and ICVs from the military stations to the operational areas when required.
Details of the Proposal
Concept. National Transport Company will operate as a Public Private entity between the Army and Veterans on a mutually agreed business model. Efforts will be made to ensure optimised outsourcing, so that the project is mutually beneficial and financially viable. While Veterans will provide vehicles manned and supervised by disciplined and trained manpower of Ex Servicemen, the Army will facilitate in providing parking and office spaces co located with the mechanised formations so that the cost overruns are minimised. Details of assets utilisation and functioning parameters are discussed in the succeeding paras.
Dimensions: In order to minimise loading time and give versatility, all vehicles of this fleet will be so configured that their trailers are of appropriate width (3.2M), to be able to carry all types of tanks and ICVs with minimal or no modification, not even requiring fixing of CHTT kits. Ready availability of such assets will surely reduce mobilisation period by enhancing capacity and facilitating simultaneous move of more mechanised formations.
Manpower: As far as possible the owners and drivers of the vehicles should be Veterans because they have knowledge of the terrain, procedures and operational environment which enhances efficiency and minimises response time, critical for speedy mobilisation. Supervisory staff and management in any case will comprise of Veterans only.
Colocation of Offices and Parking Areas: Most military stations have a convoy ground which is utilised to assemble all types of vehicles including civil hired transport during mobilisation and is invariably located on periphery of the military station with easy access to a highway. Incase these grounds are not existing in some military stations the same can be institutionalised and priority for construction could be accorded to stations where mechanised formations are located in the Western theatre. The Army could permit the NTC to park their vehicles in order to ensure affiliation and coordination at all times. The NTC could have their offices co located in the convoy grounds where mechanised formations are stationed. These convoy grounds could also have some civil repair and catering facilities which can form the skeleton, on which build up of these ancillaries can take place during operations.
Routes of Operation for NTC : In order to ensure that vehicles of the NTC are available at short notice, operation of these vehicles will be restricted to the highways created for the purpose along the Western theatre. This will also ensure safety since these would be vehicles of wider dimensions than standard vehicles. Revenue loss of the NTC due to this restriction can be compensated by giving assured CHT business during peace time to NTC. This will be a mutually beneficial arrangement from the point of view of security, economy and reliability .
Traceability of Vehices: All vehicles of NTC will be fitted with GPS or its Indian version as and when available so that their location can be monitored and if need be summoned to the required military station in the shortest possible time.
Alignment of the Highways. A deliberate effort must be made by the Government of India to upgrade these highways as strategic assets which will benefit both military as also act as stimulants for economic growth. A large number of tourism and agro business centres can be set up along these highways to ensure optimum utilisation during peace. This will be true development of strategic infrastructure with economic and development benefits. We can learn lesson or two from China who have publicised Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) as a great tourist destination which for sure has major strategic implication for both India.
The above project if implemented will not only add to India’s capacity to mobilise faster, but will automatically add to our strategic and economic strength. This will surely impose a cost on our adversary to match our strategic capability. Job creation due to incidental development will be bonus.