Friday 22 November 2019, 11:32 PM
Army’s Integrated Battle Groups to signify ‘cold start doctrine’
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 11/1/2019 2:35:06 PM
Army’s Integrated Battle Groups to signify ‘cold start doctrine’

The Indian Army is changing its war plans and operational deployment to have a new concept called the Integrated Battle Groups (IBG’s). It will be a major tweak to existing Army operations and readiness levels. IBG’s fully equipped with all elements of warfare, are to be pre-positioned facing the western and northern borders, making it the first major change of the Army in more than a 15 years.

Once done, this will be the first change to the ‘cold start doctrine’, first made public in 2004 and planned after ‘Operation Parakram’ of January 2002 when forces had deployed along the western front for some 10 months. The forces had taken a few weeks to deploy and the ‘delay’ led to changes which was called the ‘cold start’. It implies the Army’s readiness for offensive operations from a standing start.

The move is expected to change the way the force goes to battle. In the immediate,  the Indian Army has tasked the Western Command — headquartered at Chandimandir, near Chandigarh — to have the 9 Corps, raise an IBG that will be for the the frontier with Pakistan and what is operationally known as the ‘Shakargarh Bulge’. — an  area around Gurdaspur in Punjab and Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

This is part of a series of steps to restructure the Army to make it leaner and more agile. It comes at a time as nature of warfare is changing. One of the key changes is that attrition warfare along the borders to capture enemy territory will not be the only option, the forces will need rapid strike at selected targets using all assets, hence the IBG.

What will be the IBG: It will not be new raisings or inductions, it will involve integrating existing elements of infantry, tank regiments, artillery, UAVs, engineers and signals. An IBG will be a bigger form of a traditional brigade .The Army is looking at two types of IBG’s, smaller ones for the mountains ( the Himalayas facing China) and the bigger ones for the plains ( facing Pakistan). A bigger IBG could have 4-5 battalions of infantry and armoured,   2-3 artillery regiments, an Engineers unit, integrated Signals unit and also dedicated integral logistics.

This would mean the bigger IBG’s would translates into 8,000-10,000 troops in each IBG. The smaller ones in the Himalayas would be some 5000 strong with incorporated support of heavy lift helicopters like Chinook and Mi—17.  The IBG’s in the Himalayas facing China will be different from the ones on the western front. The IBG on the western front will have different equipment, training and attack tactics than the ones for Himalayas facing China. The latter will be have troops that are trained in high altitude operations and trained in mountain warfare.

In all the Army could, over the next few years, have 8-10 IBG’s in west and 3-4 IBG’s same in northern frontier with China. Army is also looking if it will have Brigadiers  command smaller IBG’s and Major General’s to command the ‘bigger’ IBG’s. Both will be under the Corps Commander of the area -- a Lieutenant General-rank officer. There are 14 Corps of the Army including the four Strike Crops.  An IBG is expected to bring a significant operational change in the Army.

The need for an IBG has come about as during war the combat group  ‘integration’  is done as the force is launched into battle. The IBG will be doing ‘integration’ in peace time. I am suggesting can we be integrated in peace time to save the time. In the existing format, the various battalions (of infantry, armoured artillery, signals and engineers) are already tasked to an area and integrate in battle time.

How this happened: In October 2018, The Army Chief General Bipin Rawat mooted a proposal to have IBG’s. Top-most commanders of the Army discussed decided to restructure the force in phases to convert it into a lean and mean 21st-century force. All suggested operational aspects such as having integrated battle groups have since been validated in exercises in Punjab in the summer of 2019. The 1.3 million-strong Army has undergone a change in tactics, but its size is not matching with limited budgets the government can allocate. The commanders ordered four major in-house studies.

The study on “Re-organisation and Rightsizing of the Indian Army” was one such study. It  reviewed operational structures to make them efficient and future-ready by taking into account the operational situation on western and northern borders. The IBGs were a part of this.  This is like preparing to keep forces ready for any future eventuality. The organisation structure is old and the IBG will be good change.
 

Tags:

Indian Army,Integrated Battle Groups,Jammu,Kashmir,Shakargarh Bulge

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