Indian Corps location and deplyment strategy

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One must look at the India’s possible deployment vis-à-vis Pakistan, based mostly on the Indians’ Order of Battle (ORBAT) during the 2002 crisis. The Indian Army has five Commands. The Northern Command at Udhampur near Jammu looks after Kashmir, the Western Command, at Chandimandir, looks after Punjab and Rajasthan with the borderline at Bikaner, the Southern Command at Poona looks after Gujarat and Maharashtra, the Central Command at Lucknow has a Strike Corps, including the 31st Armoured Division meant for the western border and the Eastern Command at Calcutta looks after Counter-Insurgency in Assam and the NEFA border with China. The Pakistani Armed Forces essentially face India’s Northern, Western and Southern Commands. India has troops earmarked against Pakistan as Army Reserve in both the Central and Eastern Commands.

The Northern Command consists of three Corps: XV Corps at Srinagar comprising the 19th Infantry Division (at Baramula) and the 28th (Gurais). XIV Corps at Leh comprising 3rd Infantry Division (Leh) and 8th Mountain Division (Nimer). XVI Corps at Nagrota (Jammu) is a Corps plus with five Infantry Divisions, the 10th (Akhnur), the 25th (Rajauri), the 26th (Jammu), the 29th (Pathankot) and the 39th (Yol). It also has three Independent Armoured Brigades, the 2nd, the 3rd and the 16th. There is an Artillery Brigade with each Corps. The 39th Infantry Division and the three Armoured Brigades are engaged in Counter-Insurgency duties and form the Command Reserve. The other Divisions are all deployed at the Line of Control (LoC).

The Western Command consists of three Corps, XI Corps at Jullunder, deploying 7th Infantry Division (Ferozepur), 9th Infantry Division (Chandimandir) and 15th Infantry Division (Amritsar), 23rd Armoured Brigade and 55th Mechanised Brigade, the two Strike Corps being two Corps and X Corps at Ambala and Bhatinda, respectively. The 2 Corps has 1st Armoured Division, 14th RAPID Division, 22nd Infantry Division and 14th Independent Armoured Brigade while X Corps has the 18th and 24th RAPID Divisions, 16th Infantry Division and 6th Independent Armoured Brigade.

The Southern Command consists of the XII Corps (Jodhpur) with 11th and 12th Infantry Divisions deployed at Ahmedabad and Jodhpur and the XXI Strike Corps (Bhopal) with 33rd Armoured, 36th RAPID and 54th Infantry Division. There are three Direct Reporting Units, 30th Artillery Division, which usually moves to Western Command. The 50th Independent Parachute Brigade and 333rd Missile Groups (India’s nuclear artillery unit having Prithvi missiles) are meant to be deployed from the Southern Command Area to Punjab and Rajasthan. During the 2002 crisis some formations moved from the Eastern Command to areas facing Pakistan, 57 Mountain Division, 2nd Mountain Division and 27 Mountain Division.

The Indian Aerospace Forces (IAF) consists of five operational commands, Western Air Command (New Delhi) controlling air operations from Kashmir to North of Rajasthan, Southwestern Air Command located at Gandhinagar controlling air operations from Rajasthan to Maharashtra, Central Air Command at Allahabad, Eastern Air Command at Shillong and Southern Air Command at Trivandrum. Pakistan is primarily concerned with Western Air Command and Southwestern Command, with 8air deployments from the other Commands.

Western Air Command has an Air Operation Group at Udhampur (near Jammu) dedicated to occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Its fighting units are based at Leh, Srinagar, Udhampur, Jammu, and Pathankot (total 96 aircraft). In Punjab its bases are at Amritsar, Adampur 17, Halvara, Chandigarh, Ambala, Bathinda, Sirsa and Suratgarh (Total 332 Aircraft).

Southwestern Air Command was previously under operational control of Western Command, it now controls air operations in Rajasthan and Maharshtra. Its fighting units are based at Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Agra, Jodhpur, Uttarlai, Jamnagar and Pune (total 263 aircraft). To back these Central Air Command has two Squadrons of Mirage 2000H at Gwalior which can be switched to the other Commands facing Pakistan (36 aircraft). Total deployment against Pakistan in 2002 was in excess of 753 combat aircraft, almost the whole of the IAF.

India’s Navy has three Naval Commands. Western Naval Command at Mumbai provides naval defence of the Arabian Sea. A new naval base has come up between Mumbai and Cochin at Binaga Bay, with an advance base at Dwarka. The Navy’s Missile Boat HQ is at Colaba. Eastern Naval Command, is based at Vizagaptam with a submarine base, it provides naval defence of the Bay of Bengal. The Southern Naval Command at Kochi is mainly a training base. Both the Western and Eastern Naval Commands will be involved in operations against Pakistan. Their surface fleet consists of one aircraft-carrier, 7 guided-missile destroyers, 7 guided-missile frigates, 3 frigates, 4 corvettes, 10 large patrol craft, 5 fast patrol boats, 3 fast-attack missile boats and 18 minesweepers. They have 1 nuclear-powered submarine and 13 diesel-powered submarines in service (1 Foxtrot Class, 9 Sindhughosh Class and 3 Shashikumar Class). India’s Naval Air Arm with HQs at Goa consists of a squadron of Jaguars and Sea Harriers each, other than 6 Sea-Kings and 20 Cheetak helicopters. The Jaguar squadron (at Poona) is operated by the IAF.

The Indian Navy, which focuses on anti-ship capabilities with an emphasis on attack submarines, has the capacity to support a multi-service heliborne-cum-para-cum amphibious operation, provided it has adequate air cover. This amphibious capability is built around 304th Army Independent Brigade at Vizagapatam. Their Marine Commando Force (Marcos for short) is based at Mumbai, Cochin and Vizagapatam. The Indian Navy has a heavy lift capacity with 2 new 5,600-ton Magar Class Landing Vessels with 4 Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel (LCVP). Four Polnochny-class vessels have helicopter platforms. They also have 7 locally built 500-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU). They also have 11 Cosmos midget submarines of Italian origin that can ride the back of Foxtrot-class submarines.

The Indians can deploy four Strike Corps against Pakistan, one each against the Southern part of Azad Kashmir, Central Punjab, Southern Punjab and one against Sindh. They have the necessary balance to focus their attack in a combination of two or even three corps but time and space dictate they cannot move more than one strike corps on any axis and they have to cater for our counter-offensive. Since no ground offensive is possible in the desert without heavy air cover, their air deployment in 2002 suggested that the focus of their strike corps could well be in the south (Western and Southern Commands). One should expect a combined heliborne, para and/or amphibious operation. Both the Indian Strike Corps, 2 Corps from Western Command at Jaisalmer and 21 Corps at Barmer from Southern Command could be reinforced with additional Divisions from Eastern Command (moving through Jodhpur) and have integral Helicopter Attack Squadrons, Engineer, Artillery and Air Defence Brigades. The deployment of the Army’s Direct Reporting Unit, 30th Artillery Division will give the fulcrum of the lines of attack. Jodhpur in 2002 had a concentration of heavy lift MI-8/M-17 helicopters, supplemented by AN-32s at Agra, Gwalior and Chandigarh. Agra is the peace station for another Direct Reporting Unit, the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade.

With all 3 Armoured Divisions and all 4 RAPID Divisions and at least 2 out of 5 Independent Armoured Brigades concentrated in Rajasthan, the resource allocation makes their offensive targets obvious, along the Jaisalmer-Rahimyar Khan axis or along the Barmer-Mirpurkhas axis, most probably both. They could also possibly attempt helicopter troop transportation/amphibious LST and launch XXI Strike Corps for a link-up. They practiced this in 2002. The area between Badin and Sujawal east of the Indus thus becomes vulnerable. Given Pakistan’s counter-riposte potential this could end up being “a bridge too far.” The Indian Navy cannot blockade Karachi Port with the same impunity they did in 1971, our Exocet-armed Mirages and enhanced submarine fleet will keep them well off-shore, even outside our 200 miles territorial limit. Our Navy would love to get the Indian aircraft-carrier within combat aircraft range.

In 2002 Indians moved Directly Reporting Unit 333rd Missile Group consisting of 3 Prithvi Batteries with 4 launchers each to the border areas. Their two Strike Corps in the Rajasthan Desert (2 and XXI) provide a better target for a possible Pakistan tactical nuclear strike. If at anytime our conventional forces lose ground threatening our North-South communications, we will use the weapons at our disposal.

Pakistan has no desire for war but it may be forced on us. We will certainly have grievous casualties and horrific damage in a conventional war even without a nuclear exchange. Unfortunately, we have no option but to fight.

The writer is a defence and political

analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

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