As part of defence reforms after the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the government is working on the formation of Integrated Theatre Commands. What are Integrated Theatre Commands? What are the advantages and challenges associated with this? Read here.
The appointment of the CDS and the creation of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) are momentous steps towards the integration and advancement of defence forces.
We all know that the Indian Army, Navy and the Air Force have their own commands all across India. But this Theatre Command would be solely responsible for integrated planning and coordinated application.
To learn more about the Integrated theatre commands and also to read on Chief of Defence staff click here.
What are Integrated Theatre Commands?
Combining the resources of all three services ( the Army, Navy, and Air Force) under a single commander to secure a particular geographic area is known as integrated theatre commands.
There are theatre commands in several countries, including China and the United States. The reports of the military reforms commission headed by Lt. General (ret.) DB Shekatkar made the concept of Theatre Command a suggestion.
It suggested setting up three integrated theatre commands: one in the north for the China border; one in the west for the Pakistan border; and one in the south for the sea role.
Is Theatre Commands a new idea?
It has long been suggested that India should establish an integrated tri-services command; this recommendation came after the Kargil conflict.
After Gen. Rawat was named Chief of Defence Staff in January 2020, he met with the vice chiefs of the armed forces to brainstorm potential designs for these commands.
The Air Defence Command, the first of three commands, may be established by the end of 2020, according to a prediction made by Gen. Rawat in early 2020. However, several issues, notably the Covid-19 epidemic, have caused the procedure to be delayed.
Current commands in India
- The Indian armed forces currently have 17 commands.
- There are seven commands each of the Army (Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western, Central, South-western and Army Training Command)
- The Air Force has seven commands (Western, Eastern, Southern, Southwestern, Central, Training and Maintenance).
- The Navy has three commands (Western, Eastern and Southern).
- A four-star military commander is in charge of each command.
Need of Integrated Theatre Commands
The goal of the theatre command system is to increase cooperation between the three components of the armed forces. A unified command will be established and headed by a single commander in place of separate commands for the army, navy, and air force.
An integrated theatre command facilitates the combining of the three services’ resources under a single commander to secure a specific geographic area.
The commander can utilise the logistics of all three services when conducting combined training.
Advantages of Integrated Theatre Commands
Improved troop acclimatisation to the given battle zone will help them understand the operational requirements in the designated area of operation.
The distribution of military hardware, such as weapon systems, command, control, communication tools, and combat support elements, will be theatre-specific and lead to resource optimization.
Understanding the training needs and administrative requirements of the troops will enable specialisation and appropriate improvement of war drills at all levels.
For speedy mobilisation and appropriate use during the anticipated, brief, high-intensity combat, the equipment can be purchased, maintained, and pre-positioned.
Challenges of Integrated Theatre Commands
- Experts claim that the structure itself—specifically, who reports to whom and how the chain of command is organized—is the main obstacle to successfully integrating the three services under the theatre command system. These include concerns with asset operational command and control.
- To enable the construction of a seamless theatre command system, it has also been noted that budgetary allocations and the distribution of finances are aspects that must be properly worked out.
- According to reports, the Indian Air Force is concerned about its assets becoming dispersed throughout the several theatre commands due to the perception that it has fewer resources. It has also been advised that more clarification be sought on issues related to operational control.
- The division of such meagre resources will reduce combat efficiency at the point of decision. Alternatively, these resources will have to be replicated for each theatre command. The cost of the same will be prohibitive, especially when the country is going through tiring
- The synergy between the services may be hampered by each service’s obsessive management of its resources and pursuit of a larger portion of the defence budget and power.
- Due to India’s little experience with integrated theatre commands, certain course modifications may be necessary as these commands develop.
- The need for single-point military advice for India’s civilian political masters cannot be over-emphasized. If the three service chiefs have a different perspective on military operation or other strategies, then the political leadership would be in a difficult situation.
According to lessons learned from the US, Russia, and China, the decision to establish integrated theatre commands must be made at the political level before being carried out by the armed forces.
A country’s response to problems with national security and its strategy for waging war is essentially determined by its military doctrine, which is a collection of ideas and convictions.
The new joint doctrine will achieve its purpose if India rapidly moves towards integrated military structures and undertakes long-term strategic planning to systematically build military capabilities in tune with its geopolitical aspirations.
Article Written by: Remya