Needed: Air-Mountain Warfare Doctrine for India

Germans created Blitzkrieg in WW II. A combination of Panzer armored divisions with air power. The world saw the implementation of synergy of two different dimensions of warfare. The Air-Land battle doctrine was the conceptual construct on which US created Operation Desert Storm in 1991 against Iraq. It was an unprecedented success with almost 2 months of continuous air-operations before starting the armor action. After the initial elimination of Iraqi ability to see and observe through various technological capabilities, the B-52 Stratofortress’s continuously dropped iron bombs that led to very swift ground action and complete subjugation of larger Iraqi forces. Although it was not exactly the evolution of Blitzkrieg that Germans did with their Panzers in WW II, nevertheless, the world saw the power of synergy of multiple warfare dimensions. What are the key lessons that a country like India can take from these?

Indias lessons Can we create an Air-Mountain Warfare Doctrine?

Troops induction at a forward Air Force base
Troops induction at a forward Air Force base near Siachen. Image: MoD

India faces two very hostile foes in Pakistan and China. The military problem is that the borders with both these countries are very different. For example, against Pakistan the armour based operations are possible although the line of sight in plains of Punjab may be less than 800m, yet tanks have fairly open space to make deep inroads. Desert with more than 1000 m line of sight and large open space is definitely a tank warfare arena. It is really against China, India faces a very different terrain. The tank operations in mountains are extremely difficult and in fact likely to be useless as tanks may become sitting ducks when their mobility is either not possible or at best reduced considerably. The infantry becomes the key force for the army. The next dimension of warfare that is the air is available to create a possible synergy to create military capability and operations that are more potent and efficient. The nature of war against Pak and against China will be different – hence what will be an armor based war with Pak, will have to be infantry/mountain + air war against China. Do we have a doctrine for Air-Mountain Battle doctrine? The Air-land battle doctrine employed in Iraq by US was developed in 1980s – the conceptual constructs of that doctrine. Where are conceptual constructs of India’s Air-Mountain battle doctrine? It is time to debate and create the conceptual constructs of such a uniquely Indian doctrine? The current acquisition of C-130s and C-17s indicates some thoughts on Air mobility and theater switching of brigade size forces. However, it is very late in the game. Following Sun Tzu – why we should fight the Chinese war, instead we should create the scenarios and reactions where we should be taking initiatives against China and Pakistan, not reacting to their strategic surprises.

In summary, we need to create an integrated Air-Mountain Warfare doctrine. This then should also integrate Space dimension, Cyber dimension and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) dimensions for the border against China.

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