The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army huddle on lightning force

New Delhi, Aug. 11: The top brass of the Indian Army have assembled at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra to brainstorm on a new offensive doctrine that envisages small combat formations capable of lightning attacks.

The “cold start” doctrine ' a euphemism for ready-to-launch combat groups that will not require mobilisation ' was shaped by army chief General Joginder Jaswant Singh (in picture) when he was head of the Army Training Command, the Shimla-based think-tank.

The “cold start” doctrine draws lessons in mobility and speed in land-based assault from America’s invasion of Iraq. It is being analysed at the political levels of the security establishment because it places an onus on the political leadership to be decisive in times of conflict.

Official sources said the army chief, the vice-chief, the deputy chief, the director-general of mechanised forces and nearly 300 senior officers have been summoned for the inaugural mechanised forces conference at the Fighting Vehicles School in Ahmednagar.

“It is visualised that this conference will throw up issues of relevance for the mechanised forces, to enable our army to cope with a constantly changing military environment and the current revolutionary developments in mechanised warfare,” a statement said.

The doctrine has emerged after critical evaluations of the army’s performance during the 10-month stand-off with Pakistan in 2001-2002 (Operation Parakram) and in the Kargil war in 1999 concluded that mobilisation of forces robbed battle plans of the surprise element.

The “cold start” doctrine also means that the Indian military machine is exploring ways of waging war under the nuclear shadow ' with both India and Pakistan claiming to be nuclear powers ' and before international intervention freezes conventional armed conflict.

Elements of the doctrine were tested at an exercise at Gah near Jalandhar in the early summer this year.

Central to the doctrine is the creation of brigade-sized “integrated battle groups”. Such integrated battle groups are being created in the “holding (defensive) formations” that are located close to the western border. The holding formations are being re-designated as “pivot” corps.

A new command, the Jaipur based south-western command, has also been created in a restructuring of army formations that has been on since the middle of 2004.

The integrated battle groups would have high mobility with armoured and mechanised vehicles (tanks, BMPs) and, in theory at least, will be networked with artillery divisions and the air force.

At the conference in Ahmednagar, the commanders and officers led by the army chief will analyse the results of its exercise and deliberate on the need for effective air defence systems such as the US Patriot or the Russian ALMUZ 83 M6 and electronic warfare networking methods.

The army top brass would discuss possible acquisitions to ensure “battlefield transparency”, which means to have the technological ability to see through enemy movements and manoeuvres.

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