The primary agents of firepower will be the guns, mortars, multi-barrel rocket launchers and surface-to-surface missiles of the artillery, the guns and missiles of mechanised forces in close combat with the enemy and the missiles, cannon, rockets and bombs of attack helicopters and fighter ground attack aircraft of the Indian Air Force, all firing a judicious mix of "Dumb" and precision guided munitions to achieve the desired effect. The massive application of firepower will generate favourable asymmetries and make the task of assaulting infantry and mechanised; echelons considerably easier.
If the recent past provides any clue to the future course of conventional conflict on-the Indian subcontinent, it is that two themes will recur with a fair degree of certainty. First, border wars along the LoC and the Actual Ground Position Line with Pakistan and on. the Line of Actual Control with China remain probable. Secondly, these conflicts will flow out of existing territorial and boundary disputes and, hence, ‘land forces will play a predominant part in fighting them and gaining military advantage, if not outright victory. Defending and seizing territory will remain key military objectives. Causing unacceptable attrition to the adversary’s military machine will also be a major aim. This will gradually become the primary method of forcing the nation’s will on the adversary.
The fundamental challenge during a limited war in the 21st century will be to generate favourable asymmetries on the battlefield while facing irregular and unpredictable threats. The basic engine of attrition will be the synergised. Massively and surgically applied firepower will cause disruption, destruction and dislocation and provide a decisive edge in limited war. The psychological intimidation caused by heavy doses of sustained firepower will break the enemy’s will to fight.
The primary agents of firepower will be the guns, mortars, multi-barrel rocket launchers and surface-to-surface missiles of the artillery, the guns and missiles of mechanised forces in close combat with the enemy and the missiles, cannon, rockets and bombs of attack helicopters and fighter ground attack aircraft of the Indian Air Force, all firing a judicious mix of “dumb” and precision guided munitions to achieve the desired effect.
When conventional conflict is‘ prosecuted with a nuclear backdrop, it is axiomatic that army brigades and divisions must deploy dispersed and fight concentrated. However, with the advent of revolutionary PGMs and the artillery’s ability to rapidly deliver massive fire assaults successively over a large number of targets, with a potent mix of gun and rocket ammunition, concentrating land forces on the battlefield, even for a short duration of time, is likely to lead to unacceptable damage and- casualties. Clearly, in future the endeavour must be to mass firepower and not forces to achieve military objectives. PGMs should be used to destroy.‘hard targets-such as tanks and bunkers with surgical precision. PGMS also help to reduce collateral damage and casualties to civilians trapped in the battle zone.
In War and Anti-War: Survival at the Dawn of the 21st Century, Alvin and Heidi Toffler have emphasised the progressively greater utility of PGMs and, consequently, the importance of the de-massification of forces on the modern battlefield. They have written: “To appreciate just how astonishing these capabilities are, it helps to glance briefly backward. In 1881, for example, a British fleet fired 3,000 shells at Egyptian forts near Alexandria. Only 10 ever hit their targets. As recently as the Vietnam War, American pilots flew 800 sorties and lost 10 planes in an unsuccessful attempt to knock out the Than Hoa bridge. Later four F-4s armed with some of the earliest smart bombs did the job in a single pass. In Vietnam, an American M-60 tank crew had to find cover, stop the tank, and aim before it could fire. At 2,000 yards, at night, the chances of hitting were, according to tank expert Ralph Hallenbeck, ‘pretty nil’. Today the crew of an M-1 tank can fire without stopping. Night-vision aids, lasers, and computers that automatically correct for heat, wind, and other conditions assure that they will score a hit nine out of 10 times. Today one F-117, flying a single sortie and dropping one bomb, can accomplish what it took B-17 bombers flying 4,000 sorties and dropping 9,000 bombs to do during World War II, or 95 sorties and 190 bombs during Vietnam”.
In future, it would be prudent to employ large components of infantry and mechanised forces to act primarily as deterrent forces. They will be ordered to seize and hold ground only after the massive employment of all available fire delivery means, including artillery and air power, has completely pulverised the objective and rendered it incapable of meaningful resistance. It will become an inescapable necessity to achieve such fire supremacy in the battlefield that the enemy becomes incapable of utilising his own firepower means to cause serious damage to friendly forces. In limited war, which 1s likely to be constrained by various time and space and application of force level limitations, it will be even more necessary to rely on the destructive potential of massed firepower. In short, investments need to be made now to upgrade future firepower capabilities by several orders of magnitude.
The battlespace of the future will be characterised by high intensity conventional operations, particularly in the plains. Sustained and accurate firepower will be a key requirement in land battle, with greater emphasis on precision and range to maximise destruction in depth and minimise civilian casualties and collateral damage. Fast moving mechanised forces will present fleeting, well-dispersed targets. In defensive as well as offensive operations, targets will enjoy: greater protection than was the case in wars In the 20th century. The higher tempo of battle will place heavy demands on firepower as the option of choice to cause -prohibitive damage to the enemy’s military machine.
In future, the concept of the employment of artillery firepower will shift from: the mere “neutralisation” of large areas of ground by massed fires in the contact battle to striking with a uniform punch across the entire frontage and depth of the battlespace and destroying hard targets with minimum ammunition. Artillery “raids” deep into enemy territory, in conjunction with the IAF will help to achieve surprise and make both long and short-term interdiction more meaningful. In mechanised warfare, the traditional hammer and anvil will undergo a transformation. In “anvil of fire” will augment and perhaps even replace the traditional anvil formed by a pivot of manoeuvre, freeing mechanised strike forces to add to the punch of the hammer. Artillery firepower will be capable of establishing a cordon sanitaire — a killing ground into which the unsuspecting enemy would be enticed and completely wiped out.
The concept of “seamless” firepower, transcending brigade, divisional and even corps boundaries will gain currency. While affiliated artillery regiments will continue to provide observation, liaison and communications to the infantry and mechanised forces, filed formations will ‘no longer have a proprietary lien on the gun groups of affiliated regiments as the concentrated firepower of all guns, MBRLs and SSMs in range will be available on an as required basis. Artillery gun groups will be frequently re-deployed to ensure that the enemy 1s confronted by the fire assault of at least 100 guns wherever he means business.
In defensive operations, high-density, | high-volume concentrations of artillery fire from long-range medium artillery and MBRLs will break up enemy assaults well before they can be launched from the forming up place. Automated Artillery Command and Control System will enable the optimum utilisation of all artillery fire units to rapidly engage and destroy a large number of important targets with successive “milk rounds” in short time spans. Since enemy artillery will also attempt to achieve fire supremacy, the side capable of speedy detection of enemy guns and mortars and accurate and immediate counter bombardment will carry the day. The performance of the artillery will be directly dependent on the efficiency of the surveillance and target acquisition devices such as battlefield surveillance radars, state-of-the-art remotely piloted vehicles and the weapon locating radars that India is in the process of acquiring.
The skilful employment of artillery firepower will enable commanders in the field to carry the defensive battle deep into enemy territory and prevent the enemy from launching a coordinated physical assault — at least not a successful one. The massive application of firepower will generate favourable asymmetries and make the task of assaulting infantry and mechanised: echelons considerably easier.