NDA Reforms: Keeping Pace with Revolution in Military Affairs

“Military theorists have long noted the historical discontinuities in the conduct of warfare caused by the advent of new technology and weapon systems. These discontinuities are called military-technical revolution”.

NDA Reforms: Keeping Pace with Revolution in Military Affairs

There are basically two views about the RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs). The Russians were the first to talk of a Military Technical Revolution. The Soviet Marshal Ogarkov  had said, “Military theorists have long noted the historical discontinuities in the conduct of warfare caused by the advent of new technology and weapon systems. These discontinuities are called military-technical revolution”.

The American view is best expressed by Andy Marshall of the US office of Net Assessment. He said, “An RMA is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by innovative applications of new technology which combined with dramatic changes in Military doctrines; operational and organizational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of warfare”.

Thus, the Russian concept of Military-Technical Revolution is largely based upon advances in technology. The US view, on the other hand, also caters for the impact of changes in Doctrine as also operational and organisational concepts. The best example of doctrinal change during an RMA is the German Second World War Concept of Blitzkrieg. Both the tank and the Fighter aero plane had made their appearance in the First World War.

In between the two wars German Generals like Heinz Guderian, Manstein and Rommell created the revolutionary new doctrine of deep penetration by advancing  torrents of tanks which would rush deep into the enemies rear (totally mindless of the safety of their flanks). Instead of massing wheeled artillery (that is road bound and slow moving and requires the dumping of thousands of tons of ammunition prior to an attack) they relied upon the massed employment of Stuka dive members to give them fire support.

The very fast pace of the attack served to paralyse the opponent and “dislocated the opposing commander’s mind”. The Panzer Tanks and  Stuka  dive bombers were welded together and fused into an instrument of shock by the advent of radio communications. Thus the RMA of the Blitzkrieg was driven more by doctrine than just by  technology. Doctrine,  as well as operational and organisational concepts, are as crucial to triggering an RMA as the advent of new technology.

When we talk of readying the NDA for an RMA we must bear this critical factor in mind. RMA’s are not just technology driven. Making all NDA graduates B Tech by itself therefore will not usher in an RMA. RMA’s are equally triggered by encouraging changes in doctrine, operational concepts and organisations. All this requires a deep study of Military History, of the concepts organisational and doctrinal evolution of the past, to come up with innovative changes for the future. Thus the technology of the internal combustion engine based tanks and war planes had made its  appearance by the end of World War I.

It was only synthesised by a new doctrine in the late 1930’s by the Germans and the combination was used with stunning effect on the battle field. When we talk of the RMA at the NDA level , therefore not only do we have to think in terms of a sound base in technology but equally in Military History because it is that foundational study which will enable the evolution of new doctrinal concepts based on the lessons of the past.

The columns of tanks in the Blitzkrieg were led not so much  by Generals and Field Marshalls but by the “recon(reconnaissance) pull” of the Captains and Corporals who understood their higher Commanders’ intention and did their best to  further  it on the battle field. The higher commander also gave out his broad intent (Auftragstaktik) and left it to the dash and initiative of his junior leaders to further that intent.

Strict and precise orders gave way to mission type orders that specified the general intent and left the detailed  execution to the Commanders. Such a system of mission type orders stemmed from a total faith that the High command had in its junior officers and their ability to understand the higher commanders intent and very competently further it on the battle field. William Lind, the American military theorist, talks of four waves or generations of warfare as it has evolved in the last 200 years.

First Generation Warfare.(1G) This was the war of lines and columns. Napoleon had introduced the military organisation of  the Division as a complete orchestra of all arms ( Infantry, horsed Cavalry and Artillery) that moved together and fought as a cohesive unit. Infantry battalions and regiments drilled together in lines and columns and learnt to manoeuvre on drill square words of command. They fired their muskets / rifles by lines in disciplined rhythms that could defeat any cavalry charge. The whole emphasis was on drill and implicit obedience and there was very little place for individual initiative or tactical  brilliance.

Second Generation Warfare(2G).  By the time of the First World War, the element of Fire had become so preponderant that it had strangulated all manoeuvre on the battlefield. There were endless lines of deep trenches and bunkers on the battlefield. Combined with barbed wire and deadly Machine Gun fire they decimated all attacks. On top of it was the artillery. Thousands of tons of ammunition was dumped before launching any attack. Hundreds of trains were needed to dump this huge amount of ammunition. All surprise was thus  lost well before the attack commenced.

The final attack was preceded by weeks of preparatory bombardments as per precise – minute by minute fire plans. It was the battle of mass and minute by minute centralised control of fire plans that left no room whatsoever for individual initiative of any sort. After such massive bombardments that compromised all surprise, the attack usually petered out after making a dent of a few kilometres and led to horrendous casualties and carnage.

Third Generation Warfare(3G). The German broke this stalemate at the start of the Second World War by their Blitzkrieg- a brilliant synthesis of Panzer tank divisions and Stuka Dive Bombers which largely replaced the Artillery and months of ammunition dumping before an attack. This restored manoeuvre to pre- eminence once more on the battle fields and made military surprise possible once more.

It required a new kind of junior leadership that had great amounts of initiative and innovativeness. They understood their higher commander’s intent and did their best to further this on the battle field. The senior commanders in turn, fully trusted their subordinates and gave no rigid and precise orders that exercised minute by minute control. They simply outlined their general intent in Mission type orders and delegated detailed execution to their Junior leadership.

Fourth Generation of Warfare: When the Americans talk of 4G warfare today they are talking of highly  dispersed  terror groups of the type that caused 9/11- a  tactical action that had a huge strategic impact. The terrorist defends nothing and focuses only on attack. He deliberately avoids strength and chooses soft, unarmed civilian targets. He leverages on the media to spread terror.

He is an adept at the use of the internet for recruitment, motivation, logistics and operations. He has total initiative to chose his targets , timings and methods. He is motivated to a degree that makes suicide attacks an everyday affair. Hybrid warfare as fought by Hezbollah and other terror groups relies upon the ability to combine lethal modern technology with Jihadi ideology.

Each generation of warfare had its own training methodologies. Both first and second Generation warfare required complete and rigid discipline and robotic obedience of orders. There was no place whatsoever for initiative and innovativeness. The NDA today is still stuck with the First/ Second generation concepts of drill and rigid discipline that first and foremost seeks to curb any individual initiative on the battlefield and tries to wear everyone down to a predictable unit of response who will do only what he is told, when he is told and no more and no less.

He will not surprise the rigid plans of his hierarchy by any display of imagination and initiative. The world and warfare itself have moved miles ahead to the Third and Fourth Generation of warfare that need ever greater levels of initiative and innovativeness. Yet our military educational system at the NDA continues to rely on moronic drill, parade ground discipline and learning by rote. The entire system of motivation is still stuck largely in the British colonial era. We need a basic transformation here.

The basal question is about the type of discipline we are enforcing. The NDA is still stuck with the rigid and externally enforced discipline of IG and 2G warfare,  that relies upon constant supervision. Discipline in the NDA is enforced by very intrusive and constant monitoring by Drill Ustads and Cadet appointments on a 24X7 basis.

The type of discipline we need on Third and Fourth generation battle fields, in sharp contrast, is intrinsic discipline- a discipline that is not externally enforced but comes from within. There can be no close supervision on the modern, dispersed battlefield. Its basis is a deep motivation to serve the national cause. The German and Japanese Armies in World War II relied upon militant Nationalism to motivate their armed forces in an intrinsic manner.

A great amount of faith and reliance was based upon this highly motivated junior leadership that was intensely patriotic and professionally very competent. German units decimated to the extent of 70-80% still retained their combat cohesion due to the excellent junior leadership at the level of the young officers and NCO’s. We have all seen the offensive spirit of the Japanese armies in the Battles of Kohima and Imphal.

The NDA has to transform its ethics from drill and ragging based concept of externally enforced discipline to one based on intense nationalism, high levels ofintrinsic motivation and initiative. The Vietnamese Army that beat the French, the Americans and then the Chinese relied heavily on militant nationalism for the intense motivation of its cadres. In India we have the example of the Indian National Army of Subhash Bose.

It had a strength of 60,000 and took over 24,000 casualties but maintained the combat cohesion of its units. This is  about 42% casualities which are huge and unprecedented in the post-independence era.  Militant nationalism works. It motivates and it must be employed at the NDA level. We have to transit from the “Izzat of the Quam” to the” Izzat of India”. A devotion to the idea of India is essential. This is especially true of the Army that will have to transit from its regimental and sub- nationality based motivational model of the British era to a post – independence transition to militant nationalism.

Singing patriotic marching songs had been introduced in our time in the NDA. We had community singing of songs  like “Hind Ke Jawaan Ham” and “Aisa Desh kabhi na dekha, kabhi na suna hai”. Later the IMA’s “Kadam Kadam  barahey Jaa” has also been introduced. Community singing is a powerful tool for combat motivation.

The NDA cadet must imbibe the spirit of the warrior. Each Squadron must by now have its pantheon of decorated military heroes. They must be exposed to the life stories of these role models.  They must  analyse case – studies of these operations. They must commemorate our Vijay Divases (Days of Victory) in various post – independence conflicts.  Combat is the prime purpose of all training at the NDA and beyond. We must inculcate the spirit of the warrior in our cadets.  

War films are another powerful motivational and training tool that provide role models. The German, Japanese, Vietnamese Armies all use it. The Vietnamese lay tremendous emphasis on Patriotism Training or “Spiritual Training” as they called it. Let me explain what I mean in practical terms. A team of senior Vietnamese Generals had come to Fort Williams, Kolkata in 2007.

They asked what the Indian Army did for Patriotism Training . When they were told ‘nothing’ they were shocked. Shamefacedly people tried to explain to them that our sole motivating credo was the Regiment and Unit and nothing higher. The  IMAs  Chetwode motto was left by the British who would have been actually terrified if the British Indian Army had turned “nationalist”.

Hence they emphasised the Regiment and the Quam or sub nationality and deemphasised the nation. The pity is that it is over 66 years since they left. Why are we still stuck in a time warp? The Navy and Air Force have changed. The Indian Army needs to change and badly. The change must commence at the NDA.

The Current Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA)

The current RMA that was ushered in by Gulf War I and II and  is largely based upon Technology and jointness. The development of sensors and Precision munitions, have given us the ability to”look deep and strike deep in the enemies rear”. The CEP of dumb gravity bombs in World War II was over 3000 feet. Today’s PGMs( Precision Guided Munitions) hit within 8-10 feet of their target. Hence we do not need masses of bombers. A single plane can do what a squadron  and much more did earlier.

We must keep pace with the sweeping advances in the sensor technologies, the guidance and navigation technologies. The satellites, AWAC’s, JSTARs, HALE UAV’s to MALE, Tactical and Micro UAV’s have generated an unprecedented transparency revolution on the battle field. Precision Guided Munitions have multiplied the lethality of air power by several orders of magnitude. We saw  the  shattering impact of information era Air Power on the Industrial era Armies of Iraq. Today almost 50% of the platforms in the US and Israeli Air Force are unmanned.

The future lies in robotics, sensors and above all the computer algorithms that extract intelligence out of video/IR or radar data. UAV’s are generating a transparency revolution on the battlefield. It would be a good idea if NDA cadets would learn to operate UAV’s as a hobby.

Tri- services Exercise at the NDA. The current RMA is based upon air power and one is happy to note that the only creative and meaningful change that one has seen in the NDA  Services training curriculum is in the training of Air Force cadets. From flying – towed Gliders they have graduated to flying Powered Dimonas. This is a major step forward. Cadets of all three services must be exposed to UAV operations (especially of the Tactical and Micro UAV class).

These could easily be incorporated into the final camps. Jointness and integrated training will be the order of the day. I do think it is time for a Culminating  tri-service exercise at the NDA that involves landing on an island to tackle a terrorist target. It could involve recce by the Powered  Dimonas and UAV’s and landings  of Army cadets by Naval assault  boats operating across the Peacock Bay.

The whole idea is to emphasise  jointness and the ability to work together and not go into  stove piped and separate streams after the Fourth term. Joint thinking and coordination needs a very major emphasis. The primary requirement is the ethos of working together closely and coordinating our actions within the three services. That is a major component of the RMA of today.

In conclusion it needs to be reiterated that RMA’s are not just about technology, they are equally about ushering changes in  doctrines, concepts and organisations. The NDA can provide the basis for this by imparting a deep knowledge of military history not only of India but equally of our adversaries-China and Pakistan. We need to be technology minded and hence UAV’s and robotics must enter the NDA curriculum as hobbies first and then as part of our outdoor camps and exercises.

GPS must equally be taught along with the magnetic compass. What is needed is to drive the thrust for  radical change and transformation. What is needed is a broad knowledge base and a thirst for acquiring more knowledge in the years ahead. That ability to innovate and synthesise  and do out of the Box thinking lies at the root of all RMA’s.


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