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Document created: 1 September 2008
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2008
Air Commodore Arjun Subramaniam
Indian Air Force
Editorial Abstract: Recent advances in precision airpower systems, hardware, and weapons have engendered an effects-based approach to conducting combat with increased speed as well as reduced attrition and collateral damage. The author posits that to enter this new realm, the Indian Air Force is now undergoing a radical change in mind-set and reorienting its force structure so that it will be capable of simultaneously influencing operations at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.
The Indian Air Force has been focusing on "strategic reach" as a major factor of its transformational process. It has been acquiring the wherewithal for expanding that reach in recent years to trans-continental ranges not only with its transport fleet but also with its combat aircraft.
-Air Commodore Jasjit Singh
The application of airpower to further a nation's strategic objectives has gained momentum over the last few years, ever since it was used with telling effect in Operations Desert Storm, Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. The advent of sensors that provide accurate target intelligence, coupled with precision-guided munitions (PGM), has led to effects-based operations' gaining predominance in speedy conflict resolution, with minimum attrition and collateral damage. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is in the midst of a radical change in mind-set and reorientation of its force structure that will enable it to conduct parallel warfare and simultaneously influence operations at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels. In light of these developments, we need to think, train, and fight with a strategic focus.
The use of airpower to further a nation's strategic aims and objectives has come a long way since the pounding of Nazi Germany's ball-bearing factories by Allied bombers and the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both of which events had a significant effect on the outcome of World War II. Subsequent aircraft such as the B-52 in the 1950s and the Russian Tu-126 bomber in the 1960s could deliver nuclear missiles and warheads. This capability added a new dimension to strategic airpower-that of deterrence.1 Barring the odd failure, the application of airpower to attain strategic objectives and engage in coercive diplomacy has seen tremendous success over the last 40 years. Without constantly harping on the contribution of strategic airpower at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the prime catalyst for the surrender of Japan, one can cite numerous examples that cut across different intensities of conflict to push the case for reappraisal of the swift benefits of the strategic air campaign. Whether in Operations Linebacker I and II, which helped the United States draw North Vietnam back to the negotiating table in 1972, or during the surgical strikes on Arab airfields by the Israelis in 1967, target selection proved key to achieving strategic objectives.2 Conversely, poor target selection during Operation Rolling Thunder from 1965 to 1968 led to the total failure of that operation. The strategy of targeting the Ho Chi Minh Trail and centres of population in North Vietnam proved to be blunders rectified in Linebacker II, which targeted only military and infrastructure elements of national power.3
Next came the redefinition of platforms to prosecute the strategic air campaign and the consequent understanding that the campaign became better focused when one looked at the effect of destruction on a nation's ability or will to wage war rather than concentrating on the target and platform itself. The choice of attack platforms today also represents a radical shift from the strategic-bomber concept. Role reversal of strategic and tactical aircraft commenced in Vietnam, where B-52s carried out missions in support of ground operations while F-4s and F-105s flew against strategic-interdiction targets deep inside North Vietnam. Years later, eight F-16s, primarily considered tactical platforms by the United States Air Force (USAF) and Israeli Air Force, destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in a classic strategic strike.4 The final fillip to the case for strategic airpower is, without doubt, the emergence of highly accurate PGMs, coupled with real-time intelligence and just-in-time targeting, which enable a nation to exert its will on another without committing ground forces, thus paving the way for negotiated settlement of conflicts without unnecessary collateral damage and loss of life. An apt example of this redefinition, perhaps not palatable to the counterair purists, would be the destruction of Arab aircraft on the ground in 1967 during the counterair campaign launched by the Israeli Air Force. Were not the effects strategic in terms of breaking the Arab coalition's ability and will to fight? Enough has been written over the years about the spectacular success of the coalition air forces in Desert Storm, wherein an effects-based strategic air campaign, conceived by Col John Warden and executed by Gen Charles Horner, helped achieve Pres. George H. W. Bush's strategic objective of driving Iraq out of Kuwait with minimum attrition.5 If one were to pinpoint one failure of the use of strategic airpower in recent years, it would be that of the USAF to eliminate Osama bin Laden and the top Taliban leadership-one of the main strategic objectives of Enduring Freedom. If mass, tonnage, widespread area bombing due to lack of hard intelligence, collateral damage, and indiscriminate loss of life were the prime characteristics of the strategic air campaign of yesteryear, then stealth, precision, intense shock effect, speedy capitulation of the enemy, and achievement of objectives characterize the twenty-first-century strategic air campaign.
Skeptics may say that the next few generations may not see a world war and that force structures of developing countries like India need to focus on waging local wars under hi-tech conditions, low intensity conflicts, and counterinsurgencies. They could not be farther from the truth because the coming years will see a struggle for strategic resources, strategic points, and strategic markets, most of which are spread across the globe, thousands of miles from a country's geographical boundaries. A threat to these assets would warrant speedy intervention, something that only airpower in tandem with space-based reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, and acquisition capability can achieve. Obviously, all of these capabilities would have to be networked and secure-a difficult task without dedicated satellites and bandwidth for military use. One cannot overemphasize the case for further developing the IAF's strategic air capability in the coming years in light of India's emergence as a potential economic superpower with global energy interests and markets. Only synergistic joint operations can provide swift, precise, and decisive intervention in potential hot spots spread across continents, with airpower used as a springboard or launchpad for further intervention by land and naval forces.
The three main objectives of any military campaign-coercion or intimidation, incapaci tation or dismemberment, and annihilation or destruction-have always focused on achieving a nation's geopolitical goals in any dispute or conflict. Warfare in the twenty-first century is slowly moving towards using annihilation or destruction as a last resort in legitimate war-fighting scenarios. That said, two airpower theorists from the USAF-Col John Boyd and Colonel Warden-propounded path-breaking theories of paralysing the enemy by strategic application of airpower.6 While Boyd talked about paralysing the enemy psychologically and weakening his will to fight, Warden emphasized the need to paralyse the adversary physically by attacking leadership, infrastructure, communication links, and fielded forces as part of his now-famous "Five-Ring Theory," based on Clausewitz's centres of gravity, which formed the heart of the air campaign in Desert Storm. The cornerstone of this process is the high probability of pounding an enemy into submission without inflicting too many casualties and reducing the intensity of battles by driving his leadership underground, blinding him, rendering his senses (eyes and ears) ineffective, and destroying his reserves as well as follow-on forces by carrying out deep precision strikes. Although the strategic air campaign that aims at paralysis is based on the overwhelming asymmetrical technology advantage that US forces will likely enjoy in any conflict scenario, policy and strategy planners in India must understand the tremendous advantages of creating an asymmetry vis-ŕ-vis potential adversaries by building up a potent strategic air capability built around technology, force multipliers, and multitheatre capability.7 That does not mean that airpower and strategic air campaigns alone can win wars, but by applying the principles of asymmetry and paralysis, we can hasten the capitulation of an enemy by incapacitating him and reducing his military potential, as mentioned earlier, rather than destroying him. Airpower can do all this-and simultaneously support the surface campaign by conducting parallel warfare at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.8 Building such an ability calls for a change in mind-set and significant alterations in asset allocation. In the Indian context, we cannot restrict build order to justify a leaner air force. We would need to supplement these factors with sufficient numbers of aircraft and platforms to conduct parallel warfare on multiple fronts. This obviously calls for a strong case to progressively beef up the number of combat squadrons in the IAF from a projected 29-30 by the end of 2008 to at least 40 by 2015.9 The progressive induction of additional Su-30 MKI squadrons and 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) will likely fill the void created by phasing out platforms such as older variants of the MiG-21 and -23.
The emergence of invisible enemies, such as terrorists, and unconventional targets involving material and human resources will increase the difficulty of classifying the roles performed by strategic air assets over the next few decades. Perhaps the most critical characteristics of airpower that might occupy centre stage for the IAF in years to come would include flexibility, reach, precision firepower, and interoperability, with other characteristics such as surprise and shock effect serving as age-old, time-tested corollary benefits. What aspects of these four characteristics make them the focus of a study to define the IAF's strategic-airpower roles for the twenty-first century? The ability of a platform to switch effortlessly from a tactical to a strategic role is an inescapable imperative, as is its reach in performing interventionist roles with appropriate combat-support elements, thousands of kilometers away from its launch base. Having reached its target, the platform must be able to neutralise it with precision attacks and minimum collateral damage. The platforms and crews used for prosecuting the strategic air campaign must operate in international airspace with varied sensors and possibly with aircraft/aircrews of multinational task forces, especially in conflicts involving United Nations or multinational forces. They also need to be well integrated with elements of the surface forces involved in strategic interventions so as to synergistically apply the principles of asymmetry in conflict resolution. Having broadly spelled out the framework, we can now turn to the broad strategic roles and missions that the IAF can take on with a force structure that utilizes aircraft such as the Su-30 MKI, MMRCA, Mirage 2000 (M-2000), IL-78, IL-76, and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). Although we could easily ape the USAF by formulating a strategic air campaign and force that emphasize centres of gravity, nothing would be more divorced from the reality of the Indian situation. The IAF would need to answer two major questions:
1. Do we have the resources to prosecute such a campaign?
2. Are we likely to be faced with an Iraq-like situation of waging war in a foreign land and over such a prolonged period?
The answer would obviously be no! Until now, people have viewed the IAF as a predominantly tactical air force with limited deterrent capability. The advent of platforms such as the Su-30 MKI, weapon systems such as the Brahmos cruise missile, and force multipliers that include aerial-refueling platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and AWACS creates a need to "think big" and "think far." We must replace conventional roles with those that cater to the following scenarios:
. power projection
. strategic intervention over limited distances and duration
. proactive strikes and elimination of threats
. humanitarian intervention
. peacekeeping/enforcement missions in a lead role
. protection of energy and economic resources as well as the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep island territories
. antiterrorist and antihijacking operations
. protection and evacuation of human resources
. enforcement of no-fly zones
In many of the scenarios and roles indicated above, the navy and army would continue to form key components of a joint task force, but airpower would provide immediate intervention. Although the tsunami-relief efforts of 2004 highlighted the speed and responsiveness of Indian airpower in terms of providing succour to the affected areas at home as well as in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, they also revealed the need for additional resources such as heavy-lift helicopters and transport aircraft for disaster-relief operations. This assertiveness and articulation of the IAF's strategic reach may not appear very large from a US perspective; however, one must view it in the light of India's emergence as a responsible regional power and global economic powerhouse with expanding markets and interests.
Targeting philosophy has also changed significantly over the years, dictated mainly by the nature and duration of wars, capability of platforms, accuracy of munitions, and quality of intelligence. The slow and sequential effect of strategic bombing during World War II-and to some extent during Vietnam-did contribute significantly to the final outcome, owing to repetitive attacks. This involved thousands of sorties against the same target sets without worrying much about civilian casualties and collateral damage. The main aim called for systematically undermining industrial capability and psychologically numbing an adversary into submission. Closer to home, the surgical strike by IAF MiG-21s on the governor-general's residence in Dhaka in December 1971 did make a significant dent in the morale of the East Pakistani leadership, ultimately resulting in its capitulation only days later. Conventional wars and conflicts in the twenty-first century are likely to be short and swift, necessitating extremely quick and effective targeting without having to resort to repetitive attacks. The same, however, cannot be said of subconventional wars, which could last several years. One need look no further than the conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, sensor-to-shooter loop is unavailable; and the IAF realizes that most nonstate actors, actively aided by neighbouring states, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The demands on airpower to shift focus from conventional strategic targeting to subconventional targeting at short notice would have to be met by leveraging the same strategic characteristics of airpower, discussed earlier in this article, and adapting them for irregular warfare.10 Terrorist or insurgent leadership, communication networks, and safe havens in sympathetic countries would comprise typical strategic targets in subconventional scenarios. The USAF and Israeli Air Force actively engage such targets, but the IAF has not yet done so, primarily because the limited availability of precision weapons hampers operations in densely populated urban environments; the real-time intelligence needed to speed the operate in Indian territory, mingling freely with the local population. These factors also help explain why Indian political leadership is hesitant to use offensive airpower to address subconventional targets. We may have to reassess this mind-set in years to come if India has to effectively prosecute the war on terror. Typical changes in target profiles over the years include the following:
World War II
|Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003|
|population centres||enemy leadership|
|industrial capability||command, control,
intelligence (C3I) systems and sensors
|manufacturing centres||fielded forces and reserves|
|sites for nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction|
Thus, the targeting focus has shifted from people and the economy to leadership and military capability.11 Operations Desert Storm and Allied Force greatly redefined targeting for the strategic application of airpower, with significant additional refinements occurring during Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The Gulf War of 1991 featured a fairly rigid set of targets defined by perceived centres of gravity and folded into a largely individualistic and much publicised strategic air campaign. The "Shock and Awe" strikes unleashed during Iraqi Freedom, however, saw simultaneous engagement of a number of strategic targets by platforms as varied as the B-2 bomber and the F-16, armed with PGMs and a wide variety of smart weapons. The estimated 42,000 sorties flown during Desert Storm expended approximately 210,000 unguided bombs and around 17,000 PGMs.12 This low percentage of PGMs (less than 10 percent) stands in stark contrast to the bombing during the initial part of Iraqi Freedom, when PGMs made up more than 65 percent of the air-to-ground weapons used by coalition forces.13 Another interesting change in US strategy has lessons for the IAF; specifically, rather than tying the strategic air campaign during the 2003 Iraq war to a traditional timetable, as in Desert Storm, planners instead fit it like a glove around simultaneous land and naval campaigns, giving more impetus to the importance of synergy and joint operations.14 Another interesting lesson from Iraqi Freedom for the IAF concerns the role played by PGMs in reducing the size of strike packages and the number of revisits to a target system, as compared to related actions during Desert Storm. This resulted from improved weapon performance and enhanced real-time battle damage assessment facilitated by advances in space-enabled reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting, and acquisition technologies.15
The present IAF force structure offers limited capability for strategic intervention. Only aircraft such as the Su-30 MKI, M-2000, and IL-76/-78 meet the various criteria laid down for such intervention. Given India's growing global aspirations, we need to address our force-structure requirements for strategic force projection, intervention, and even coercive diplomacy. While delivering the Air Chief Marshal P. C. Lal Memorial Lecture in March 2006, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, defence minister of India, acknowledged the primacy of airpower in future conflicts and linked the reorientation of the IAF to India's rapid economic growth and the need to protect its security interests extending from the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca. He went on to highlight the need to emphasize strategic thinking, joint operations, and asymmetric warfare, all of which have been discussed in this article.16 Some of the essential ingredients for bolstering our strategic air-war-fighting capability include not only tangible assets such as hardware resources and technology, but also intangibles such as leadership and political will.
Amongst the numerous aerial platforms presently in use worldwide as part of strategic forces, the most important ones from an Indian perspective are fighter aircraft, heavy-lift/medium-lift transport aircraft, multirole helicopters, and force multipliers such as the AWACS, air-to-air refuelling (AAR) platforms, and early warning aircraft. We need to back up these platforms with providers of real-time information such as satellites with image resolution of less than one meter and rapidly deployable UAVs with multiple sensors, adequate loiter time, and even limited firepower. Although the Su-30 MKI, with its phenomenal reach, awesome firepower, and multicrew/multimission capability, is an ideal platform to prosecute a strategic air campaign, we must clearly understand that we can neutralise strategic targets by effectively employing essentially tactical platforms such as the M-2000 and the MMRCA, 126 of which are in the pipeline. Even older platforms such as the Jaguar can supplement the Su-30, M-2000, and MMRCA; however, their use in strategic air campaigns would require greater coordination, support, and precision. Strategic strike capability without strategic airlift capability leaves a gaping hole in a nation's ability to project, sustain, reinforce, and, if required, extricate strategic forces over vast distances. The IAF's only strategic airlift platform, the ageing IL-76, needs to be supplemented by a newer-generation heavy-lift aircraft in the same or larger category and a medium-lift aircraft with a payload of 15-20 tons. As far as helicopters are concerned, destruction of C3I nodes, elimination of leadership, insertion/extrication of special forces, and interdiction of reserves and follow-on forces are all strategic tasks in the context of effects-based operations. We must quickly address the yawning deficiency in this area.
With the induction of the IL-78 AAR platform and impending induction of the AWACS, the IAF will take the first step to becoming a truly self-reliant air force with global-intervention capability. However, this should not lull us into a false sense of bravado that the journey ends here. A look at the geographical extent of our country reveals that the number of refueling and AWACS aircraft would barely suffice to address tactical needs in multiple theatres, leaving very little for any meaningful strategic intervention. We need to fill this limitation and void with additional platforms to create an exclusive force that thinks, trains, and fights strategically. The introduction of UAVs into the IAF and exploitation of civilian space technology also add significant punch to our capability and require careful integration into our intelligence framework.
Intelligence Gathering to Support
Strategic Air Operations
Presently, sharing of intelligence between the military and other agencies leaves much to be desired, and turf battles have resulted in less-than-optimal sharing. No longer static, targets for strategic intervention range from elusive enemy leadership to highly mobile tactical weapon systems whose destruction can break an enemy's will to continue fighting. Classic examples include the continued US air attacks against mobile al-Qaeda leadership, with limited success, in conjunction with special forces, and the destruction of Serb surface-to-air-missile sites during Allied Force by airpower alone. Too many agencies currently receive, process, interpret, and disseminate intelligence, and a pressing need exists for a lean intelligence structure to support strategic air operations. (See the figure for a broad requirement that doesn't dissect the structure too critically.)
|Figure. Intelligence network for strategic air operations|
With the phasing out of the MiG-25 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the onus of providing accurate intelligence for strategic targeting has shifted to space-based sensors. Even in the absence of dedicated military satellites, capabilities of civilian remote-sensing technologies like the Ikonos (US) and the Indian-technology experimental satellite permit resolutions as low as one meter.17 With possibilities of further improvement in resolution, the gap between civilian and military capability is diminishing. (For typical resolutions required to examine possible strategic targets, see the table.)18
|Table. Typical resolution requirements (in meters) for targeting|
According to Prof. U. R. Rao, a pioneer of India's satellite programme, the only way to exploit space for strategic intelligence in the absence of a dedicated military satellite programme is to foster greater synergy between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and defence users such as the three services, the Research and Analysis Wing, and the Intelligence Bureau.19 He goes on to say that all requirements for strategic reconnaissance have to be met indigenously, with the ISRO capable of satisfying the need for enhanced resolution. Needless to say, the success of any strategic air campaign depends on the accuracy of intelligence and training in a realistic environment similar to that conducted by coalition forces in Desert Shield, prior to Desert Storm. Common sensor and communications programs in UAVs, manned aircraft, and even satellites are vital to mission effectiveness, along with a single processing, analysing, and disseminating agency such as the aerial common-sensor programme being adopted by the US armed forces.20
Transfer of real-time information between aerial weapon platforms and ground/airborne sensors is essential to the successful execution of any mission. It assumes even greater relevance in the case of a strategic air operation, wherein the flexibility to abort the operation or assign a new target location minutes before the time over target is imperative to the emerging concept of just-in-time targeting, which significantly shortens the sensor-to-shooter loop. The ingredients of a secure, effective, and flexible system include a satellite-based defence-communication system with encryption and sufficient bandwidth, and a Link 16-type of data link that gives aircrews and mission coordinators a clear picture or situation report of both the tactical and strategic air situations.21 This would involve elaborate linking up of surveillance platforms, ground-processing sensors, AWACS, other airborne platforms, and even special forces, who could serve as terminal designators against mobile and elusive targets such as enemy leadership in mountainous terrain.
Political Will and Intent
Prosecution of strategic air campaigns requires strong political will, clarity of intent, ability to gather domestic public support/approval, and ability to absorb international criticism. The only way to gather public support in a democracy like India is to encourage widespread debates to make our strategic interests widely known and accepted so that when these interests are threatened, we can easily make the decision to use force. This is a weak area in our country that we need to address at the earliest. The organisation for speedy decision making exists, but we must exercise it more often in the assessment of our strategic interests and potential interventions. Unlike the United States, where a large number of ex-servicemen make up part of the political leadership, India has very few politicians with military backgrounds. For this reason, airpower proponents must educate the political leadership on airpower's strategic capabilities.
Changes in Philosophy and Doctrine
Probably the most difficult part of change entails altering a mind-set. Recent decades have shown that airpower has the ability to decisively influence the course of any conflict by strategic application of force, be it in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967, the Bekaa Valley in 1982, or Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Enduring Freedom. Lebanon and Iraq have also taught us lessons about the limited strategic impact of airpower in subconventional scenarios. It is time to embrace a doctrinal shift towards building up a Strategic Forces Command that recognises the need to develop intervention capability across the spectrum of conflict spearheaded by airpower. Naval and land forces would complete a synergistic troika without needlessly engaging in turf battles regarding command and control of theatre forces, something that has so often stunted the development of strategic doctrine within the Indian armed forces. We need to adopt the techniques of parallel warfare, in which the payoffs of strategic applications of airpower, when applied simultaneously with tactical applications, act as a decisive force. Lest the surface forces feel that strategic air strikes have no effect at the tactical or operational levels of war, one need only travel a short distance back in history to see otherwise. The use of tactical platforms such as A-10s, AV-8Bs, and F/A-18s to destroy elements of the two Iraqi armored divisions that maneuvered offensively to influence the abortive Iraqi offensive at Al-Khafji offers a classic example of a tactical operation that ultimately had tremendous strategic significance in that it became the proverbial nail in the coffin for Iraqi ground resistance in 1991.22 The concept of the strategic air campaign today focuses on attacking targets that surface forces can subsequently attack or exploit with reduced forces and casualties. Current air force doctrines seek to serve the overall effort by leveraging the impact of strategic strikes and interdiction, not by waging independent wars.23 This in itself should be enough to assuage any apprehension amongst the surface forces that airpower is trying to usurp their primacy. Such a belief-a total nonissue-only undermines synergy and jointness.
The key issue, however, involves fostering an understanding of the capabilities of strategic strikes and interdiction. Despite the politico-strategic procrastination over using airpower during the Kargil conflict of 1999, the IAF's "never done before" high-altitude interdiction air campaign did contribute significantly to the strategic objective of evicting Pakistani regulars and mujahideen from the heights that they had stealthily and audaciously occupied.24 The application of airpower against tactical targets such as dug-in troop emplacements and mountain supply dumps at elevations of 16,000-18,000 feet created a strategic effect and forced the intruders to vacate all the dominating heights and retreat into Pakistan. It also forced the Pakistani military leadership to reassess its apparent strategy of waging a proxy war against India. Offensive air operations also silenced critics within India who felt that airpower was essentially escalatory in nature. In fact, the introduction of airpower proved decisive in de-escalation and conflict resolution. With that as a template, nothing prevents the formulation of a cohesive interdiction campaign, even in subconventional scenarios, provided that surface forces realise the tremendous payoffs of a well-planned strategic-interdiction campaign.
The next logical step, after displaying political will and changing existing mind-sets regarding the advantages of airpower in the furtherance of India's strategic objectives, calls for training and thinking to fight strategically. The present IAF training pattern for aircrews, controllers, and support elements is heavily skewed towards a tactical orientation and rather defensive in nature due to our reactive doctrine since we have never wanted other nations to see us as an aggressive and expansionist country. Without drastically altering our training methodology, we need to train continuously in strategic roles. We can introduce a strategic orientation at the training stage itself after implementation of the Hawk advanced jet trainer, which we can use to expose trainee pilots to AAR and long-distance missions in the final phase of their instruction. Additional training areas that demand immediate attention include the following:
. Creation of simulated target systems like those in the Negev Desert of Israel, which cater to scenarios ranging from evacuation of personnel to destruction of key installations and elimination of terrorists. Our aircraft should engage these targets across the country in different seasons and terrains.
. Formation of a pool of aircrews specially trained on varied platforms. Primarily, they should have tactical proficiency but should also undergo periodic specialist capsules and training in execution of strategic missions. This core group needs periodic exercising and frequent international exposure.
. Conducting of periodic exercises involving joint task forces at varied locations, ranging from deserts to hilly terrain and island territories. We should regularly plan long-distance missions involving AAR as well as change in control zones, altitudes, and time zones. Such exercises should also introduce sleep deprivation and fatigue orientation at regular intervals.25
. Introduction of multiple aerial refuelings and engagements spread across theatres at various levels of squadron training.
. Encouragement and periodic exercising of strategic airlift capability and helicopter operations with special forces.
. Continuation of exercises with a few foreign air forces, with simulation of contingencies in mutually acceptable third countries.
. Creation of strategic task forces with centralised decision making, independent component commanders, and decentralised execution.
If a battle can be won without suffering loss, surely this is the most economical, if not the most traditional, way of gaining the strategical object.
-John Frederick Charles Fuller
The IAF finds itself in the midst of a modernization process likely to take 10-15 years, by which time it will possess significant strategic capability in terms of platforms and force multipliers. The upgrading of infrastructure and communications requirements to support such operations is accompanying this modernization. The IAF's mind-set is also shifting from that of a tactically oriented and proficient force to one that has the confidence to influence strategy and doctrinal changes. At a time when nations are increasingly reluctant to commit ground forces due to the likelihood of mounting casualties, the ability to engage strategic targets with minimum collateral damage and maximum effect has made airpower a most preferred option in swift, conventional conflict resolution. From the imprecise aerial attacks of World War II to the precision with which modern aircraft engaged targets in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003, the strategic air campaign has come a long way. Having realized that the strategic effects of airpower application make themselves felt across the spectrum of conflict, ranging from limited and high-intensity conventional warfare to subconventional and irregular warfare, we know it is time for the IAF to put together a blueprint for building a credible strategic aerial-intervention capability over the next decade.
*This article is derived from the author’s prize-winning article published by the Indian Centre for Air Power Studies in Air Power: Journal of Air Power and Space Studies 3, no. 4 (Winter 2006): 13–32, http://www.aerospaceindia.org/ Journals/Winter%202006/02subramaniam.pdf.
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1. Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Knight, Strategic Offensive Air Operations (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1989), 48-60.
2. Duncan Bell, "The Seductive Promise of Air Power: Strategic Coercion in Vietnam (and Beyond?)" Royal Air Force Air Power Review 3, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 38-53.
4. Mark J. Conversino, "The Changed Nature of Strategic Air Attack," Parameters 27, no. 4 (Winter 1997-98): 28-41, http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/97winter/conversi.htm.
5. Col Richard T. Reynolds, Heart of the Storm: The Genesis of the Air Campaign against Iraq (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, January 1995).
6. Maj David S. Fadok, John Boyd and John Warden: Air Power's Quest for Strategic Paralysis (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, February 1995).
7. Jasjit Singh, "Strategic Framework for Defence Planners: Air Power in the 21st Century" (paper presented at the Aero India 1998 Seminar, Bangalore, India, 8-10 December 1998).
8. Rebecca Grant, "The Redefinition of Strategic Air Power," Air Force Magazine 86, no. 10 (October 2003): 33-38, http://www.afa.org/magazine/oct2003/1003strategic.pdf.
9. "Air Force Fleet," Bharat Rakshak: The Consortium of Indian Military Websites, 23 April 2007, http://www.bharat -rakshak.com/IAF/Units/Fleet.html. The projected figure in the site amounts to 38 combat squadrons that would reduce to 30 by the end of 2008 without immediate replacements.
10. Maj Gen Allen G. Peck, "Airpower`s Crucial Role in Irregular Warfare," Air and Space Power Journal 21, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 11, http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj07/sum07/sum07.pdf.
11. Col Philip S. Meilinger, "Ten Propositions Regarding Airpower," Airpower Journal 10, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 50, 52-72, http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj96/spr96/meil.pdf.
12. Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot A. Cohen, Gulf War Air Power Survey: Summary Report (Washington, DC: Department of the Air Force, 1993), 226.
13. Anthony H. Cordesman, The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2003), 122.
14. Grant, "Redefinition of Strategic Air Power," 36.
15. Cordesman, Iraq War, 196-99.
16. "Honourable Raksha Mantri of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Speaking at the Air Marshal P. C. Lal Memorial Lecture on March 20, 2006," Defence Watch, April 2006, 8-10.
17. U. R. Rao, "Exploitation of Space for Conduct of Military Operations," Trishul, Spring 2004, 1-7.
20. Robert Wall and David Fulghum, "SIGINT Snarl," Aviation Week and Space Technology 164, no. 4 (23 January 2006); 24.
21. The Warfighter's Encyclopedia, s.v. "JTIDS-Link 16," https://wrc.navair-rdte.navy.mil/warfighter_enc/
22. Lt Col Price T. Bingham, "Revolutionizing Warfare through Interdiction," Airpower Journal 10, no. 1 (Spring 1996): 29-35, http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj96/spr96/bing.pdf.
23. Conversino, "Changed Nature of Strategic Air Attack," 28-41.
24. Gen V. P. Malik, Kargil: From Surprise to Victory (New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India, 2006).
25. Knight, Strategic Offensive Air Operations, 48-60. We took the idea for including this in our training pattern from the author's reference to the subject in his book.
Since the air, space, and cyber domains are increasingly interdependent, loss of dominance in any one could lead to loss of control in all.
-Gen T. Michael Moseley
Air Commodore Arjun Subramaniam, Indian Air Force (BA, Jawaharlal Nehru University; MSc, University of Madras), is a member of the air wing faculty at the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington, India. An experienced fighter pilot with multirole expertise, he has completed two tours of duty in a Mirage-2000 squadron, commanded a MiG-21 squadron, served with an overseas military advisory team in Zambia, and recently completed his tenure as chief operations officer of a large fighter base. A winner of the Scudder Medal for graduating with distinction in the 49th Staff Course in 1994 at the DSSC, he is also a recipient of a commendation by the chief of Air Staff. A prolific writer and doctoral candidate at the University of Madras, Air Commodore Subramaniam published his first book, Reflections of an Air Warrior, in 2007.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University
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