Monday, September 26, 2016

Uri Attacks: India doesn't have a military option! Really?

INS Chakra

Reputed military analysts have asserted that India needs to impose a military cost on Pakistan for its cross border attacks such as in Pathankot and Uri.

In a just published article titled Lessons from the Uri Attack Lt Gen Philip Campose, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, suggests:

"Militarily, the cost of terror attacks for Pakistan should be raised to unacceptable levels by exploiting Indian military strengths to target Pakistan’s weak points. Concurrently, own vulnerabilities should be secured."

The option has been repeatedly put on the table, only to be rejected as being unviable by our political leadership. Most of the arguments against this option are specious. Here are my thoughts on one of them

Some defense analysts point out that India will not be able to leverage it military quantitative and qualitative advantage over Pakistan in a short conflagration limited to the LoC because our forces are evenly matched. As a result, Indian military options are severely limited.

The conclusion is flawed because the supporting logic is presumptive and ignores vital facets of the asymmetry that exists in war
fighting potential. For example, India has military assets unmatched by Pakistan. A nuclear submarine that can wreak havoc in the Arabian sea against the Pakistan Navy. IAF Su-30MKI fighters can dominate vast stretches of the Arabian Ocean along the Pakistani coast. Our Brahmos equipped warships, in coordination with INS Chakra and IAF BVR equipped Su-30MKI and AWACS, would put Pakistani warships at grave risk.

The logic for confining an Indian military response to the LoC is dubious in military terms, as the extent of the military asymmetry varies sharply along the Indo-Pak border and the Arabian sea. The asymmetric is very pronounced in the Arabian sea, quite pronounced along the IB, and marginal along the LoC. Why on earth would we want to confine our military response to the LoC?

Any military action must have a clear and easily achievable aim. In order to ensure success, we should respond in sectors with high asymmetry.

Targeting Pakistani warships or Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft over the Arabian sea under the fig-leaf pretext that they were maneuvering in a hostile fashion is a low hanging fruit. The adversary just does not have the assets to take on the India Navy. He would be forced to either respond over land or run to the UN and International Court of Justice. A military response on land would put Pakistan on step one of the nuclear escalatory ladder, a long climb away from the nuclear threshold, allowing India to punish it some more.

There are other possibilities. The Indian Army has the capability to seize Pakistan territory along the International Border in a cold start sharp military action with the aim of humiliating Pakistan. Those who may question the legality of such an action need to be told that our  military response needs to be effective, not legal, just as Pakistan's provocation at Pathankot and Uri were effective, but not legal.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Uri: It's too late for retribution, but here is what we can do

The Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh briefing the media on the terrorist attack at Army Camp, in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir on September 19, 2016.

Yes, it's too late for India to take any overt action against Pakistan for its attack on the Brigade HQs at Uri, which martyred 18 Indian soldiers. The window for a response has long closed. Responding now would be foolhardy and result in casualties disproportionate to any payoff.

A military action, must have a clear achievable aim. What would be the aim of any military action now?

Retribution? The terrorists are quite dead. By calling them terrorists, not ISI trained warfighters which they were, we absolved the Pakistan army of responsibility, so there is no logic in seeking retribution from the Pakistan army!

Hitting terrorists in camps? Terrorists may train in camps, but the Indian Army won't find them sleeping in any of them. They would have merged with the populace at the first news of the Uri attack.

Teaching Pakistan a lesson? It involves escalatory risks and will definitely result in many more coffins and dolorous footage of grieving family members. Most importantly, 'Teaching Pakistan a lesson' is not a clear achievable aim!

A Viable Option

If India still wants retribution, the best approach would be to declare the Uri attack as an act of war by Pakistan, which it indeed was; by no stretch of imagination was it a terrorist strike. Let's face the truth - Successive Indian governments have termed cross border attacks on Indian military installations as terrorist strikes, in order to duck the responsibility to respond to them. 

In the case of Pathankot and Uri, where commandos trained by the ISI crossed the border and directly struck Indian military installations, Pakistan didn't export terror to India, it attacked India! 

Pakistan is exploiting the Indian government's proclivity to weigh loss of soldier lives against loss of economic growth rate to the hilt. Labeling Pakistan a terrorist state and seeking its isolation after the Uri attack is an extension of the narrative that euphemistically labels an act of war as a terrorist strike. 

Declaring the Uri attack as an act of war would give India a viable, non escalatory, military response option. India could respond in a manner that Pakistan is incapable of matching.

For example, India could sink a Pakistan Navy warship or down a Maritime reconnaissance aircraft, taking responsibility only if some evidence were to emerge of Indian involvement. 

Lacking nuclear submarines, or long range fighters like the Su-30MKI, it would be impossible for Pakistan Navy to respond in a similar manner. 

Any Pak mobilization to counter Indian retaliation, would be viewed as escalatory by the world. More importantly it would be tantamount to revving up to nationwide grief.


The Uri attack should not have been allowed to happen.

Here are some grievous mistakes made by India and its Armed Forces that led to the massive loss of life.

  1. There was no response action plan in place, despite Pathankot.
  2. There was no coordinated response to intel of a planned infiltration. ISTAR assets were not deployed to confirm the intel and thwart infiltration using artillery fire.
  3. Security at Brigade HQs was extremely lax despite an alert. The attackers inexplicably breached perimeter defenses without being challenged.
It's likely that many senior army officers' heads will roll on account of the above lapses.


India can prevent future attacks from across the border by adopting the following three simple, non escalatory measures.

  1. The government should allow the Army and the IAF to use armed helicopters over unpopulated areas in close proximity of the LoC. Such use would allow the Army to plug infiltration routes more effectively.
  2. The Army must be given carte blanche to stop infiltration. Intel on planned infiltration should be verified using ISTAR assets. If confirmed, the LoC in the sector must go live with small arm fire, artillery fire and Special Ops to thwart the infiltration. 
  3. The Army must be given carte blanche to revenge infiltration. Following a Pathankot like strike, the Army must be able to retaliate immediately in whatever manner it feels best within the sector used for infiltration. The Army should have clearance to strike targets upto 60-km deep using rockets.
The nation is grieving. While there is solace in retribution, there is also likelihood of more grief. Our endeavor should be to foil Pakistan's low intensity war against us. It can be done through introspection, addressing our shortcomings and forceful leadership.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA)

Image: Courtesy US Navy

Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) is a US Navy battle network based on the concept of Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).

NIFC-CA network allows any component of a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to act as a sensor or shooter for another component of the unit. The network uses an elevated sensor, such as Boeing EA-18G Growler airborne Electronic Attack (EA) aircraft or E-2D AEW&CS, to transmit targeting data concerning a threat to a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or a missile equipped warship, which could then launches a weapon to destroy the target.

Efforts are ongoing to integrate the US Marin Corp's latest fighter - F-35B Lightening2 - as an elevated, deep penetrating sensor of a NIFC-CA network.

NIFC-CA facilitates combining legacy capabilities (F/A-18E/F, EA-18G) with technological advances, current (F-35) and future (UCLASS, MQ-25A), to provide an integrated common picture to everyone involved.

The NIFC-CA program has been making steady progress for several years,

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was the first carrier to deploy with the initial version of NIFC-CA in March 2015.

Another carrier will deploy with the battle network.

NIFC-CA Evolution

In September 2016, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a simulated AEGIS Baseline 9 configured ship engaged a low flying cruise missile target with an SM-6 missile, exclusively using targeting data provided to the ship by sensors on board a Marine Corps F-35B.

The test proved the viability of using a F-35 (all variants) as an an Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) platform, relaying its data back to a shooter through the Multi-Function Advanced Data Link (MADL).

In actual operations, the ISTAR F-35 would be supported by USN EA-18Gs and F/A-18E/Fs equipped with powerful standoff jammers and long-range missiles, respectively. The non-stealthy, legacy fighters would use data received from the F-35 to jam and engage enemy targets while staying out of denied airspace.

In the future, MQ-25A Stingray and/or derivative would replace or complement F-35 in the ISTAR role, besides supporting strike fighters with aerial-refueling.