CLAWS- INDIA STRATEGIC SEMINAR
‘FIREPOWER INDIA 2011’
19 MAY 2011
VICE ADMIRAL RK DHOWAN, AVSM, YSM
DEPUTY CHIEF OF NAVAL STAFF
1. Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Director Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Amb R Rajagopalan, Editor, Diplomatic Affairs, India Strategic, Mr Gulshan Luthra, Editor, India Strategic, Ladies and Gentlemen.
2. At the outset I would like to thank Brig Gurmeet Kanwal, Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, for giving me this opportunity to share a few thoughts on firepower and its application. It is indeed a distinct honour for me to address this august audience which represents the collective wisdom of our armed forces and those who support different facets of our armed forces under one roof, and know all about fire power.
3. To those of, us in uniform, firepower and its application, has always been one of the most challenging aspects of warfare. This, in fact, has been the case since the origin of warfare, which shortly followed the birth of man on this planet. For a moment let us travel back some centuries in time and train our eyes into the past and let them rest on the grand spectacle of the Mahabharata. We hear resounding warrior themes and see great warriors, undertaking severe penances in order to seek divine intervention to obtain weapons and divine powers to wage battles against equally worthy opponents. Even today obtaining sophisticated and powerful weapons remain an arduous and protracted process. In this grand war, one end of the spectrum was represented by the valiant and ultimately vain final stand taken by Abhimanyu as he defended himself with nothing but a chariot wheel to deflect the incoming arsenal of arrows. If one were to draw a parallel in the present age, Ballistic Missile Defence may represent a last ditch equivalent of brave Abhimanyu’s stand. At the other extreme in the Mahabharata, is the divine weapon of Brahma, the Brahmastra. The awesome consequences of the use of Brahmastra, it is believed, can be compared to a nuclear holocaust. Just as the threat of complete annihilation remained in the shadows during the Mahabharata, and yet guided the actions of men, by tempering their decisions to use this ultimate weapon, so is the logic behind nuclear deterrence in the current age.
4. Prevailing Security Environment. The existing global security environment in general and the constantly evolving one in the Indian Ocean Region in particular, is fraught, unpredictable and can best be described as ‘fragile’. This audience is well aware of the dynamic nature of our security situation which covers the entire gamut from low intensity threats to all out war, always under the spectre of nuclear threat – from state as well as non state actors.
5. The point that I wish to make, therefore is that, the concept of firepower needs to be seen in the light of the critical necessity for it to address the entire spectrum of conflict, from self defence in peacetime to an all out, all encompassing war. Such a stipulation further compounds the problems that planners face when structuring firepower needs from scarce resources. The aim finally is to deliver ordnance and achieve victory. In other words, firepower of a fighting force should eventually translate into the fighting ability of the military force.
6. I will now briefly dwell on fighting power and how it relates to firepower. Fighting power is a much broader concept that constitutes three major components. The first component is combat power or the means to fight. This focuses on platforms, weapons and sensors and the ability of personnel to use them effectively, which would depend on their training and expertise achieved. The second is the ability of the military leader to get the soldier to fight willingly and is a function of levels of motivation, effective leadership style adopted and skills in administration and management. This component can be ignored only at our own peril, as history has been witness to numerous examples where strong willed military leaders have defeated superior adversaries because of their leadership skills. The third component is the conceptual part or the doctrine that determines how well the rest of the military force’s fighting power is deployed. Doctrine therefore is a great force multiplier and enables best use to be made of the limited resources since it develops force coherence, uniformity and reliability. This also incorporates refining training procedures and honing combat skills to enhance fighting efficiency. In addition, doctrinal understanding facilitates joint operations and inter-service cooperation. You will agree with me that application of firepower is much more than being merely the sum of the individual fire power of weapon systems and platforms and that application of joint planning will make the concept larger and stronger than its parts.
What does Firepower Imply?
7. Firepower is an important dimension of military operations aimed at delivering accurate ordnance on designated targets to achieve desired effects within a given time frame. In broad terms, depending upon the effects that are required to be achieved, firepower can be classified as Tactical, Operational and Strategic. Tactical fires such as Naval Gunfire Support, Close Air Support, and Artillery Cover are designed to support manoeuvre forces, that are in direct contact with the enemy, by suppressing or destroying the enemy’s direct and indirect fire ability and air defenses. Normally, tactical fires are designed to accomplish tactical objectives; occasionally, however, tactical fires can significantly affect the outcome of a major operation like the Doolittle Raid by USN on Japan in Apr 1942.
8. Operational fires are described as application of one’s lethal or nonlethal firepower for generating a decisive impact on the course and outcome of a campaign or major operation. In modern day scenario, they represent an inherently multi-service or joint function and are conducted in the operational and strategic depths of the enemy’s defenses. In contrast to tactical fires, operational fires are planned to accomplish an operational objective.
9. Strategic fires are intended to achieve a major effect on the course and outcome of a campaign or, in some cases, even war as a whole. Planned at the highest level, strategic fires usually take place outside the boundaries of a given theater of operations where a major operation or campaign is yet to commence. Needless to say, strategic fires require the highest degree of joint planning effort. It is also true that no amount of operational excellence exhibited in the field by the operational commanders will be enough to undo the ill effects of poorly planned and executed strategic fires. This therefore underscores, once again the critical necessity of jointness at every stage. Also the outcome of war will depend on a well coordinated operation with synergised firepower between the Army, Navy and Air Force.
10. As some of you may recall from your NDA days that “Victory is still measured by the foot”. Eventually, closure of battle can only be achieved successfully when we have put our foot soldiers to occupy territory. We may fight in air, on the seas, and on land; but victory is normally achieved when the soldier puts his foot print on the ground.
11. Let us now relate firepower against some of the principles of war and analyse how the former supports the latter.
12. Starting with Element of Surprise. One may be forgiven in thinking that in this day and age of long range artillery, long range bombers and missiles, firepower is tailor made to achieve surprise. But is it so? The answer is both yes and no and depends upon what level of firepower –strategic, operational or tactical –we are referring to. Consider, for example, one of the greatest masters of war, Clausewitz, who believed it unusual that firepower could achieve strategic surprise. His views were based on the existing inadequacies of munitions and delivery platforms of his time, which could not bridge the twin operating factors of vast distances and times involved in traversing these distances. Firepower, therefore, was not considered as having the potential to achieve strategic surprise. On the other hand, this was feasible on the operational and tactical levels. Today, the exact opposite is true. In today’s world of modern warfare characterised by platforms with strategic mobility, incorporating stealth, reach and speed like strategic bombers and Ballistic Missile Nuclear Submarines and long range delivery systems like missiles and strategic rocket forces, enable a nation to achieve strategic surprise. On the other hand, development of sophisticated satellite based sensors, early warning radars and other technical means like cyber warfare have made operational and tactical surprise difficult to achieve.
13. Concentration of Forces. In the pre industrial era, concentration of forces was invariably achieved by amassing troops at a decisive point, and this tactic held true through the entire Napoleonic Wars. In the modern age however, the factor of concentration of force has generally been referred to as ‘concentration of effects’. This depends less on the number of troops and more on elements of firepower, mobility and technological prowess. I must also stress here, that owing to rapid advances in technology, a great deal of convergence has been achieved especially in weapon systems. In other words, weapon delivery platforms are increasingly veering towards becoming highly mobile with supporting technologies that have tremendous firepower, which in effect is the Net Firepower. So, yes, concentration of effects can be achieved by superior firepower.
14. The concept of application of firepower also lends itself easily in support of some other principles of war such as offensive action, flexibility and morale. This is self explanatory and I will now move on to the next aspect of firepower from the sea.
Firepower from the Sea
15. Donning a white uniform it is only fair that I dwell upon some of the attributes of maritime forces that have a bearing on the application of firepower. The seas around us are gaining new found importance as each day goes by and I have no doubt that the current century is the century of the seas. The medium of the seas provides the flexibility and manoeuvrability for platforms to operate under the sea, on the surface and in the air and provide them with the capability to launch firepower - in all dimensions.
16. Reach and Sustenance. The first attribute is the inherent stealth and enhanced reach that the submarine offers to planners. A submarine can cover large areas stealthily thus approaching the intended targets to suit the range of her sensors and weapons giving less reaction time to the enemy with regard to the incoming firepower. Similarly, the Aircraft Carrier is comparable to the Nuclear Submarine in extended reach. However, there are two clear advantages that carriers have over the submarine. At present, only an Aircraft Carrier can deliver large quantity of ordnance from sea on a sustained basis. Some of the larger Carriers in service worldwide can accommodate about 2000 tons of ordnance, which can be replenished from supply ships anywhere in the world. The other attribute of carrier that scores over the submarine stealth is their visibility, which makes them ideally suited for maritime power projection. This gives the Carrier the flexibility and poise to remain over the horizon, in international waters and signal the intent to a likely adversary, which is the inherent threat that such a presence generates. On the other hand, since there are no boundaries in the high seas, the Aircraft Carrier like other surface ships could withdraw gracefully should the situation so demand. The Aircraft Carrier is therefore a versatile platform which can be deployed anywhere, any time, for any length of time to suit strategic and operational aims.
17. Mobility. Mobility combines well with the characteristics of stealth and concealment of submarines that offer their own missiles complete security from pre-emptive attack. It means that no matter how skillful the aggressor’s attack, he will be subject to devastating retaliation. I must point out here that if equations were nuclear, while we may consider our arsenal at sea, safe from attack by the enemy, for the enemy this same arsenal is ‘immune’. Let me explain. If the enemy is to avoid a devastating second strike from the sea in retaliation to a nuclear first strike, he has to account for each and every sea based platform beyond doubt. This is the entire basis of the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction and thus the most important factor in deterring a first nuclear attack by the enemy. Thus second strike capability at sea clearly helps stabilise a dangerous situation.
18. Flexibility and Cooperative Engagement. Sea-based attacks can be launched from different dimensions thereby complicating the enemy’s defences. All available resources, when applied to generate maximum combat power at the decisive place and time, would eventually affect the adversary’s Center of Gravity. And as Corbett has rightly brought out, that the spread of forces or, in our context, the spread of application of firepower from all dimensions and directions would also deny the enemy any knowledge of the actual distribution of our platforms at any given moment, thus complicating their plan of action.
19. Towards that end, the need to harness new technology and skills for achieving greater synergy in joint operations cannot be overemphasized. A case in point is the concept of ‘Network Centric Warfare’ in which attention is focused on the combined actions of collective land, sea and air forces. NCW links sensors, communication systems and weapon systems over interconnected grids that facilitate seamless information flow to warfighters, policy makers and support personnel. In network centric operations the focus shifts from individual sensor detection and firepower capability of geographically widely displaced platforms to the cumulative firepower which can be brought to bear on the adversary through seamlessly integrated sensor, information and shooter grids. This is achieved by multispectral data fusion, high speed data links and sensor to shooter grid integration. This ensures that a target picked up by sensor of one platform can be made available to the fire control system of another platform be it a ship, submarine, aircraft or land based to carryout an attack by massing of effect on the enemy. This is when the platform ceases to matter and the true network centric operations are achieved.
20. In short, NCW will revolutionise warfare by synergising the collective firepower of forces on land, air and sea to bear upon the enemy simultaneously from different dimensions, and the massed effect so achieved would provide the much desired Battle Space Dominance.
21. BMD. Having emphasised the importance of a second strike capability earlier, to maintain a secure and credible deterrent, I would now like to focus on Integral Ballistic Missile Defence capability. The threat from Ballistic missiles is increasing both qualitatively and quantitatively. With a choice of warheads available to an adversary such as nuclear, chemical or biological, the destruction created by these missiles could be colossal. An integral BMD system is therefore a security imperative in today’s scenario. BMD is a true network enabled system that includes sensors spaced out on ground, at sea and in space for early detection and a range of interceptors to engage incoming missiles at varying ranges. It is pertinent to mention that BMD capabilities have to be flexible enough to change as the threat changes. Case in point is the Anti ship ballistic Missile that is being designed as an anti access weapon aimed at targeting an Aircraft Carrier at sea. This particular missile is reported to have a maneuvering re-entry vehicle to engage moving targets, one of the first of its kind.
Essential Requisites for Effective Firepower
22. Jointness in Services for Greater Synergy. Having briefly analysed firepower vis-a-vis Principles of War, I would like to highlight a few critical requirements for cost-effective, yet efficient application of firepower. The first and foremost concept that comes to my mind is jointness in operations or the need to orchestrate actions of the ground, sea, air and space based elements to generate a synergistic effect. Recent events bear testimony to the fact that in today's age no single service can hope to fight and win a war on its own. The capability in various dimensions have to be integrated. I have already brought this important aspect earlier; nevertheless even at the cost of repetition it needs to be reiterated.
23. The second requirement that I would like to highlight is the need to ensure precise targeting, thereby minimizing collateral damage. A responsible democratic nation constantly endeavors to deliver pointed firepower at the right place thereby minimizing collateral damage. Firepower application has to take due cognizance of the presence of innocent civilians and non combatants. This is of utmost importance since the concept of total war or war for annihilation is outdated and no longer valid. The nature of conflicts as we see today is limited in area & objective and thus application of the firepower has to be that much more precise. On account of the revolution in information technology, monitoring operations during war is no longer confined to the limits of Military Operation Centers. With media channels instantly beaming bombing results to the world community, mistakes made by the military do not go unnoticed. In any case the principle of natural justice and the law of Armed Conflict make it incumbent upon militaries to adhere to the principles of proportionality, graded response and ensure distinction between combatants and non-combatants.
24. Here, I must also add that the concept of a limited war meshes well with the judicial necessity of avoiding collateral damage. The long range and precision capabilities of munitions today will make it simple to isolate target specified areas only, thereby limiting the conflict in terms of all three operational factors of force, space and time. Yet, this will be enough to send necessary signals to the enemy. I am glad that our own Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme is moving from strength to strength and achieving ever increasing levels of precision, due to the intense efforts of our scientists from the DRDO. The Indian scientific community must be complemented on their achievements.
25. I would also like to touch upon a few modern trends that have the potential to be the game changers in enhancing Firepower. The latter half of the 20th century has witnessed the advent of precision guided weapons, advance robotics and unmanned systems, and most notably, entry of two new dimensions of operations, which are Space and Cyberspace. Integration of these two dimensions with air, sea and land assets has given a boost to Joint Fire Support Planning and Coordination that is so very essential in Network Centric Warfare.
26. One of the key enablers for surveillance and fire support tasks are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that have evinced a large investment from all three services. A large number of UAVs are available in the world today that range from micro size to large platforms incorporating multiple sensors and stealth features. One such UAV is Global Persistence, propelled by liquid hydrogen that can be employed to maintain station at any place on the globe for four continuous days. With three such aircraft, one can maintain continuous surveillance cover anywhere on the earth.
27. There is also talk of Global Strike, a new concept being developed to deliver conventional payloads anywhere in the world at hypersonic speeds in denied battle-space. These missiles would enhance joint power projection capability and are aimed to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and hence avoid collateral damage. Global strike concept is followed by Global Persistence Attack (GPA) that provides a spectrum of capabilities for persistent and sustained operations to maintain battle-space dominance.
28. In the field of artillery, conventional guns are being armed with Long Range Land Attack Projectiles (LRLAP), which are rocket propelled, GPS guided shells with extended ranges. The precise ordnance cover by this ammunition provides close support at extended ranges to troops.
29. Another technology demonstrated in the field artillery is the Rail-Gun, wherein a projectile is propelled by a high power Electro Magnetic energy rather than gunpowder. A full capability rail gun would be able to fire a shell more than 200 nm at a muzzle velocity of seven mach with impact on target at five mach. This projectile destroys the target by kinetic energy, rather than conventional explosives. Elimination of propellants and warhead would also contribute to safety in stowage of these weapons.
30. The development in the present generation cruise missiles are accurate, low flying, stealthy weapons and can be fired from multiple air and sea based platforms. The use of Land Attack Cruise Missiles to engage high value targets with precision has made these missiles as weapons of choice for military planners. With minimal collateral damage and selective engagement, cruise missiles are increasingly being used as an instrument against well defined threats. Low flying trajectory with supersonic speed in cruise missiles makes them increasingly invulnerable to air defence.
31. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that in the prevailing security environment, the concept of firepower would continue to address a range of conflicts from self-defence against asymmetric attacks to an all encompassing war. Armed forces have to brace to much more complex situations, where they may be called to deliver anything from special operations to overwhelming ordnance payloads.
32. Hence, they would need to acquire new skill sets and harness latest trends that technology has to offer. But let me remind you that technology is only a means to an end and a constant strategic reflection is required on our part to be reminiscent of this fact. Strategy with respect to firepower needs to be centered on objectives and what is necessary to achieve them rather than acquiring the latest technology, simply because it is available.
33. Getting a correct balance between strategy and technology would therefore continue to remain one of the most important factors in the 21st century. New inductions have to be based on effects desired to attain objectives and should seamlessly integrate in the fighting power. And here I would like to quote Voltaire, who said, “God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best”. It was later summarized by Napoleon as “God is on the side with the best artillery”. It briefly sums up the three tenets of fighting power namely, combat power, will to fight and doctrinal concept that encompasses joint operations in both fire and maneuver.
34. Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that the current century is not just the century of the seas but also the century of cyberspace. The real force multiplier of firepower which will provide a decisive edge in future wars will remain network centric operation. Through network centric capability we should aim to achieve information superiority over the adversary and concentrate the massing effect of our firepower to achieve a decisive victory.
35. I would like to thank the Director, Centre for Land Warfare for giving me this unique opportunity to deliver this key note address and would like to wish the seminar all success.