5,000 troops to be part of new Integrated Battle Groups
- The “lethal and agile” integrated battle groups (IBGs) have been “test-bedded and exercised” in wargames held last month
- The Army’s aim is to combine infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, logistics and support units
- The IBGs are the latest but probably the most crucial step in revamping the entire war-fighting machinery
Army sources on Wednesday said the “lethal and agile” IBGs have been “test-bedded and exercised” in wargames held last month, which saw the participation of a “strike (offensive) corps” and “a holding (defensive) corps” under the aegis of the Western Command headquartered at Chandimandir.
“The plan is to raise two to three IBGs in the plains of Jammu, Punjab and Rajasthan for the Pakistan border by October-November. The ones meant for China will come up under the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps being raised at Pannagarh (West Bengal) later,” said a source.
Largely centered around T-90S main-battle tanks, along with a mix of infantry, artillery, air defence, signals and engineers, and backed by attack helicopters, the new self-contained IBGs will be commanded by Major Generals, as was reported by TOI last year.
“After requisite approvals from the government, both offensive and defensive IBGs will be raised from the existing formations in stages ... the former will be more armour (tank)-intensive for thrusts across the border, while the latter will be infantry-centric to hold ground,” said the source.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat in January had announced that the proposed IBGs would soon be war-gamed but the heightened tensions with Pakistan, in the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack and the consequent Balakot air strikes, has somewhat delayed execution of the plan.
The IBGs, with about 5,000 troops each, will be carved out of some of the around 50 divisions (which have about 15,000 soldiers each) under the 14 corps (40,000 to 60,000 troops each) in the 12.3-lakh strong Army. While four of the 14 Corps are “strike” formations with headquarters at Mathura (1 Corps), Ambala (2 Corps), Bhopal (21 Corps) and Pannagarh (17 Corps), the rest are “holding or dual-task” ones.
The Army’s aim is to combine infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, logistics and support units, which usually come together only during actual combat or exercises, into IBGs even during peace time. This will ensure the IBGs can be mobilized and deployed swiftly, with the Army’s new Land Warfare Doctrine also noting that the “response along the western front will be sharp and swift, with the aim to destroy the adversary’s center of gravity and secure spatial gains”.
The Army, in fact, formulated its “Pro-Active Conventional War Strategy”, colloquially called the Cold Start doctrine, after the slow mobilization of its “strike formations" at the border launch pads under Operation Parakram, which took almost a month after the terrorist attack on Parliament in December 2001.
By that time, Pakistan had shored up its defences, and the US too had jumped in to pressurize India against launching any attack across the border. Since then, the Army has been refining its strategy for quick, multiple thrusts across the border through a series of wargames.
The IBGs are the latest but probably the most crucial step in revamping the entire war-fighting machinery. Towards this end, as was reported by TOI earlier, the Army will induct an additional 464 Russian-origin upgraded T-90 “Bhishma” main-battle tanks at a cost of Rs 13,448 crore in the 2022-2026 timeframe. The Army already has around 1,070 T-90 tanks as well as 124 Arjun and 2,400 older T-72 tanks in its 67 armoured regiments.