Issue Vol. 28.1 Jan-Mar 2013
Date : 06 Apr , 2013
Foolproof security of an operational base has been a vital prerequisite for the successful conduct of war. History of warfare reveals that neglect of this vital aspect has invariably led to disaster. What was true in the time of the Roman Legions is valid in principle even now in the era of high technology warfare involving a wide variety of forces engaged in combined and coordinated operations whether on land, at sea and in the air.
Military operations, be they on land, at sea, in the air or even in space, have to be launched from bases that provide security and sanctuary for the participating military forces, before, during and after operations. Foolproof security of an operational base has been a vital prerequisite for the successful conduct of war. History of warfare reveals that neglect of this vital aspect has invariably led to disaster. What was true in the time of the Roman Legions is valid in principle even now in the era of high technology warfare involving a wide variety of forces engaged in combined and coordinated operations whether on land, at sea and in the air.
Indian military airfields in the vicinity of international borders are vulnerable to long-range artillery or unguided rocket attack…
Unfortunately, upgrading the security of an airbase is not the most glamorous aspect of a modernisation programme and hence is generally accorded a low priority being usually addressed as an afterthought. Security of infrastructure is not associated with expensive and glamourous high technology that modern aerial weapon systems and combat aircraft are. After all, an effective access control system does not generate primetime media frenzy when compared to combat aircraft, Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) aircraft or ballistic missiles.
During conflicts in the past, airfields and associated assets were often targeted for take-over by enemy forces to deny the facilities to own forces and subsequently to be used by the enemy. The example of the invasion of the island of Crete in World War II comes to mind. German airborne forces consisting of glider-borne light infantry and paratroopers attacked and captured the airfield in Crete to deny its availability to the British forces and then used it as a bridgehead to land German troops to capture the whole of the island. Such a situation could well be faced at airfields in the island territories of India in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. Denial of these assets will cut military reach considerably and if these assets were to be used by hostile forces, air, sea and amphibious operations in the island territories will be disrupted, own forces based there cut off and even efforts at evacuation compromised.
US forces in the Pacific during World War II attacked Japanese-held islands with carrier-based air power followed by amphibious assault. One of their aims was to use the islands to base strategic air assets to target the Japanese islands. At that time, it was only strategic air power that could mount attacks against the heart of Japan. However, all these examples were in the context of an all-out global war. Advances in technology have now extended the range of the entire spectrum of weapon systems such that capabilities exist to launch attacks from one’s own heartland against enemy targets worldwide. Such threats will be recognised and hopefully catered for in contingency plans for an all-out war in the future. It is safe to assume that there will be fewer restrictions on the rules of engagement, barring the major dilemma of crossing the nuclear threshold.