Artillery Divisions in Indian Army - An Analysis-Part 1
The Indian Army saw advent of its first Artillery Division in the form of 40th Artillery Division, which, if I remember correctly, was raised in late 90s. Since then, Indian Army has raised two more such formations with fourth artillery division having been cleared by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) to be raised under Eastern Command.
Not much literature is available (at least I have not come across any) in public domain on the philosophy behind raising dedicated artillery divisions or their composition. Information in form of article(s) may well be buried in issues of magazines dealing with professional military matters in libraries of various think tanks and army training colleges – but out of reach of mango people like me.
As is generally the case with military matters in India’s case, one needs to read material available for other countries and see how much of it makes sense in India’s case. This extrapolation without doubt has errors but then, one works with what one has.
In this blog post, I've tried to answer (to myself and other with enough time to waste on these matters) two questions:
1. Philosophy behind raising dedicated artillery divisions.
2. Indicative equipment profile of artillery divisions
I will try and assess the composition of an artillery division in separate post.
While (a) is based on reading material available for other armies, (b) is based on open source analysis of information (which I will quote). If anyone reading this post has additional information which can be shared on public forum, please do. If there are mistakes, please feel free to point them out.
Artillery Division – Why?
The central question surrounding the formation of an artillery division is – Is it simply an amalgamation of artillery brigades under a higher command HQ or is it a maneuver formation in its own right? Which further leads one to ask is whether the constituent brigades be parceled out as per the requirement or will the formation be used a single cohesive entity to work in tandem with mechanized formations?
[Please see a lively discussion on the topic dated 2002 in Bharat-Rakshak Forum (BRF) archives - http://forums.bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=322]
Now, each Corps HQ in Indian Army has an Independent Artillery Brigade under its command. Cannot one or two more such (I) Arty Bdes be simply added under the command of senior most artillery officer in the Corps HQ? What is the requirement behind raising a dedicated formation?
Concept and Need of an Artillery Division
Well, based on my search on internet and referencing some books on the topic, I am summarizing below what I have been able to understand.
(a) Maneuver by fire –
The Russians have been the biggest proponent of artillery divisions. The phrase ‘God of War’ used to describe the role of artillery as a battle winning arm in modern battlefield originated in former Soviet Union (‘Bog Voyny’ in Russian). By the end of WWII, Soviet Army had placed 65% of its artillery in artillery divisions which numbered around 90 divisions. This concentration only increased as the Cold War increased in intensity over the years.
The Soviet Artillery doctrine considered use of artillery as a ‘fighting arm’ rather than as a ‘support arm’. They spoke in terms of Artillery Offensive or Fire Strike, where a large concentration of artillery firepower in terms of weight, volume and rate of fire is used to hit at not only the forward areas but those in depth as well - leading to considerable destruction.
Now, the objective of having a maneuver force of mechanized troops (or Cavalry in earlier times) is to place a ‘Force’ in an advantageous position – Force here refers to mobile and protected firepower inherent in this maneuver group. The ability to concentrate humungous amount of firepower leads to a situation where the ‘Force’ is concentrated without committing troops/maneuver formations on the ground. This concentration of firepower to place a ‘force’ in an advantageous position itself represents a “Maneuver by fire”.
This maneuver by fire adds another dimension to the war fighting of current times – the maneuver formations do not necessarily advance under cover of artillery support, they advance to ‘Support’ the Artillery Offensive. The Artillery Offensive or Fire Strike creates the space for the maneuver of mechanized columns. There is interchangeability in mode of expression of ‘Force’ – from combat troops/mechanized columns to long range guns and back to combat troops.
The above is the central premise in favor of having artillery division.
In our context, each of the Strike Corps has one artillery division. When coupled with armored division and Integrated Battle Groups, the artillery division can apply tremendous amount of firepower over the required front. This firepower can be employed for both, degrading (and destroying) the war-fighting capability of the enemy and for creating openings through which the mechanized columns can pour through.
(b) Command and Control –
In the Soviet Army of WWII, the control (if not Command) of ‘ALL’ the artillery assets of a given theater of action rested with the senior most artillery commander. Local artillery commanders were known to control even the organic mortar elements of the infantry battalions and machine gun detachments. This allowed the artillery commander to plan and coordinate each element of his fire plan and concentrate the maximum amount of fire-power at the required location.
The above signifies one of the basic tenets of artillery employment – maximum feasible centralized control. An artillery division achieves this admirably where the division commander commands and controls all the assets – he has a dedicated staff which looks into all the aspects of artillery usage – from logistics to communication to fire plans to actual deployment details to coordinating with senior HQ etc. All this would not have been possible by simply adding one or two extra brigades under Corps HQ. The artillery commander in Corps HQ would have lacked the resources to effectively manage so many assets under his control.
There is another aspect to this point – the artillery division commander being the senior most artillery commander, can (if required) effectively control ‘ALL’ the assets in the area of operations. The resources at the disposal of an arty div HQ can be used to plan and coordinate fire assaults of all the guns in the theater. He becomes the single point of input to the Corps Commander on all matters pertaining to employment of artillery assets – from tube artillery to rocket regiment and missile regiments.
As it is, with projects like Shakti (ACCCS – Artillery Combat Command and Control), IA is talking in terms of utilizing all the available guns in a given area rather using only those which are either organic to a formation or seconded to it.
(c) Logistics –
An artillery division of today is likely to consist of tube and rocket artillery along with tactical battlefield missiles. This myriad set of complex equipment brings with it the challenge of upkeep and maintenance – both in peace and war. Apart from this, there is going to be challenge of replenishing stock of ammunition as well as POL and spare parts during combat.
This calls for dedicated support elements under a single umbrella where such activities can be coordinated at a central level.
(d) Administration –
A typical artillery division is likely to consist of 10,000 – 15,000 troops spread across artillery regiments and support battalions and workshops. A senior HQ is required to control and manage this human resource comprising of both offers and soldiers. A division HQ with support elements like Field Ambulance, Dental Section, Military Police and other elements can look after the welfare of soldiers under its command.
This concludes my understanding of the reasons behind having an artillery division.
The Mystery Formation Sign
Almost a year back, during a discussion on BRF, one of the forumites pointed to a Republic Day contingent of Pinaka MBRL with a previously unseen (at least on BRF) formation sign. This led to frantic internet research and after many hours of hard labor with Google, I finally managed to pin the formation sign to that of 42 Artillery Division. Till then, the general perception was that IA had 2 x Artillery Divisions with third being sanctioned by CCS for Eastern Command.
I’ve used the same formation sign reasoning to reach some conclusions about the composition of Artillery Divisions. Therefore, a short primer on formation sign is in order. Here goes:
The easiest way to recognize the parent headquarter of any military unit is to examine the ‘formation sign’ on vehicles. Each formation – Infantry/Artillery/Armor Division and (I) Armored/Mechanized Bde has unique formation sign. Not only that, the formation sign of each of the above formations also has a distinct design. So, while formations signs of Armored Divisions and (I) Armored Bdes have a yellow background, those of infantry have black and those of artillery have blue background.
Please see the link below for excellent collection of Division and Command Badges of the Indian Army:
Here are some of the examples:
1st Armored division - this is the badge worn on the arm of a soldier.
(I) Armored Bde - the 'flower' you see on left side skirt is the formation sign of famous 2(I) Armored Bde. It is called 'Fleur-de-lis'. It was the first formation to receive these tanks in early 90s when first batch was inducted into 43 Armored Regiment.
Infantry Division - TATRA vehicle from 54 Infantry Division (Bison Division)
Artillery Divisions –
Below are listed the formation signs for each of the three Artillery Divisions
(1) 40 Artillery Division - Smerch contingent in R-Day Parade from 551 Rocket Regiment. The formation sign has a blue background with traditional Canon and a perpendicular Missile in foreground.
(2) 41 Artillery Division - Pinaka contingent in R-Day Parade from 1880 Rocket Regiment. It consists of head of an eagle on top with radio waves emanating from red-colored round object at base. Appropriately called as 'Agnibaaz' Division. 1880 Rocket Regiment is one of the two Pinaka Regiments to be inducted first into the army
(3) 42 Artillery Division - Smerch contingent from 1872 Rocket Regiment during Army Day Parade. The formation sign consists of a vertical maroon colored missile/rocket with a bolt of lighting in diagonal manner.
Source of names of rocket regiments - R-Day Parade recordings available here: http://republicday.nic.in/
Artillery Divisions in Indian Army
Therefore, as against the general perception, Indian Army has three instead of two artillery division. And each of them it seems has been assigned to army’s three Strike Corps. A synopsis of the same is as follows:
- 40 Artillery Division – This was the first artillery division to be raised; was raised towards end of 90s decade. The division is part of 2 Corps and I think has its headquarters in Ambala.
- 41 Artillery Division – It was raised in 2002 in Pune. This comes under the aegis of Southern Command and is supposed to be under the control of 21 Corps.
- 42 Artillery Division – Raised somewhere towards end of last decade. The division is currently based out of Alwar (in Rajasthan) and falls under the aegis of Jaipur headquartered South-Western Command. It is supposed to be under the control of 1 Corps. However, as per media reports the division is moving to a location close to Jaipur.
In a major strategic decision the Indian Army has decided to shift its 42 Artillery Division of the Jaipur-based South Western (SW) Command to Bassi, 25 km from the Rajasthan capital. The new location is much closer to Jaipur as compared to its present location in Alwar, about 160 km from the Pink City.
The fiasco around the Field Artillery Rationalization Plan (FARP) is too well known to warrant any repeat here. Therefore, the first question that comes to mind about these artillery divisions is the equipment they are holding – given the state of affair with Indian artillery procurement saga, what is the effectiveness of these divisions and can they fulfill their mandate.
Tube Artillery - My take on the situation is that a gun is a gun is a gun – yes, there are modern guns out there with heavier caliber and computer assisted operations to increase efficiency and accuracy but, that does not mean that 130 mm M-46 cannot do its task(s). Shell fired from M-46 guns will travel lesser and weigh less but it will visit destruction on the enemy nonetheless. And concentration of medium guns has increased in the army.
Earlier, an Infantry Division had 1 x Medium regiment + 3 x Field Regiments + 1 x Light Regiment – where Field Regiments fielded the 105 mm IFG and Medium Regiment had the 130 mm M-46 or 155 mm Bofors. The Light Regiments were (are) equipped with 120 mm Mortars. The above would mean that Field Regiments to Medium Regiments ratio in IA is ~3:1 and at one point in time, that might well have been the case.
But from what I’ve read, India had imported anywhere between 400-1,000 M-46 in early 90s on break-up of USSR – and at throwaway prices (again, there was once a lively discussion on BRF on this). This allowed IA to phase out older M-46 as well as convert Field Regiments to Medium Regiments. So, in my opinion, today the ratio between Field and Medium Regiments is something like 1.5:1. This in itself represents a quantum leap in offensive firepower.
Also, we need to appreciate the fact that with advent of Artillery Combat Command and Control System (ACCCS) – Project Shakti – IA is in a far better position to extract maximum bang for the buck. Kargil showed what concentrated firepower can do to the adversary – and that is what exactly ACCCS will allow IA to do – concentrate the firepower of all available guns in a given sector on an objective.
So, as far as the Tube Artillery is considered, these divisions are likely to be equipped with Medium Regiments with M-46 and some Bofors Regiments.
Rocket Artillery -
This is one aspect of artillery where the army had not shown too much enthusiasm – till the advent of Smerch System, IA had grand total of 5 x Rocket Regiments equipped with BM-21 GRAD MBRL system. One school of thought says that IA was not exactly pleased with the ‘spray and pray’ kind of accuracy offered by BM-21 type of systems. Other thought says that we did not have the finances to procure and sustain the stock for massive volume of usage (of rockets) associated with these systems. Howsoever the case may be, IA did not see induction of this system beyond the initial 5 x Regiments.
BM-21 firing during Exercise Divya Astra (2004).
(Interestingly, IA seems to have tested the BM-21 system on TATA truck chassis - is the army looking for relatively cheap mass-produced MBRL for line infantry divisions on Indian platform? No answers. See the pic below of BM-21 mounted on TATA truck and an awesome video of firing from the same truck)
Today, IA has options and resources to address both the areas of concern – systems like Smerch and Pinaka come with rockets with very high accuracy level and IA is not exactly short of funds. The induction of systems like Smerch and Pinaka (and planned longer range versions of Pinaka) indicates that IA looks at these weapon systems as tools to hit deep behind the forward line of enemy troops. This sits quite well with the concept of ‘maneuver by fire’ – where long range firepower delivered by the modern Rocket Artillery can produce advantageous position for own troops.
Holding of Rocket Artillery
In terms of holding of Rocket Regiments, the excerpt from Parliamentary Standing Committee Report-2009-10 tabled in 15 Lok Sabha gives a good indication:
3.10 When enquired about the authorized and existing number of guns, missiles and rocket systems, the Ministry in a written reply submitted as under:-
“Army is presently authorized 216 regiments which comprise of 180 Field and Medium Regiments, 25 Light Regiments, 10 Rocket Regiments and one Cruise Missile Regiment. All these units are existing except two rocket Regiments which are in the process of raising. Out of these, superior firepower units with enhanced range currently comprise of only three Multiple Rocket Launching Regiments and one Cruise Missile Regiment.”
3.11 On number and type of guns, missiles and rockets produced indigenously and imported during the last three years, the following information was made available to the Committee:
“1. Equipment imported in the last three years :-
(a) Guns. Nil.(b) Missiles. Nil (Being procured through a Joint Venture).(c) Rocket. Three regiments of Multiple Rocket Launching System each having 12 Launchers.
2. Equipment procured indigenously in the last three years :-(a) Guns. Nil.
(b) Missiles. Through joint venture, a Cruise Missile Regiment comprising of four launchers has been raised.So, from the above report one can ascertain that IA was authorized 10 x Rocket Regiments.
The breakdown of the same is follows:
- BM-21 GRAD – 5 x Rocket Regiment – DRDO has developed a long range (35 km) rocket for these systems as against their earlier range of 20 kms.
- Smerch – 3 x Rocket Regiments – each Regiment with 12 x Launchers
- Pinaka -2 x Rocket Regiments – these were being raised at the time of the above report but are now operational. I will come to that in a short while.
From what I’ve been able to ascertain, the distribution of Smerch and Pinaka is as follows:
- Each of the Artillery Division has 1 x Smerch Rocket Regiment
- 41 AD and 42 AD each have one Pinaka Rocket Regiment
The visual evidence of the above is given below:
- We've seen pics of Smerch system with formation signs of 40 and 42 Artillery Division. Below is picture of Smerch (along with Pinaka system) from exercise Sudarshan Shakti. The exercise involved formations from Southern Command and 21 Corps (Sudarshan Corps). So, I'm assuming that these Smerch systems are from 41 AD.
- There is a pic listed earlier showing Pinaka R-day contingent from 41 Ad. The below pic is from last R-day parade showing Pinaka contingent from 42 AD and belonging to 1890 Rocket Regiment.
As per the media reports, IA plan to induct 2 x Pinaka Regiment per year in the 2013-2017 Defense Plan. The above coupled with longer range versions of Pinaka will represents a quantum increase in firepower.
So, apart from Tube Artillery, these Artillery Divisions have a healthy holding of Rocket Regiments.
Missile Regiments – As the PSCD Report 2009-10 states; IA had raised a Cruise Missile Regiment with four launchers. The first Brahmos Regiment is the 861 Missile Regiment and a contingent from this Regiment actually took part in Republic Day Parade. And the formation sign on the launcher says that the Regiment is part of 40 Artillery Division.
Since the raising of this Missile Regiment, IA has raised 2 more regiments with second being numbered as 862 Missile Regiment and third likely to be numbered as 863 Missile Regiment (guess based on continuity). The three Missile Regiments are equipped with Block 1 and Block 2 version of the Brahmos Missile. It is likely that other two artillery divisions also have 1 x Missile Regiment. The Block 3 version of the missile, customized for attacking targets in mountainous areas, is most likely to be part of fourth artillery division to be raised under Eastern Command.
Please see below pic of Brahmos Missile contingent from R-Day parade with formation sign of 40 Artillery Division. The contingent belongs to 861 Missile Regiment - the first Brahmos Missile Regiment of the IA.
Surveillance and Target Acquisition (SATA) Assets – In order to fully harness the potential of modern artillery, detection and acquisition of targets is of utmost importance. Equally important is location of enemy artillery assets for Counter Battery Fire (CBF).
Traditionally, artillery brigade of an Infantry Division had organic SATA Battery. However, given the mandate and equipment profile of an artillery division, it is important it has more assets in this domain. This will allow it not only effectively utilize organic artillery assets but control the assets from other formations in the battle area.
India has acquired Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) from USA (AN/TPQ-37) and DRDO has developed an indigenous one based on Rajendra Fire Control Radar of Akash SAM. In addition, IA today operates various UAVs which can assist in real time data gathering and dissemination. When these sensors are plugged into ACCCS/Project Shakti, the ability to respond in real time increases dramatically.
ANTPQ-37 WLR during Exercise Brazen Chariots in 2008:
BEL WLR at one of the airshows:
Performance specs of the BEL WLR:
So, while it is not known whether an artillery division has SATA Battery or SATA Battalion, in my opinion,organic SATA Regiment makes more sense.
The Prithvi Missile Question – Ever since the advent of artillery divisions in IA, it has been assumed and written by various authors that Prithvi Missile Group(s) is/are part of these artillery divisions. I have a contrary opinion based on two reasons. The same are as follows:
Role of Prithvi Missile – Ever since its induction, the Prithvi Missile in Indian context has been supposed to have strategic role i.e. carrier of nuclear warhead. The missile itself has gone various iterations in terms of range and guidance but there has been no communication (in public domain) by Government of India or Ministry of Defense on the change in the role of Prithvi Missile. Another indication of the same is that all trials of Prithvi Missiles are carried out by formations from Strategic Forces Command and to date; I don’t think any test has been done by the user in the Thar Desert to test the missile in tactical role.
Artillery Division has a conventional role and is accordingly equipped. For example, at no point in time has India claimed that it will arm Brahmos with nuclear warhead – even if ability to fabricate tactical nuclear weapon may well exist with Indian nuclear establishment.
Moving Prithvi Missile from strategic to conventional role without explicit statement to the effect can create serious consequences in times of crisis.
For example, in case of another Operation Parakram, artillery divisions along with Prithvi Missile (if the same is part of artillery division) will need to mobilize. Given the range of this missile, it will need to move quite a bit forward so as to be employed in opening sequence of any war – for example, taking on airfields and POL depots. Now, Pakistan (and USA with ubiquitous eyes in sky) may well construe this as preparation for nuclear war-fighting by India and react accordingly. Pakistan will not know if the incoming missile is tactical or nuclear armed.
Such kind of ambiguity goes against the grain of Confidence Building Measure (CBM) – if India moves Prithvi Missiles into Tactical Battlefield Missile (TBM) role, I think it needs to inform Pakistan in advance and remove any ambiguity on the role front.
Prithvi Missile formation sign – We again return to the formation sign route; if one observes the formation sign on Prithvi Missiles in RD Parade or otherwise, one sees them with formation sign of Strategic Forces Command (SFC). Here, check some pictures:
Based on the data points captured above, we can reach the following conclusion about the artillery divisions in the Indian Army –
(1) The raising of these artillery divisions represents a shift in the war-fighting philosophy of the IA. Artillery, in all its manifestation, is seen as a Combat Arm with the ability to shape battlefield and decide on the outcome.
(2) ‘Maneuver by Fire’ is going to be one of the tenets of war-fighting where IA will look to apply disproportionate firepower to both degrade and destroy the combat capability of the enemy – and artillery divisions are central to this philosophy.
(3) The ability to concentrate firepower becomes still more critical if the IA wants to execute the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) – Integrated Battle Groups will have to be supported by high volume of fire to help them achieve their objective in shortest time possible.
(4) As the new Tube Artillery starts to come in (no smirks here, please - a man can dream), these artillery divisions will achieve yet higher ability to destroy the enemy even before contact is established with own troops.
(5) Rocket artillery has gained traction and Pinaka is a great success. IA is looking forward to enhanced range version of current system along with weapon system in Smerch category. Given the various arrays of warheads on these systems, IA has great flexibility in terms of target choice and decimation. My guess-estimate is that after the artillery division, infantry divisions may well see induction of at least 1 x MBRL battery in their artillery bde.
(6) Brahmos equipped Missile Regiments are already a part of artillery divisions. This is a high performance and expensive system and is likely to be limited to 1 x Missile Regiment per Division. Brahmos is like a 290 km sniper which will be used to take out C&C nodes and other such targets of critical importance.
(7) India has recently tested the Prahaar TBM – this Mach 2+ missile with declared range of 150 km is one of the most exciting systems to come out of DRDO stable. In my opinion, this missile will be the mainstay of Tactical Missile Regiments of IA and will fill the role between 290 km expensive Brahmos Missile and 90 km range Smerch (and planned derivation of Pinaka).
Prahaar TBM TEL with 6 x ready to fire missiles:
(8) Going ahead, an artillery division is likely to see a Composite Missile Brigade with 1 x Brahmos Missile Regiment +1/2 x Prahaar Missile Regiments.
(9) All the weapon systems taken together allow an artillery division commander to target objectives from 30 km to 300 km – the sheer flexibility of options available are mind-boggling and allow a Strike Corps to achieve much more.