Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat. (AP/File)
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat Monday said his office is working on a tentative timeline that will see the establishment of an air defence command by end of the year, a peninsula command by 2021-end, and the first of the theatre commands by the end of 2022.
He said he was in favour of staggered procurement of big-ticket capital acquisitions like 114 fighter jets for the IAF and submarines for the Navy. The submarines, he said, will get priority over a third aircraft carrier that the Navy has been pushing for.
Gen Rawat said the air defence command, the first joint command to be created, will be headed by the IAF. A study on the air defence command, being headed by the Vice Chief of the IAF, has already been initiated and a report is expected by April 10.
The peninsula command, headed by the Navy, will be created by merging the eastern and western commands. “We look at the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as one entity,” Gen Rawat said. The Navy Chief, he said, “has to look at a bigger perspective, and has to look at maritime issues from a higher perspective”.
The “security of the peninsula should be looked after by one entity,” he said. A study on the peninsula command will be ordered March 31, with the report expected in three to four months, and it “will take shape by the end of next year”.
He clarified that within these commands, which will be joint commands, “not all the assets of the Navy will go to the air defence command and not all assets of the Air Force will go to the peninsula command”.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command, the first tri-services command already in place, will not be tampered with, the CDS said, and will continue to report to the Integrated Defence Staff. While the archipelago has “surveillance” threat, “for the peninsula, the defence of territory” is the main threat.
By the end of the year, Gen Rawat said studies for theatre commands will be initiated. The first theatre command will be rolled out by the end of 2022. “Difficult to say how many theatres” will be created, he said. There could be two commands, for the eastern and the western borders, or up to five commands, with a single command looking after the entire Jammu and Kashmir border, while the rest of the western border could be handled by another command.
Apart from these, the CDS said that the idea of a joint training command is also under consideration. He said “we need a doctrine command so that all services have the same doctrine” and training of personnel will also happen as per the doctrine. For integration in logistics, Gen Rawat said “we are looking at logistics in a very big way,” and mentioned that it has already started in three places. In Mumbai and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, all three services are coming together logistically while in Guwahati, the logistics of the Army and IAF are being integrated.
Underlining synergy in acquisition of equipment as well, he said while the Department of Military Affairs, headed by him as Secretary, has exclusive rights on revenue acquisitions, “capital acquisitions is with the Defence Secretary but prioritisation is with us”. He said after prioritisation, the Department of Defence (DoD) will handle the contracts because “if you start getting bogged down by these issues, your main charter of jointness and integration will suffer”.
Expanding on his idea for big-ticket capital acquisitions, Gen Rawat said, “I feel you should never go in for large numbers in procurement at the same time... distribute over tranches”. He indicated that procurement of 114 fighter jets for the IAF will happen in a staggered manner and submarines could also be bought in similar manner. He said “when you look at equipment, also look at maintenance and scheduling”.
On the Navy’s demand for a third aircraft carrier, Gen Rawat said that the “second aircraft carrier will come next year” and the need for a third carrier can be assessed after looking at the indigenously-built second carrier’s performance.
He said he has proposed to “strengthen the capacity of our static platforms” in islands in Andaman and Nicobar and other such regions. Though they are “never as good as moving platforms,” he said aircraft carriers are also high-value targets and are sinkable. “I am not saying it is not needed,” but priority will be given to the depleting fleet of submarines over a third carrier, he said.