:Artillery and Firepower- A Futuristic Perspective Part 6 : Firepower Enhancement

Part 1 : Preamble




Part 2 : Effects on Firepower in the Himalayas


Part 3 : Chinese Operational Concepts and Employment of Firepower


Part 4: Fire & Move and Historical Evolution of Firepower 



Part 5 : Operational Evolution and Key Tenets of Firepower


Firepower is blind as a bat without battlefield transparency. There is nothing worse than the wrong type of firepower being applied at the wrong time and place. Even worse will be if it is placed over own troops. Hence battlefield transparency and situational awareness is fundamental to enhancing application of firepower.  Battlefield transparency is a dynamic multimode  iterative process which is the result of intermeshing many issues to enhance the effect of firepower.  

A good ‘information backbone and data fusion’ enhances firepower. The need to build up an information dataset about terrain, enemy habits, deployment sites and patterns, assets, soft points, capabilities and vulnerabilities used to constitute part of Artillery Intelligence. This important ingredient of firepower enhancement has been given a short shrift in modern warfare. In our context, no one even talks of Artillery Intelligence anymore. Today it is our gaping black hole.  With firepower regaining centre stage and technology dominance on the cards, this old time craft needs reinvention in a new avatar. The PLA places a high value on firepower specially its long range assets. These cannot be deployed and fired from wherever or whenever. Hence a detailed analysis of their systems,  characteristics and capabilities will inform us of their deployment and employment cycles. The best and easiest way to get to such an analysis is through wargames in each sector. I sincerely doubt if we are doing that.     Artillery Intelligence also involves preparation and maintaining target folders in conjunction with other Services. It involves details of targets, their postures, locations, best method of attack  including weapon system and ammunition, coordination required prior to and after engagement, effect of an attack on the target, mode of acquisition and observation, confirmatory recce and PSDA. It is a complete cycle. When this data backbone is fused with surveillance data using AI and networking, firepower becomes predictive in nature. we can virtually predict almost every engagement and we will have a clear idea about ammunition management / requirement. Otherwise, we will be shooting in the dark. 


In the Sino Indian context, India will be short of firepower in numbers. In such a situation, application of firepower has to be technology driven and scientific. We need to get the best out of the system and the available means. The answer lies in ‘predictive firepower’.  Predictive firepower revolves around sound terrain and target analysis, establishing enemy patterns, responsive logistics, surveillance and networking. It ensures that appropriate firepower is predictively delivered or is ready for delivery across the depth of the battlefield simultaneously with a fair degree of first salvo effectiveness. The first salvo is the lethal salvo. Predictive firepower has to create surprise and catch the enemy off guard. Every round must be made to count. In the Himalayan terrain this is very important. Low density, lack of observation, fast changing weather et al make prediction difficult in high altitudes. Precision is an important subset of this capability. In the case of dumb ammunition, availability of meteorological  data continuously is a prime requirement for prediction of the old kind. With increasing ranges, handling meteorological requirements is more important. Unfortunately, we are simply not even thinking of it. Predictive firepower creates local overmatch through flexible standoff. If we cannot ensure this simple logic, we might as well throw in the towel. 


Surveillance’ enhances firepower like nothing else. Surveillance must be three dimensional,  in depth and 24×7. In the good old days the Observation Post (OP) officers were the mainstay of surveillance. With increase in ranges and extended battle fields, the OP officer grid is  reinforced electronically with Thermal Imaging and Observation Equipment, Battle Field Surveillance Radars and Long Range Observation System. Extension into depth comes about with manned / unmanned aerial platforms, weapon locating systems and space based surveillance systems. These have to be networked. Networked surveillance enhances battlefield transparency to enable massing firepower accurately. Surveillance must be integrated with the fire control grid. 


Map ‘grids and georeferencing’ have to work seamlessly across platforms, services and well into the depth of enemy territory. In simple words, the coordinates and data of a target on ground has to be the same irrespective of the source(s) of acquisition of the target or its user(s). China has recently extended its grid into India. That should set alarm bells ringing. Looking back, one of the reasons as to why the Balakot strikes were assessed to be failures internationally was supposed to be our inability to generate accurate target data. Indian Armed Forces have a lot of ground to cover in this regard. Synergy needs to develop not only between Services but also with Department of Space and other intelligence agencies. A common map grid, well georeferenced for height, is a mandatory requirement for delivery of accurate predictive firepower. This area of civil-military fusion needs urgent focus. 

Netcentric operations’ are the way forward. Artillery is the only netcentric arm of the Indian Army with the ACCCS and BSS in place. They completely network operational firepower and surveillance. However  new rocket and gun systems need to be incorporated and both systems need  to be upgraded with latest hardware. When that is done, efficacy of firepower will multiply manifold. The issue of its cyber security has to be taken care of through failsafe communications. The Shakti processor being developed at IIT Madras can indigenise the system completely. The emphasis in the PLA is on net-centricity. It is here that AI will play its part in the future. The Indian Army has been sitting on its heels. More importantly, net centricity is a major ingredient of jointness. Unless we achieve a fair  degree of jointness, establishing theatre commands will serve no purpose.       


Firepower places huge demands on ‘logistics’, in peace and war. Unless sound logistics infrastructure is built up during peace, and due procedures followed, firepower will fail to deliver during war/operations. Rockets and missiles need special storage conditions. They need to be tested out  periodically. They need constant maintenance and repair. Further they are all heavy articles which require preparation and special handling during operations. Ammunition  decays with time. We need to keep our ‘powder dry’ and protected at all times. In our terrain conditions, where space is a premium and moisture content is high this will be a constant challenge. The issue of ensuring ammunition availability on platforms on time is of prime importance.        


Fire has to be predicted and guided by observation on to the target for it to be effective.   As the reach of firepower increases there is also a requirement to  get the target parameters right. Further there is a need to also ensure that the target is adequately dealt with. As a result there is an undeniable requirement of deploying sensors in depth. These sensors can be UAVs, space based assets, special forces operating in depth or commando OPs. ‘Sensors have to be integrated with the shooters’ and knitted tightly through gridded communications with backups and relays. In turn, this demands detailed procedures and rules of engagement with well laid down protocols. It is only then that sensors and shooters can be deemed to be integrated. In marine operations , achieving sensor-shooter integration is all the more important since the underwater element also comes into play. A high degree of flexible control and dynamic execution will be required. The future lies in frontend integration of sensors and shooters on the same platform in the unmanned systems. These  could be either armed UAVs or loitering systems in a single or swarmed mode. Sensor to shooter integration is not being given the importance in the Indian Armed Forces due to many reasons. The danger is that Indian Army has been actively practising sensor to shooter disintegration. Sensor-Shooter integration, needs wisdom and clairvoyance stemming from good leadership to achieve desired results. Understanding the depth battle is fundamental in this paradigm. We need to get out of the retro grade thinking which has gripped our operational ideas. 


Integration also encompasses ‘air space management’. Increased fighter traffic, ground based firepower, air defense assets, and air transported operations complicate and crowd the airspace.  As the volume of firepower and delivery platforms go up, there is greater need for better airspace management. Effective engagement will depend on the ability to engage targets seamlessly. This will depend on how best the airspace can be prioritized and managed to enable the right user to use it at the right time as per a time plan. The requirement of airspace management is getting to be more complex by the day and will need greater coordination and networking in future.

Strong sensor to shooter integration and effective airspace management enables a force plus force synergy in the battlefield.  Such integration is beyond the normal thinking on jointness. It is high time that the Indian Armed Forces start thinking on these lines. It can be achieved through theatrisation…..very obviously, we need to think more and think together. I will leave it at that for now.   


One response to “:Artillery and Firepower- A Futuristic Perspective Part 6 : Firepower Enhancement”

  1. Sir,Very logical and lucid explaination.Fire Power in the right manner is the answer…Regards

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