INDIAN ARMY YEAR-2020-By Gen. S Padmanabhan


Regular Member
Aug 19, 2009
The aim of this article is to visualise the likely national security environment in 2020 with special reference to the threats and challenges that may confront us at that time, and arrive at the most appropriate force structure and equipment profile for the Indian Army of 2020.

While the focus in this article is on the Army, it must not be construed that the Army can fulfill its missions without the active partnership of the Navy and the Air Force. Joint, or preferably, integrated tri-service functioning in war and peace will be an essential pre-requisite for success in all our operations.

Threats and Challenges to India : 2020
Military Threats
India is not likely to face a military threat from the USA or China because of its strength, both military and economic.

A medium level military threat may arise from Pakistan if it fails to make adequate economic and political progress, or, its leadership passes to radical elements, or, the country as such, fails and lapses into a state of anarchy.
Bangladesh may pose a very low level threat if it decides to encourage demographic ‘aggression’ by using its over-sized armed forces in support.
Threats of non-state groups armed with WMD could become a reality. They could be acting on their own initiative or, at the behest of a sponsor nation. This dimension of WMD would warrant war-like response from us.
Challenges. Apart from military threats, a number of non-military challenges may have to be faced by our Army in the 2020 time frame. These are as follows: -

Human resources of appropriate quality may get drawn to the more lucrative civilian sector. The terms and conditions of service and satisfaction levels of personnel, must be made more attractive. We should also enroll more short service personnel than regular cadres to reduce pension liabilities and for better career management of officers.
Funds allotted to the Armed Forces should be sustained at a level of three per cent of GDP for at least 12 to 15 years so as to ensure requisite modernisation and making good existing shortfalls.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) must be upgraded qualitatively and top quality scientists should be inducted into it. Rightfully, their expectations of pay and research facilities will be high. These must be met.
Private sector participation in defence R & D and development of complete systems by them, must be facilitated. Government should fund their defence research projects and give them guarantees of sizeable orders to encourage their partnership with the DRDO.
Scientific and technical manpower will be eagerly sought by other countries. To overcome this ‘brain-drain’, we should improve the working conditions and research facilities in our country.
The IT driven revolution in military affairs requires that the Army ‘manages’ these changes in a systematic and smooth manner. We need to create an integrated force working in an ‘unified battle space’; seamless communications; extensive exploitation of IT with excellent ‘cyber security’; top quality space based and terrestrial surveillance systems and fully operationalised C4I2 systems. This convergence of various technologies and capabilities will bestow the forces with much enhanced force-multiplier benefits through Network Centric Warfare (NCW). We have a long way to go in this regard.

Internal contingencies of various types could retard or block the Army’s effort to achieve optimal development in the next 15 years. We need to be prepared with suitable contingency plans to overcome these ‘drag’ factors.

Extreme Contingencies. In the unlikely event of our prognosis being grossly in error, the following extreme contingencies could occur :-

The USA, in a bid to prevent China from superseding her as the superpower, provokes China to a war with possible use of nuclear weapons.
China, in frustration with the US-India Axis and to teach India a lesson, may declare war on us.
Pakistan may join China in the war against India, or, allow to be used as a proxy to support China in a ‘holding’ mode.
Nature of Warfare in 2020.
Vision : Indian Army: 2020
The foregoing threat assessment and the likely nature of any future war we may be required to fight, including the extreme contingencies we have listed, should give us the ‘Vision’ of the Indian Army, 2020. We may state this vision as follows: -

“The Indian Army, 2020 will be an optimally equipped and weaponised force, with the capability to operate effectively in an integrated joint services environment, over the entire spectrum of conflict, in a regional context.”

The vision statement spelt out above, is appropriate to the restrained aspirations of this huge and benign country, whose ethical values and traditions inhibit it from anything less modest than what has been stated. It also ensures that this country shall never again have to undergo the humiliation of foreign conquest, as in the past; hence the emphasis on optimal strength, under all conditions of warfare.

Role of the Indian Army
Armies are maintained by countries in order to safeguard their core values and national interests from external aggression and internal subversion. The Primary and Secondary roles of our Army are as under :-

Primary Role. Deter external aggression and, if deterrence fails, defeat it by force.
Secondary Role. Assist the Government in overcoming internal threats, foreign sponsored or indigenous, and aid the civil authority when requisitioned for the purpose.
Capabilities Entailed by the Role
The capabilities that the Army must posses to fulfill its role must be identified in accordance with our ‘Vision’ for the Army. The capabilities, thus identified are as under :-

Deterrent Capability. The Army should be so strong in both conventional and nuclear weapons, that potential aggressors are deterred.
War Fighting Capability. If deterrence fails, the Army should be able to fight a successful war against the enemy, over any terrain, and in conventional as well as NBC warfare situations.
Internal Security Management Capability. The Army should be able to deal with and manage internal security situations of various types like insurgency, grave law and order situations; and also render aid to civil power, when requisitioned under various situations including disasters, both natural and man-made.
Force Projection Capability. The Army should be capable of operating ‘out-of-area’ as part of an integrated task force, when ordered by the Government.
Peace Keeping Operations Capability. The Army should be able to undertake UN Peace Keeping Missions in any part of the world and inter-operate with Army components of other countries in such operations.
Though we presently posses all these capabilities in some measure, the desired level is yet to be realised in many areas. Resource inadequacy, lack of clear policy directions from the Government, frequent ‘re-thinks’ on the part of the Army, failure of timely supplies of material and shoddy quality of what has been supplied, are some of the reasons attributable to the Army’s inability to achieve and retain the desired level of capability at all times. Perhaps, even more important reason, is the knowledge driven Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), which accelerates the process of obsolescence of equipment, doctrines and tactics. It is in this critical area of RMA that a lot of work needs to be done so that we can have adequate levels of the desired capabilities, at all times.

Let us now examine whether the present structure of the Army needs to be altered to enable the Army to fulfill its assigned role better.

Structure of the Army : 2020
General. It is idle to claim that our organisations have ‘stood the test of time and war’ and, therefore, need not be tampered with. The nature of wars we are likely to face has changed. The battle zone is virtually transparent to surveillance devices. The range and lethality of weapons has increased many times over. Precision guided munitions have replaced the old area-neutralisation munitions. Means of mobility have increased. And the convergence of Information Technology, computers, all-weather sensors, communications and firepower resources has vested commanders at various levels, with unprecedented real-time knowledge of the situation as also the ability to alter it at will. These developments necessitates a review of our existing force structure.

Macro-level Restructuring. The Army has always been regretting the blunting of the ‘Combat Edge’ it had over its traditional adversary. The calculation of force ratios between the adversaries was hitherto done on a service to service basis - our Army versus the opponent’s, our Navy and Air Force versus the opponent’s. This gave us a skewed idea of the capability of our armed forces as a whole vis-à-vis our adversary. Wars are not fought service wise. All the services have to join during combat. In such a milieu, the three services should be integrated into one strong unified force with - unity of command and control, total synergy in operations, and much superior and economical employment of the resources available to the armed forces. There is bound to be great opposition to this idea, just as in the case of formation of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) in 2001-2002. There is no escaping the military logic of creating suitably constituted integrated theatre commands and functional (non-territorial) commands for the Armed Forces as a whole. The benefits that will accrue are : cohesion among the services, synergy leading to maximisation of combat power, better exploitation of the RMA brought about by C4I2 enabling Network Centric Warfare (NCW), strategic and intra- theatre flexibility in handling of resources and, above all, classic unity of effort. No specific solutions are offered for the creation of such integrated theatre commands. If the idea suggested above raises discussion on this important issue, our aim would have been achieved. Hopefully, this idea too, is NOT put into cold storage like the creation of the post of Chief of the Defence Staff!

Reorganising the Present Army for 2020. The resistance to change for macro level restructuring of India’s Armed Forces, is likely to be stiff. It may, therefore, not be achievable in the 5-10 years timeframe. However, within the existing organisation of the Army some meaningful reorganisation can be brought about. The following suggestions could be considered :-

Intelligence and surveillance organisations must be strengthened and modernised.
Additional Special Forces (SF), patterned broadly on the present organisation, need to be raised. These units should be capable of functioning in very small groups, for prolonged periods, within or beyond the combat zone. Their tasks could include covert special reconnaissance; target specific raids; unconventional operations to organise resistance groups and conduct guerilla warfare in enemy territory; penetration of terrorist organisations for intelligence purposes; and counter-terrorism in all its manifestations including WMD. The personnel must be endowed with very high level of practical intelligence, initiative, mission orientation and excellent linguistic competence appropriate to the area where they are to operate.
Special Rapid Action forces for offensive or reactive employment at the Corps level and an Army reserve with adequate airlift resources including for light tanks/ICVs, needs to be created.
Information Warfare Units need to be created at each Corps to carry out psychological operations.
An amphibious formation suitably grouped with other elements for out of area operations should be raised.
As the proxy war and insurgencies abate, the existing RR force may be scaled down suitably and kept as a reserve force for the same tasks as before.
Conventional forces, which are today considered to be ‘holding’ forces, should be enabled to take up ‘cold start’ offensives by grouping with them mechanised forces, airborne/ heliborne forces as the case may be. This will give the ‘strike’ forces a forward launch pad for their tasks.
Strategic forces need to be built up to ‘deterrent’ levels against a major power like China. The more forbidding the weapon the more likely it is to deter the enemy. The nuclear arsenal must, therefore, be enlarged and diversified to include thermo-nuclear weapons. To ensure guaranteed second strike capability, submarines capable of launching thermo-nuclear weapons must be available.
Air defence of the field force must be upgraded considerably.
Army logistics must be improved by equipping transport units with high mobility vehicles. Heavy lift helicopter units of the Air Force should be made available to them on a guaranteed basis for training and operations.
The survivability aspect of personnel needs to be addressed. The soldier must have lightweight personal protective clothing, excellent night vision device, light and accurate automatic weapon, ‘walkie-talkie’ type of radio communications and each section must have a portable anti-aircraft missile firing capability.
We have suggested what could be done to better utilise the presently available forces to give us the desired capabilities. The question, whether the existing organisation of the field army into corps, division and brigades should be retained, or a more flexible organisation of ‘task forces’ directly controlled by a divisional or corps headquarters should be introduced, needs to be considered by the Army. The organisation so created should not only be tactically sound, it should also result in substantial savings in manpower for the Army. Overall, with a switch to the Task Force mode, significant savings of manpower can accrue even at present.

Equipment Profile
Mechanised Forces. T-90 tanks are likely to be the mainstay for the next two decades and after mid-life upgradation. The next generation of Infantry Combat Vehicles (ICV) should be in service by 2010 or so. Part of the ICVs should be wheeled. All mechanised forces should be NBC proof, better protected, and have greater speed and night fighting capability.

Artillery. Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) with range in excess of 120 kilometers, SSMs of the Prithvi family with solid propellant, self-propelled guns (both tracked and wheeled) of the same calibre, some long range rifled mortars and a higher availability of precision guided munitions form the bulk of the Artillery ‘wish list’ for 2020. Better radio sets, better equipment (both radar and opto-electronic) for target acquisition and survey, upgraded computers for both gun and observer ends and advanced systems of fire direction and damage assessment are also needed. The use of remotely piloted aerial vehicles working in conjunction with long range MLRS will help shape the future battlefield in depths, hitherto not attained. It will also alter the battlefield into a non-linear one.

Infantry. The Infantry needs to be upgraded to produce very high volumes of fire using a range of weapons. Surveillance by radars and other sensors will give the Infantry added ability to ‘kill’ enemy tanks and other hard targets. The next generation of ATGW should be in service by 2015, giving the Infantry greater lethality. With improved personal protective clothing, better night vision capability and the ability to shoot down attacking aircraft with section level anti aircraft guided missiles, the infantryman of Army 2020 will be a very formidable soldier indeed.

Doctrinal Changes
The following doctrinal changes/refinements are suggested for the Army in 2020: -

Through superlative preparedness deter any country from engaging us in war.
Every war in the future, must be fought in an integrated manner.
Every war must be won with the fewest casualties and cost to us.
Attack all the enemy’s vulnerabilities, all at one time if possible, and create an adverse impact on his will to fight.
Manoeuvre versus Attrition. Attrition involves heavy costs to the attacker, manoeuvre places the attackers at a relative advantage over the defender. Even in the mountains, it is only by manoeuvre that the formidable, fixed defences can be captured with the minimum cost to us. Aggressive use of airborne and heliborne/heli-landed troops in conjunction with unorthodox employment of tanks and ICVs after heavy bombardment, will enable manoeuvre in mountains.
Leadership. Despite the vast inventory of high-tech machines and instruments available to the Army and the better educated soldier of 2020, good leaders will always be prized.
There is no mathematical exactness about when events will transpire and whether certain aspects we have assumed as being constant will actually be so or will alter radically, putting our prognosis into error. Notwithstanding this, a few points cannot be disputed. These are: India is progressing rapidly as an economic power; its natural endowments like strategic location, rich mineral resources and a large, industrious and hardy population, befit her for great power status. Its Army is large, disciplined, battle tested and renowned throughout the world for its professional quality. Such an army should be upgraded further in quality to serve India of 2020, in a befitting manner.


Regular Member
Mar 29, 2009
One thing i wonder is that with US having long ago adopted the combat brigade instead of the division and with the chinese also experimenting with regimental and batallion level battle groups will Indian army reconsider division structure?


Regular Member
Sep 24, 2009
IAF and IN has in much better future plan than IA. They already made prototypes for their future weapons but not the IA! It is far behind. IA readily needs a long range artillery, futuristic MBT and soldiers. F-INSAS is not matured nor FMBT and there is no sign of a next genration artillery or MBRL.

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