Integrated Battle Groups: Army Set to Deploy Its Cold Start Avatar

IBG, one of the key projects undertaken by General Bipin Rawat, aims at making the Forces more combat-ready.

Published
India
4 min read
The Army is expected to deploy its first IBG by the end of this year.
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The decks were being cleared for quite some time but reports suggest that the Army is finally ready to deploy the first of its first Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) by the end of the year.

The first of its kind formation will be deployed along the Pakistan border under the Western Command.

IBG, which is one of the key projects undertaken by General Bipin Rawat to restructure the Army, aims at making the Forces leaner and more combat-ready.

Here is a lowdown on Integrated Battle Groups:

WHAT ARE IBGs?

As the name suggests, IBGs will be formed by combining Infantry, Air Defence, Artillery, Engineers, Logistics, and Support Units. Under the current set-up, these units come together only for combat.

The rationale behind forming IBGs is to shorten the time taken to bring together these different units, and thereby, facilitate faster mobilisation of the Armed Forces. The Hindu quotes an Army source as saying, “They will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hours based on the location."

As far as the first IBG is concerned, according to a Hindustan Times report, the Defence Ministry has cleared the reorganisation of IX Corps, based in Yol, Himachal Pradesh, to form the IBGs which are to be deployed along the western border.

HOW WILL IBGs BE FORMED?

The reorganisation of IX Corps is the template which will be followed for the formation of IBGs.

The IBGs will operate direc­tly under the Corps HQ, thus doing away with division headquarters, an India Today article reported. There will, however, be a significant difference in the size of its formation.

The establishment of these groups will forgo the older formation of troops, which included around eight to ten brigades, each with three to four battalions. Instead, an IBG will have only six battalions.

The IBGs are planned to be commanded by officers of the rank Major General and have the manpower of around 5,000 troops each, news agency ANI reported in June, quoting Army sources.

Depending on an IBGs function and terrain of action, there will be diversity in their constitution.

  • In Terms of Function

The concept of IBGs was first tried as a part of an exercise under the Western Command in May this year.

A Times of India article suggested that the war-games featured two types of configurations, one for offensive roles (strike corps) — to carry out hostilities such as cross-border operations — and one for defensive postures (holding corps) — to withstand an attack from the enemy side.

“The former will be more armour (tank)-intensive for thrusts across the border, and the latter will be Infantry-centric to hold ground,” the article quoted a source as saying
  • In Terms of Terrain

During the formation of an IBG, the terrain on which it would operate, will be kept in consideration. The India Today article summarises the task at hand as:

"The 2,900-km Indo-Pak border is not uniform, the LoC in Kashmir is rugged mountains, Akhnoor and Chhamb in Jammu are in the plains, Punjab is crisscrossed by rivers, Rajasthan and Gujarat have deserts and marshes. Each IBG on the western border with Pakistan will be sector-specific, each area getting the resources it needs to strike across the border in case of a conflict. The deserts will have a different application."

COLD START 2.0?

Since taking over in 2016, General Rawat has always been an advocate of getting the Army war-prepared at short notice.

In fact, in January 2017, soon after he took over the reins, General Rawat acknowledged the existence of the 'Cold Start' doctrine for the first time.

The Army came up with the 'Cold Start' doctrine after the ten-month Operation Parakram standoff with Pakistan in 2001.

The strategy was undertaken since it took the Army “two to three weeks” to mobilise into strike formations, allowing Pakistan to counter-mobilise in the meanwhile, a journal published on Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) suggests.

The strategy behind 'Cold Start' of "creating a number of divisional size, all-arms integrated battle groups that could be launched at the shortest possible notice", is very much identical to that of IBGs.

WHY NOW?

With tensions heightened along the LoC, the Army will definitely want Integrated Battle Groups to be deployed, so as to have better preparedness. An Economic Times article quoted officials as saying that IBGs ensure better integration and self-sufficiency as compared to the existing formations.

Besides, the new formation is also expected to be more cost-efficient as the transformation would see a reduction in the size of the 1.3 million-strong Army by almost a lakh in the next four-five years.

The cost factor is all the more significant since the current Defence Budget, at 1.58 percent of the GDP, is the lowest it has been in 50 years.

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