While reading up on some assorted articles, I chanced upon some information on armed helicopter training by the PLA. In an apparent demonstration to the media (obviously they want the world to know), reporters were exposed to an integrated exercise comprising armed helicopters and Unarmed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The PLA has carried out the integration of these two elements through a data-link developed by China, to function seamlessly together. The media was briefed that the combat effectiveness of an army formation is dependent upon the speed of execution of its plans. They expect the data-linked integration between the armed helicopters and the UAVs will double their combat effectiveness.
If the media report is to be believed, the demonstration consisted of a large number of UAVs and associated armed helicopters and the media was shown some typical tactical scenarios that may be envisioned in battle. These included mission planning, route formulation, communications and instructions to lead/attack elements, all conducted from a Command and Control (C2) Centre.
The venue of the demo was a Brigade HQ which (it appears) was entrusted to further train combat forces and commanders in the use of computers with data linked sensor inputs to apprise them of the scale and quantum of information, which offers them enhanced situational awareness (SA) as a result of computer-enabled intelligent and informed analysis.
In fact, the commanders are being trained in this new art of warfare where the UAV is able to scan the battlefield and that picture is transmitted in real-time to the cockpit of the armed helicopter. In addition, the UAV controller is able to designate targets (as per instructions from the C2 Centre) and this designation is now available to the armed helicopter. This, in effect, allows him to know his target even before he acquires it visually and is able to lock-on and home-on with his sensors, to execute a precision attack.
The operational effectiveness and impact of such an integrated combat force are undeniable. Developments in warfare, from the cavalry in WW-I to the tanks in WW-II, are examples of RMA which have provided the advantage and resultant victory. Here is a game-changer which will alter the dynamics of the ground battle significantly. This enhanced synergy certainly provides food for thought and the need for our forces to upgrade, to cope with such an integrated battlefield scenario in the shortest possible time.
A quick analysis throws up the fact that:
- The process of integrating the systems and establishing data-linked networks has been an ongoing process for some
- The integration is synonymous with the PLA helicopters being equipped with semi or full glass cockpits to enable the pilot to get a holistic view of the battlefield, as provided by the
- The training status of the PLA is being upgraded and made more dynamic to achieve the speed and synergy for successful
- The UAVs sent ahead as reconnaissance elements, provide a picture of the battlefield and thereafter designate targets as assessed by commanders in C2 Centres, which in turn actually allows the armed helicopters to firstly, ‘see’ their targets ‘over the hill’ and secondly, to choose their approach for maximum safety and efficacy of
The PLA is optimising the dynamics that the combination of technology (information warfare) and the third dimension (airpower) can provide. There is no gainsaying that these facilities will soon be made available to the Pakistan armed forces also.
Are the Indian armed forces lagging behind in such a scenario of future war? The IAF fighter fleet operates in much the same way and data-linked information provides immense and enhanced SA to the pilots, directly in the cockpit.
The Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) network need to be absorbed by the armed/attack helicopter fleet with a much-needed upgrade to glass cockpit design. Synergy demands of such a nature can never be overlooked by planners and Commanders and most importantly the babus, who need to look at what is across the (Raisina) Hill.
An alumnus of NDA and DSSC, Air Mshl Sumit Mukerji has served the IAF as a fighter pilot with distinction. He has commanded three units, a MiG-29 Sqn, a MiG-25 SR Sqn and TACDE (considered the ‘Top Gun’ school of the IAF) and also served as the Air Attaché in Washington DC. He retired in 2011 as the AOC-in-C of Southern Air Command.