The Indian Army is all set to get next month its own amphibious brigade, modelled on the lines of the Indian Navy's marine commandos and specialising in land and marine warfare. Experts see it as a “necessary adjunct” to meet India's security challenges.
"The amphibious brigade of the army has been undergoing training for over a year at Thiruvananthapuram and will be formally launched by the defence minister (AK Antony) next month," a defence ministry official told IANS.
Named the 91 Infantry Brigade, the amphibious force has a strength of 3,000 personnel.
“The soldiers have been drawn from the Sikh, Gorkhas and Madras regiments,” the official added.
"Dedicated ships and aircrafts would be needed to make it (amphibious brigade) fully operational. But it is a good beginning for the augmentation of the maritime security of the country," said Major General (retired) Ashok Mehta.
Amphibious warfare is the utilisation of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to send troops ashore. In the modern era, amphibious warfare persists in the form of commando insertion by fast patrol boats and mini submersibles.
“In modern warfare, an amphibious landing of infantry troops on a beach is the most complex of all military manoeuvres," an army official said.
"The undertaking requires coordination of numerous military specialities, including air power, naval gunfire, naval transport, logistical planning, specialised equipment, land warfare, tactics and extensive training in the nuances of this manoeuvre for all personnel involved,” the official said.
A well-planned and executed amphibious operation - basically a tri-service operation launched from the sea by carrying soldiers and their weaponry on a ship and affecting a landing on enemy shore - could change the course of a war.
Last year, India unveiled the joint doctrine for its amphibious operations. The doctrine is meant to serve as a guideline on how the armed forces intend to plan and conduct amphibious operations and achieve full synergistic effect of joint combat power.
“In this century this (amphibious) capability is desirable. It is a necessary adjunct to the capability of India seeing the kind of security challenges it has to face,” said strategic analyst Commodore (retired) Uday Bhaskar.
The Indian Army has been augmenting its amphibious capabilities for long. One of the most advanced amphibious warships of the Indian Navy, the INS Shardul, was affiliated to the 5 Armoured Regiment of the Indian Army last year.
Loaded with state-of-the-art equipment, INS Shardul is an amphibious warship capable of transporting personnel and accomplishing all objectives of beaching operations.
The 5 Armoured Regiment holds some of the most potent and advanced tanks in the world. Since 2002, the regiment has been at the cutting edge of the mechanised operations.
“The Indian Army always had a certain degree of amphibious capability. The fact that we are moving to a brigade level is enhancement of one more component of joint combat. For a country like India, what is important is how we are weaving together the technological and component profile,” Bhaskar added.