Indo-China war; September 2017; War Gaming at IMR

Forgive my ignorance! What kind of set up IMR has to indulge in war gaming futuristic scenario such as the one that has been wargamed at IMR.

My comments should be viewed in the context that I have been personally involved in war gaming for eight years (1995-2003) at the strategic level at premier institutes viz College of Combat (now Army War College), College of Air Warfare, DSSC etc. In fact at HQ SWAC, IAF I scripted and ran a full war game during Op Parakaram along with Air Mshl Adi Gandhi. Copy must be available at Gandhinagar.

Before forwarding my comments, few clarifications please:-

  • Does the IMR set up have dedicated professionals from all three services adequately experienced and knowledgable in gaming theory?
  • In your script no assumptions have been mentioned. Merely terminal events and results have been mentioned, which does not enable the reader to actually analyse the predictions arrived at by the gaming team.
  • Mention of weather conditions is conspicuous by its absence.

Now the specifics:-

Weather Conditions

  • In the first week of September monsoon withdrawal commences from mainland India but the region under discussion is still under dense to very dense cloud cover, with intermittent breaks during the day.
  • Full moon has apparently not been taken into account, which happens to be on 6th September, 2017 (actual). I consider Chinese military leadership as intelligent as ours, hence to commence operations against a nation during the moon phase with a much more potent air power (IAF) is a professional suicide. Moon light conditions, if available due to absence of clouds, would enable IAF fighters getting airborne from SEA LEVEL bases to interdict on ground as well as engage in the air.
  • Classic weather pattern on diurnal basis is Cloudy skies over hills after 1200h till evening. Whereas clouds drift southwards towards our airfields during day, normally after 1000h, making airfield location quite difficult from the point of targeting.

Employment of weapon Platforms

  • There is no mention whatsoever about Radar network and its capability on both sides.
  • Employment of heliborne forces from altitudes in excess of 1.5 km (5,000ft) is an extremely uneconomical use because helicopters under question may not, rather would not lift more than 1,000kg i.e. a maximum of TEN FULLY ARMED  troops without any heavy weapon. I do believe in Chinese inventory there are better ways of committing suicide.
  • Helicopters under question have poor night operational capability even with NVGs. Hence to perceive that Chinese would be so stupid so as to launch a heliborne assault under nearly DARK NIGHT CONDITIONS appears improbable. In any case what will be the military aim (read targets) for such force?
  • Escorting a heliborne assault fleet by fighters is an extremely complex mission, primarily due to vast difference in speeds. Also it is a professionally unsound decision because fighters will paint on adversary radar reducing surprise element, an absolutely essential element for success of heliborne operations.
  • Dog fights are invariably during day light hours, when fighters are in visual contact and not in darkness as gaming strategists at IMR have assumed.
  • CEP of SSMs has not been specified. Chinese SSMs CEPs would be decidedly inferior to US cruise missiles. Launch location has also not been specified. Looking at the map Chinese SSMs reaching 33 corps area would be around 300 km from target. An error of ONE MINUTE in target co-ordinates would result in the SSM with a 500/1000kg warhead striking 83meters away from intended target. A one degree error would result in SSM missing the target by FIVE KM.To put it even more candidly, if IMR ops room, where you were sitting and gaming the scenario, was the intended target, the SSM would explode nearly 100 meters away resulting in shattering of window panes and ear drums of few.
  • We seem to still suffer from the nearly ‘BLIND’ precept that the silent service, The Indian Navy comes into picture later or does not come into picture at all. In fact it is the SILENT SERVICE that must come into picture before independence day (15 August) in your scenario. If indeed it was so, how did Chinese Merchant Ships reached TEN degree channel? Malacca Strait must be under surveillance, both from air as well as surface. Our Subs should be weaving a web on our eastern seaboard and EIGHT and TEN degree channel. ( In actual I guess it must be happening as I write this piece)

Having stated the facts based on DIGITAL APPRECIATION, let me offer my honest professional comments without any intention of hurting anyone because I am talking about national security.

  • Your assumptions on Air power employment in the scenario painted are flawed to the core and does not have any professional value.
  • Either you did not have an experienced air warrior to advise or else (it would be even worse) if you had one, who advised on such irrational use of Air power by both sides.
  • Mention of ARN and ARS has been made but mention of 21 Corps is conspicuous by its absence. 1 and 2 Corps are already committed north of Shakargarh Bulge. It is 21 Corps that will decide the Pak threat (I spent THREE YEARS with 21 Corps incl 13 months of Op Parakaram in middle of ‘nowhere’).
  • Chinese threat in Arunachal has not been wargamed adequately since it does not find a mention. That is our Achilles Heal.

Overall a good attempt to at least wargame the scenario but lacks DIGITAL APPRECIATION. Wargaming based on ANALOGOUS APPRECIATION, as has been the case, results in flawed and incorrect conclusions.

Chinese, too, have knowledge of gaming theory. If the conclusions drawn by IMR are so straightforward, would the Chinese embark on escalating the situation? You need to re-game the entire scenario with greater objectivity.


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