Pak armour has edge over India

Training is the overall responsibility of the Inspector-General, Training and Education, in GHQ. Unlike many armies in which complex training methods are embraced at great expense, the Pakistan Army has maintained tried and tested methods. It relies largely on the efficient regimental system whereby each infantry regiment has its own training centre, as have corps such as armour or signals.

Initial training of officers (all male) of all arms and services is conducted mainly at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul, Abbotabad. Standards are adequate, although emphasis has to be placed on instruction in the English language.

The Army is short of officers. This is largely due to competition from more lucrative careers and because the social structure of the country is changing. The “old Army families” who supplied their sons as officers and soldiers can no longer be relied upon as a guaranteed source of recruits. The shortage is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, although the recent military takeover improved enlistments. Also, modern techniques of recruiting, with improvements in barrack living conditions, initiated by the previous Chief of Army Staff, General Karamat, and continued by the present chief, have had positive results.

Regimental and corps training is of a high standard but there is much learning by rote, which tends to reduce initiative. Instruction at Army schools (such as the School of Infantry and Tactics) is impressive and courses are conducted efficiently. This applies to the Command and Staff College, with one caveat: too much time is spent on researching previous years’ questions and answers rather than attempting to break ground with original thought and novel proposals.

Directing staff are high quality and the syllabus is sound. However, the culture of “chappa” — an anxiety to conform, resulting in emphasis on obtaining “correct” solutions from former students — produces uninspiring discussion and careful, but imitative papers. Despite this, the product is generally good.

Advanced technical training and graduate/post graduate studies are carried out under the aegis of the National University of Sciences and Technology, which involves the Colleges of Medicine, Signals, Military Engineering, and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. These are linked with civilian, naval and air force institutions, and with Michigan State (US) and Cranfield (UK) universities.

Individual and collective training in units is conducted in an annual cycle, usually dictated by the timing of higher-level exercises. Sub-unit and unit exercises are generally held in summer, with brigade and divisional manoeuvres after the harvest and in winter.

There has been emphasis on computer-based war-gaming, with consequent improvement in staff-work, especially in logistics. In the 1965 and 1971 wars few formations were far from base facilities and supply dumps, and it is only comparatively recently that battlefield recovery and practice in forward supply have been allotted the importance they demand. Much training focuses on obstacle-crossing, as there are extensive natural and man-made water barriers on both sides of the border, especially in Punjab. In the 1980s a river-crossing was often judged to have been successful when the force lodged on the far bank had only first-line ammunition and arrangements for its sustenance were at best sketchy. Following the 1989 Zarb-e-Momin exercise it was made clear to commanders that logistics mattered, that resupply was not to be treated as “out of exercise” or “notional,” and that all exercises were to have a credible logistics plan.

The analysis of Zarb-e-Momin resulted in considerable restructuring, including the creation of the Air Defence Command and the Artillery Division. It was assessed that command, control and communication (C3I) had serious defects, especially in the passage of tactical information from higher HQ to unit level, but improvement in this aspect has been slower than desired, mainly because of financial constraints. Extensive use is made of satellite communications, and there have been notable advances in the development and production of secure systems, although these do not appear to be available other than in strike formations and independent forces. Subsequent exercises have tested the development matrix generated by Zarb-e-Momin, but budget limitations have precluded conduct of trials on the scale necessary to test, prove, and modify doctrine and procedures to the extent planned by GHQ.

Cessation of overseas training arrangements by developed countries as a result of their disapproval of Pakistan’s nuclear tests has not seriously affected professional knowledge or standards, but officers are now denied exposure to the wider horizons offered by such nations. Western influence has been reduced to the point of creating significant resentment, especially at junior level.

Increased anti-Western feelings have been manipulated by a small number of zealots within and outside the armed forces in an attempt to attract adherents to more rigid forms of Islam than is desired by senior officers, and the West.

Equipment and mobility: US military cooperation and supply of equipment stopped in October 1990 after US President George Bush refused to sign an annual declaration that Pakistan was not involved in a nuclear programme. (The US was aware that Pakistan had such a programme for many years but after Russia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the Cold War, Pakistan was less useful to the US as an ally. Sanctions followed.) After some relaxation, strictures were reimposed in totality following Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998. Results have been:

  • The movement of Pakistan further towards China and North Korea as suppliers and, in the case of China, co-producer, of weapons systems.
  • The clandestine acquisition of equipment and spare parts worldwide.
  • An increased domestic production of spare parts and ammunition.
  • Heightened anti-Americanism in all services, but mainly and markedly amongst junior Army officers.

    This is spilling-over into general anti-Western sentiment. Fortunately for the Army, Pakistan declined to purchase the US Abrams main battle tank when it was offered in 1988. (It was following a demonstration of the Abrams that Pakistan’s then ruler, Gen. Zia-ul Haq, left the firing range at Bahawalpur in a Pakistan Air Force C-130 that crashed in mysterious circumstances, killing him, the US ambassador, the US defence sales representative and 20 senior officers.) Had the Abrams been obtained, a large part of the Armoured Corps, including the strike corps, would now be facing grave difficulties.

    Reliance was placed on obtaining Chinese tanks, including the Norinco Type 85 (125mm smoothbore), of which over 400 are in service. Pakistan improved the current inventory by undertaking a major rebuild/upgrade programme at Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT, near Rawalpindi, improved and extended the tanks with significant Chinese assistance). There has also been gradual development, with China, of a new tank, the MBT 2000 or “Khalid”; and the acquisition, beginning in 1997, of 320 T-80UD tanks from Ukraine at a cost of $650m. The last of these were delivered at the end of 1999.

    The introduction of newer and rebuilt tanks has taken pressure off the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, which was having difficulty maintaining older equipment for front-line use. Type 85s and T-80s form the major part of strike forces, with the work-horse Type 59 (105mm, upgraded), Type 69 (Centaur FCS), and M-48A5s in other units. Technology from the UK, Sweden and Belgium has resulted in improvement in advanced tank (and artillery) ammunition, which is produced in increasing quantities by Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) for domestic use and growing exports.

    The Khalid MBT (120mm) four-phase programme appears successful, if slow. Its measured pace results from a combination of policy, and non-availability of systems and sub-systems from Western nations. The power pack (UK Challenger) and transmission (French Leclerc) were deemed satisfactory, but the outcome of negotiations on long-term development is unknown as there is pressure within the British government to cease defence co-operation with Pakistan. The programme contrasts favourably with India’s Arjun MBT project.

    It appears that for the moment Pakistan could have a qualitative and even a quantitative edge over Indian armour, as Russian T-90 MBTs performed badly in trials last year in India, and acquisition is yet to be confirmed. Refurbishment of India’s 1,500 T-72s is well behind schedule, and there are critical maintenance and upgrading problems. The Arjun MBT has been ordered only in token number (124, with delivery to start in 2001). These problems, set against Pakistan’s novel armour tactics, improved air-to-ground cooperation, flexible command structure at corps and below, and a more structured approach to procurement and production, might point to a military balance less in India’s favour than bald inventories would seem to show.

    Pakistan has a deficiency in mobility. There are too few armoured personnel carriers and self-propelled guns, both medium (155mm) and air defence, to properly equip all formations. There are only 900 M113s available (most produced at HIT under licence).

    Both their production and armoured infantry fighting vehicle development have been affected by sanctions. The 155mm self-propelled artillery, essential for support in the fast-moving battles likely during the advance of the strike formations and in countering similar Indian thrust(s) into Pakistan, is limited to a dozen regiments-worth of US M-109s. In spite of US embargoes, spares are bought on the world market, with some manufactured at POF. As the barrels are well within their first quarter of life, there is no pressing need for replacement. The problem is in enlarging the holding, as the US is an unreliable supplier. There is no compatibility between the M-109 and the likely alternative, the Norinco 122mm SP gun.

    Air defence: Until the early 1990s the Army paid insufficient attention to cooperation with the Air Force. Joint exercises were few, and were more demonstrations than tests. During obstacle crossings, soldiers from divisional air defence regiments were used as guides, making far bank AD almost negligible as there were no procedures for marrying-up troops with equipments after lodgement. They would also be so tired as to make them ineffective at the very time of major air threat.

    Tactical liaison with the Pakistan Air Force was poor or nonexistent and the risk of mistaken engagement of own troops was unacceptably high. Procedures for weapons tight were not practiced.

    The creation of the Air Defence Command, consisting of three anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) Groups (8 brigades), and emphasis on joint cooperation and training has gone far to rectify the unsatisfactory position. However, much remains to be done.

    Unfortunately for the Army and the PAF, budget restrictions have cut the number of exercises that are necessary to practice and refine procedures to the required degree, although computer and dry training is conducted. Most equipments are towed guns, but study of AAA tactics worldwide has resulted in doctrine based on local airspace saturation. Hand-held/vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missiles, including Stinger, RBS-70 (180 launchers) and Chinese HN-5, are deployed mainly in strike units, and the cheaply produced Anza infra-red homing missile, a SA-7 “Grail” surface-to-air missile copy, is in wide service.