by Anirban Chakrabarty

In recent times, various countries world wide are adding improved and state of art defence equipment to their inventory and enhancing their ability to fight modern warfare. As a result, countries participating in such exercise are maintaining relative strength with respect to their foes, while those countries who are unable to do so for any reason are falling back and becoming vulnerable. In view of such changing scenario, it is imperative to understand the changing global military power.

When I analysed the global fire power index few clear pictures emerged. These are:-

1. You can clearly divide military powers into 4 categories. Category A comprises those whose power index is less than 0.015. These are USA, Russia & China. India made an entry to this list in this year. Category B comprises countries between firepower index of 0.015-0.030. France, UK, S. Korea, Japan, Turkey, Germany, Italy and Egypt comprises this set. Category C is marginal powers like Iran, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, N.Korea, Spain, Thailand, Taiwan, Poland, Vietnam, etc. Category D are those which can't be considered as serious military players.

2. While changes in the index are few, but, certain clear trend emerges when you see the improvement /deterioration rate of military strength. Amongst Category A, Indian military improvement rate is fastest, followed by China and Russia with the slowest being USA. Similarly, South Korea and Egypt are improving their military even at a faster rate than India within Category B. While countries like Pakistan, Vietnam and Thailand are going through a deterioration in military strength. This deterioration may lead all these three to be categorised as CAT D players within next three years.

3. The world will soon note with surprise that by 2019, USA is no more the strongest military power. Rather, it is Russia. So, will USA be 2nd? No sir, 2nd place will go to China. In year 2019, USA will be 3rd strongest military. In year 2020-2022, Russia and China will be almost at similar level of strength with China clearly taking the No 1 position by 2022 end. This explains USA's QUAD strategy and it's intent to get more partners. It has simply lost it strength to fight with Russia and China alone.

4. India will emerge as world's 3rd strongest military ahead of USA by year 2024 if the same trend of military improvement continues (based on extrapolation of data given in Global Firepower Index from 2016-2018)

Given the facts above, the balance of power is clearly shifting to Asia by next year and India will find its neighbour China as world's strongest military. Since China enjoys pricking India through Pakistan and it's core intention is to create a strategic diversion in India's growth through Pakistan, hence, the next question is what exactly India needs to focus on in its military improvement to fend off China? The answer is in its weakest areas. Now what are weakest areas in Indian firepower? Though, we tend to believe India should buy more fighter aircraft in order to achieve it's strength of 42 squadrons & should spend it's major part of Capital budget in it, the actual facts points to very different arenas. Let us discuss one by one. 

(A) ATTACK HELICOPTER- India have just 15 attack helicopters, while China have 281, Russia 511 & Pakistan have 49.India have given an order for 22 Block III Apache 64D helicopters, which it will start receiving from April'19. However, even after its induction, the gap remains huge.

(B) ARMOURED FIGHTING VEHICLE - India have only 3147 AFV while China have 9000, Russia 27400 & Pakistan 2604. Out of 3147 AFV, India have 2610 units of Soviet era BMP-2 which are almost non functional & hence needs urgent replacement. India is about to order 2300 AFV which will be manufactured in India. Given the industry estimate that a single producer can produce at maximum 100 AFV, it will be very difficult to complete the order before 12 years even if 2 producers produce parallel. Therefore, India needs at least 7-8 manufacturers working 24*7 if it desires to catch up with China & Russia.

(C) SELF PROPELLED ARTILLERY - India have only 190 SPA, while China have 2000, Russia 5970 & Pakistan 307. India is finally inducting K9 Vajra and M777 howitzers. However, 100 K9 & 145 M777 are too little too late. By the time these 245 howitzers get inducted, all 190 SPAs currently under operations will be retired. India is now depending on ATAGS and Dhanush for providing it with long range artillery firepower support. Each have range between 40-45 km. However, any concrete orders for either is yet to be placed.

(D) ROCKET PROJECTORS - India have only 266, while Russia have 3816, China have 2050, while Pakistan has 144. India have 54 vehicles (3 regiments) of Pinaka under operations. 7 more regiments equivalent to 126 vehicles will get delivered within next 5 years.

(E) FRIGATES - India have only 14 frigates compared to 50 of China. 4 more frigates have been recently ordered to Russia out of which 2 will be manufactured in India by Goa Shipyard and 2 will be imported.

(F) DESTROYERS - India have only 11 destroyers, while China & Russia have 29 & 13 respectively. India have 3 more destroyers under various stages of construction.

(G) SUBMARINE - India have got just 16 submarines as compared to 73 of China and 62 of Russia. In fact Bangladesh, a country of 5% India's size have 2 submarines, while even Pakistan have 5 and they have ordered 8 more. While the scorpion submarines are under construction , India needs to move fast with its planned project 75I.

(H) MINE WARFARE CRAFT - India had 12 Mine warfare craft, out of which 11 were retired. Now it have even one which is scheduled to be retired by January 2019. Compare this with 29 of China, 47 of Russia. Our little neighbour Bangladesh even boasts of 5 MWC while Pakistan have 3. So, tomorrow, if a war breaks out and mines are laid in Indian ocean, Bay of Bengal or in Arabian Sea, in spite of having more than 200 ships, our navy will be completely paralysed. India is therefore depending on portable systems as a stop gap solution. It has 12 units of Edge tech supplied littoral mine countermeasures sonars (LMCS). Navy have also issued a RFI for eight units of expandable underwater mine disposal system. However, getting full fledged mine sweepers is absolutely essential for a sizeable navy like Indian Navy.

(I) NAVAL HELICOPTERS - The situation in this category is as dangerous as in the others mentioned above. India have only got 5 Sea King 42B & C helicopters whereas every month Indian ship manufacturers are churning out naval ships capable to carry helicopters. The result being, we have ships to carry helicopters, but there are no helicopters to be carried. Even if the present capacity of ships needs full utilisation, we need about 150 helicopters. While in next 10 years, we are about to create space for another year 100 helicopters. Given these facts, India needs to order at least 250 Naval helicopters. However, India is currently in discussion with USA for purchase of 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters.

Apart from above India is severely short in Merchant Marine strength when compared to China and Russia. India should also focus on creating more serviceable airports and major ports such that overall economic growth gets strength and air force and navy gets alternate operating grounds in times of need.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same