NEW DELHI: The new integrated battle groups (IBGs), which have now been tested on the western and eastern fronts for their capability to mobilise fast and hit hard, "will fit well" into the proposed creation of unified theatre commands in the country, says Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

The creation of the agile and self-contained IBGs, each with around 5,000 soldiers and a varying mix of infantry, tanks, artillery, air defence, signals, engineers and other support units, is part of the ongoing restructuring of the 13-lakh strong Army's entire war-fighting machinery to ensure a better offensive punch.

"The smaller battle groups will automatically be better for the theatre commands. We can allot IBGs, which will bring in more operational efficiency, to various theatres. But the conversion of Corps-sized formations (Army has 14 Corps, each with 40,000 to 60,000 troops) will take time," said Gen Naravane.

But the Army chief is confident that the IBGs, after requisite government clearances, will take final concrete shape in "a year or a year-and-a-half" from now after being war-gamed in exercises last year. The Army first tested the IBGs meant for Pakistan under the 9 Corps in the Chandimandir-based Western Command, in April-May.

Then, the "Him Vijay" exercise was held in October to test the IBGs for mountain warfare in Arunachal Pradesh under the 17 Corps in the Kolkata-based Eastern Command. "The reports are very encouraging. Those who participated in the exercise are all for IBGs now. The 'IBGization' of certain select Corps have now been practised on the ground with exercises," said Gen Naravane. For starters, the Army plans to carve out eight to 10 IBGs from the 9 Corps (headquarters at Yol, Himachal Pradesh), 17 Corps (Panagarh, West Bengal) and 33 Corps (Sukna, West Bengal). "The entire Army will not rush headlong into the IBGs. We will first validate them on the ground and test their efficacy over three to four years in these three Corps," said a senior officer.

The concept of composite and permanent IBGs, each commanded by a Major General, changes the existing operational structure of infantry, armoured, artillery and other combat support units coming together only during actual combat or exercises. Each IBG will also be specifically tailored to meet the nature of threat envisaged, the type of terrain involved and the task to be executed. So, for instance, the IBGs meant for Pakistan will be focused more on tanks and heavy artillery, while the ones for China will revolve more around infantry and light artillery due to the differing terrains, as was reported by TOI earlier.