Monday, October 8

So how did the IAF perform during the Kargil War?

an excellent overview of the performance of the IAF during the Kargil War. Here is the summary:

High in the mountains of Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1999, India and Pakistan fought in an intense border clash for limited but important stakes. Overshadowed by NATO’s higher-profile air war for Kosovo, the Kargil War ensued for seventy-four days at a cost of more than a thousand casualties on each side. Yet it remains only dimly appreciated by most Western defense experts—and barely at all by students and practitioners of airpower. Nevertheless, it was a milestone event in Indian military history and one that represents a telling prototype of India’s most likely type of future combat challenge. !e Kargil conflict was emblematic of the kind of lower-intensity border skirmish between India and Pakistan, and perhaps also between India and China, that could recur in the next decade in light of the inhibiting effect of nuclear weapons on more protracted and higher-stakes tests of strength.

The experience offers an exemplary case study in the uses of airpower in joint warfare in high mountain conditions and is key to a full understanding of India’s emerging air posture. It is the one instance of recent Indian exposure to high-intensity warfare that provides insights into the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) capabilities, limitations, relations with its sister services, and interactions with India’s civilian leadership.In the Kargil War, the IAF rapidly adapted to the air campaign’s unique operational challenges, which included enemy positions at elevations of 14,000 to 18,000 feet, a stark backdrop of rocks and snow that made for uncommonly difficult visual target acquisition, and a restriction against crossing the Line of Control that forms the border with Pakistan. Without question, the effective asymmetric use of IAF airpower was pivotal in shaping the war’s
successful course and outcome for India. Yet the conflict also highlighted some of India’s military shortcomings. !e covert Pakistani intrusion into Indian-controlled Kashmir that was the casus belli laid bare a gaping hole in India’s nationwide real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability that had allowed the incursion to go undetected for many days. It further brought to light the initial near-total lack of transparency and open communication between the Indian Army’s top leaders and the IAF with
respect to the gathering crisis.

All things considered, the conflict was a poor test of India’s air warfare capability. Despite the happy ending of the Kargil experience for India, the IAF’s fighter pilots were restricted in their operations due to myriad challenges specific to this campaign. They were thus consigned to do what they could rather than what they might have done if they had more room for manoeuvre. On a strategic level, the Kargil War vividly demonstrated that a stable bilateral nuclear deterrence relationship can markedly inhibit such regional conflicts in intensity and scale—if not preclude them altogether. In the absence of the nuclear stabilizing factor, those flash points could erupt into open-ended conventional showdowns for the highest stakes. But the Kargil War also demonstrated that nuclear deterrence is not a panacea. The possibility of future conventional wars of major consequence along India’s northern borders with Pakistan and China persists, and the Indian defense establishment must plan and prepare accordingly

The Subramanyam Committee was asked to review the war, here is its report. Typically, the implementation was crap but here’s a review based upon an interview of Mr. Subramanyam.

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