Upgrading Indian Army Divisional Organisational Structures, to 21St Century Standards

Sub Title : Organisational structures must stay relevant to existing realities to be effective

Issues Details : Vol 15 Issue 1 Mar – Apr 2021

Author : Col J K Achuthan  (Retd)

Page No. : 32

Category : Military Affairs

: March 27, 2021

A study of the  performance of armies during wars indicates that the basic organisational structure at the divisional-level greatly contributes to winning battles, thereby enabling seizing of the ‘initiative’ for bolder follow-up actions. Organisational structures must keep in sync with latest technological developments to stay relevant and effective


Indian Army is a very professional Army, but its capacity to innovate and adapt is hindered by its deep ‘conservative’ ethos. We largely continue to field forces based on  our experience in previous wars. When we have won the wars, then the lessons learnt were quickly forgotten and organisational changes seldom if ever looked at. When we lost badly as during the India-China Conflict of 1962, then we went into an overdrive and implemented changes without adequate thought and debate. Let us truthfully ask ourselves as to what improvements in our organisational structures have been implemented after the IPKF experience or  are being proposed basis the amazing success of the Turks using armed & unarmed drones in Northern Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan in 2020, which stunned their opponents? These ‘Basic Shortcomings’ can be attributed to IA’s outdated divisional organisational structures, which have caused us to be surely ‘surprised’, as at Kargil, and at most places on the LAC with China. This is because the capacity for gathering authentic battlefield intelligence at the divisional level has not been created, nor do we have specially designed ‘Abteilung’ (Hunter) Grouping at the divisional level like the German Army of WW II, to punish border violations in a timely and effective manner, or to seize the initiative and create opportunities during actual war.

The tested concepts of “Integrated Battlefield Groupings” as practiced by the US Army, and the unstoppable Russian Military Doctrine of “Progressing the Corps-level Battle in Echelons” need to be implemented urgently as applicable in Indian settings, in order to blunt the designs of our hostile neighbours.

It is suggested that we look de novo at the organisations of  the mountain division, infantry division and the armoured division for lightning-type operations in the plains & deserts. The fundamental concept that needs to be followed is that of optimal ‘All-Arms & All-Services Battle-Fighting’ to create Blitzkrieg effects when we have to fight, and ‘Air-Land Coordinated Battle’ to simultaneously hit targets in depth and weaken the enemy’s will to fight. Based on experience the Germans had determined that to ensure maximum flexibility on the battlefield, an armoured division should ideally be structured on a strength of 200 tanks and 1000 support vehicles. Similarly, an infantry division should not exceed the strength of 15,000 men and 1000 support vehicles.

A mountain division should be like a light infantry division, which should also have an armoured element for ‘valley dominance’ operations, and to achieve a quick breakout and seize chokepoints during an offensive endeavour. The successful German concept of infantry assaulting with the support of tracked direct-firing guns, must be incorporated. In today’s battlefield-environment the use of intelligence gathering and ‘strike drones’ has become essential. Similarly, adequate air defence cover has to be ensured, to deter the adversary from using precision guided munitions to knock off our command & control centres, ammunition & fuel dumps, key bridges, and artillery gun areas. Having effective counter-bombardment capability also needs to be addressed on priority.

The Need to ‘Innovate’ Organisational Changes in the Army

Our Army HQ’s Staff Duties Branch needs to work out new organisation tables and equipment state of battle formations and combat units every five years, in order to keep up with developments in warfare occurring all over the world. The Training Command must field-test these organisations before they become standardised and implemented throughout the Army.

Successful operations have to be ‘intelligence-driven’ for fast effects and experiencing minimum human and equipment losses. If this cardinal principle is not followed, as has happened many times and repeatedly with our Army, a large cost will have to be paid and serious embarrassment suffered by the nation. The correct reading of battle-indications before actual battle takes place is very important. This requires both high priority being given by commanders at all levels and diligent analysis on weekly, monthly and seasonal basis by the intelligence staff posted at respective formation HQs, primarily the divisional level. Therefore, the necessary tools of intelligence collection as existing in the Israeli Army, British Army, Turkish Army, Russian Army etc be studied and replicated into our organisations too.

Creating Torrent-like effect and Vortex with Seamless Fluidity, during Operations

Our divisional organisation should enable the commander to swiftly change battle-plans and create unexpected all-arms and all-services coordinated and trained responses whose effects are not just the sum-total of the components involved, but much more, due to the speed and efficiency with which they are put into effect. This requires collective training and periodic formation-level exercises to gain experience and quickly putting into effect the corrective actions, based on feed-back points.

Suggested Organisation Armoured Division

A suggested organisation and summary of  equipment and manpower of an effective armoured division is given in the tables. The changes can be implemented within the current manpower authorisations.


Adapting to changing times is the need of the hour.

We sorely need a lethal and quick-responsive ‘punch’ as our first line of defence. If we resist change or are lethargic in its implementation it will be to our peril and future generations will bemoan the fact.