Meinhaj Hussain, email@example.com
This is a shortened and revised version of our combined arms theory. DOWNLOAD.
Modern Muslim Light Cavalry II
By the (Steeds) that run, with panting (breath),
And strike sparks of fire,
And push home the charge in the morning,
And raise the dust in clouds the while,
And penetrate forthwith into the midst (of the foe) en masse―
He sees a long, dark line of horsemen emerge from behind a rise in the ground and charge galloping at a body of Roman troops. The cloaks of the warriors fly behind them and the hooves of their horses pound the earth pitilessly. Some carry lances; others brandish swords; and the Romans standing in the path of the charge tremble at the sight of the oncoming terror, for they are standing in the way of the Mobile Guard, whom none may resist and survive to tell the tale. The line of charging horsemen is not straight, for it is impossible to keep it straight at such a mad, reckless pace. Every man strives to get ahead of his comrades and be the first to clash with the infidel; strives to get ahead of all but the Leader, for no one may, or possibly could, overtake the Leader.
The Leader gallops ahead of the Muslims. A large, broad-shouldered, powerfully-built man, he is mounted on a magnificent Arab stallion and rides it as if he were part of the horse. The loose end of his turban and his cloak flutter behind him and his large, full beard is pressed against his chest by the wind. His fierce eyes shine with excitement-with the promise of battle and blood and glory- the glory of victory or martyrdom. His coat of mail and the iron tip of his long lance glint in the clear sunlight, and the earth trembles under the thundering hooves of his fiery charger.
I am the noble warrior;
I am the Sword of Allah
Khalid bin Al Waleed!
Extract from The Sword of Allah, Lieutenant-General A.I. Akram of the Pakistan Army
Bismillaharrahamanaraheem (In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful). India is beefing up an air component for its various formations under the “Cold Start” doctrine. Recently, the purchased the highly lethal Apache attack helicopters from the United States. These are to be deployed along the plains of Punjab and the deserts of Sindh. If, in a future conflict, the PAF remains busy in the air war above, these attack helicopters and other fixed wing aircraft could prove deadly against Pakistani armour. This writer believes that the solution is to either build a cheap CAS aircraft for the Pakistan Army Aviation, or to refurbish and modify the recently retired A-5s from the PAF. The F-6 rebuild factory provides ample opportunity to bring these aircraft back to relevance. HIT is capable of upgrading the armor of these planes.
Such a solution could prove a cheap and effective counter to the new Indian Army doctrine of employing fixed wing ground attack aircraft as well as attack helicopters including the highly lethal Apache helicopters. This would be relevant to the present economic scenario and would show that the Pakistan armed forces are above the petty rivalry of the USAF and US Army, among other armed forces.
Light cavalry is a defunct concept in modern Western military doctrine. However, Muslim history indicates it was a central part of our doctrine. This author equates light cavalry, not with lightly armoured vehicles, as the West is wont to do, but rather with a Close Air Support (CAS) component that refurbished A-5s, or similar CAS aircraft can provide.
To conceptualize how close air support should ideally operate, we must consider 4 elements - armor, motorized infantry, artillery and CA-AC (Combined Arms Air Component. NOTE: I shall continue to use the term CAS interchangeably for the sake of familiarity, but will be meaning CA-AC, emphasizing proactive engagement over the reactive). Now, to explain the fundamental dynamics between the forces at the simplest level, consider a medieval army - one with:
1. Foot soldiers;
2. Heavy armoured knights / war elephants / Roman cataphracts;
3. Archers; and
4. Light cavalry.
In the past, we have assumed that the tank played the role of the cavalry, without distinguishing between light and heavy cavalry, creating a triad rather than a quartet. Yet, light cavalry was employed differently from heavy cavalry for most of known military history.
Consider the employment of the medieval heavily armoured knight, always moving in closed formation, often employed to charge and break enemy lines, can be susceptible to well-disciplined and well-formed infantry with pikes. Countering such infantry, heavy cavalry moved on to incorporate ever greater ranged assault and ever greater armour. Consider how well this fits the role that tanks have played and how they have evolved. How tanks, like their erstwhile predecessors, also are best employed en mass and not individually or in small groups. How, for instance, they are used to drive a wedge into enemy lines but can be devastated when well trained and well-formed infantry can effectively deploy their anti-tank arsenal (i.e. pikes).
Consider how ranged attack and greater armour have increasingly become important with the increasing lethality of anti-tank weapons.
However, if modern armour equates with heavy cavalry, then what can be considered as the light cavalry component? The modern MBT cannot optimize mobility and surprise, as opposed to firepower and armour. Perhaps the combined sequel of weapons in the modern battlefield made light cavalry obsolete. Or possibly such a weapon system is merely waiting to be found. I believe the latter, and equate traditional light cavalry with what can be called Combined Arms Air Component 'CA-AC'.
The four components should ideally be part of one integrated army and work with seamless operational unity. To be truly effective they would need to be employed organically and share, as close as possible, a logistics base and operational deployment.
However, as a game changer the importance of CAS must remain paramount. Air-power is extremely effective and must not be neglected. Light cavalry was our forte during Muslim ascendancy, Khalid bin Waleed was unsurpassed in his mastery of light cavalry and the Romans and Persians never had an answer to it. Insh’Allah this will once again be true someday soon.
The Modern Compromise
Today's multi-role aircraft attempt to compromise between a fighter, a deep strike and a CAS aircraft. The disconnect between them is particularly stark vis-a-vis CAS, where a cheap, slow flying but agile aircraft is needed, a plane that does not need to fly anywhere near the sound barrier, or have a sophisticated radar. What is needed is an aircraft that can fly low, manoeuvre at below tree top height, retain an ability to 'hang in the air' when needed, and land on the shortest strips or gravel or paddy field.
Instead of this, what we see is that combat aircraft are increasingly becoming more complex, larger, poor performers at low altitudes and low speeds and able to land only on specialized runways. Focus then has turned to dropping JDAMs from altitude, negating proactive engagements, and being employed such only because no one wants to risk the multimillion dollar combat aircraft, nor the pilot, leaving the foot soldiers on the ground with the proverbial buck.
Furthermore, while in an overly mismatched battlefield one side can dedicate a portion of its air force assets to CAS, in a more even battle, air forces focus almost all of their assets in winning the air-war first. Given the cost and value of fighter aircraft this makes sense. However, given the need for a truly combined arms operation and a cheap CAS aircraft, it makes less sense to have the ground forces commander left without CAS when CAS can be the difference between victory and defeat.
The present response to fill this widening gap is to increase the component of attack helicopters and look to UAVs/UCAVs to fulfil the role. However, helicopters fundamentally are more complex, have far less range and are more expensive to build and maintain on a payload delivery basis. An Indian Army Apache will cost them over $40 million, not including additional costs, training, operation and upgrades. Moreover, today’s helicopters cannot fulfil a complete vision of a seamless combined arms operation; they have separate logistics chains, tactical deployment requirements and are very low on endurance.
UAVs/UCAVs appear to be a panacea here, particularly because they can avoid casualties. Yet, they have increasingly faced bottlenecks of communications bandwidth, even while only fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, a problem likely to multiply against any competent conventional enemy. They also have complex chain of communication lines and connection to the operator. The time lag in controls, although a fraction of a moment, is enough to not enable true nap-of-the-earth flight, critical in keeping the CAS battle ground bound rather than becoming targets for a viable enemy air force. The present lack of a competent technologically sophisticated enemy means that they face no significant jamming threat, an issue likely to be critical as jamming could render these planes utterly ineffective. The fact that Iraqi insurgents could hack into Predator drones is an eye-opener and so is Hezbollah’s tapping into Israeli drones. Imagine what a more sophisticated enemy could do. Situational awareness from a camera-view is far inferior to that from a cockpit. Further, assuming the pilot of the UAVs are not putting their lives at risk, they are not likely to be as inspired as those that are, and are less likely to relate and bond with the ground forces that they are operating with. Lastly, dependence on satellite communication can be fatal given ASAT (anti-satellite) capabilities now available to China and by extension, Pakistan.
In the Pakistan-India scenario, as opposed to a mismatched US versus Iraq / Afghanistan type scenario, CAS aircraft will not have the luxury of flying slow and hanging around – because of the large number of SAMs and sophisticated air defence systems on both sides, the flight profile would be quick “jabs”, popping up, firing and then exiting.
Thus, attack fixed wing aircraft will be even more suitable, particularly in the plains and desserts of the Eastern theatre. Pakistan Army Aviation can be effectively equipped with refurbished and modified A-5s retired from the PAF. While India has money and Indians often have an inferiority complex vis-à-vis Western manners of doing things, Pakistan does not need, nor can afford to buy modern attack helicopters in numbers to counter India. Instead, Pakistan may perhaps choose to counter India in her own terms, finding a cheap solution for India’s billions and yet in an effective and efficient manner.
Our Improvisation is Our Strength
A truly remarkable feature of the FC-1 / JF-17, the joint fighter project between Pakistan and China, has been the willingness of its development team to improvise. This is in contrast to Western design houses where original frameworks are strictly maintained – notice the F-22 and the Eurofighter, where certain design parameters were doggedly followed when they could have clearly done better by changing course midway. The F-35 is now becoming a major embarrassment for the United States in terms of its program management. India’s weapons programs are yet an even greater example of mismanagement; the LCA, which has been in development for three decades and by the time it enters service it will be nearly irrelevant.
The Western style of planning is culturally different from the eastern style – objectives are fixed at the beginning while in the East, we are willing to move the objective around a bit. Obviously, neither is “better” than the other but each has its benefits and costs. However, I think the JF-17 benefited from this immeasurably. Otherwise Pakistan would be taking delivery of the original Super 7 airframe at perhaps $20 million per plane.
The Eurofighter took 20 years from contract signing to production. The Swedish Gripen and the Rafale took 14 and 15 years, respectively. In comparison, the JF-17 took 10 years. Pakistan must continue finding innovative solutions to her problems, particularly given the present budgetary constraints. Refurbished and modified A-5s would prove to be a valuable asset against any misadventure from India.