Is the Indian Army Ready For Theatre Level Unified Command Operations?

An Indian Army Personnel Guarding In Snow
An Indian Army Personnel Guarding In Snow | Representational

Gen Bipin Rawat as country’s first-ever Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) is going to complete one year soon. Besides other matters, the tri-service operations for more synergy in the functioning, new Theatre Level Commands including Air Defence Command come under his purview. As has been reported earlier, Gen Rawat had announced that the Indian military will complete theatrisation process by 2023.

What Does Theaterisation Mean?

In his first interaction with the media earlier this year, Gen Rawat had indicated that there could be several commands including the Peninsular Command (for the southern part of the state), an Air Defence Command and other commands in the eastern, northern and western regions.

The Joint Doctrine document published in 2017 is detailed regarding the expectations of a Theatre Level Command and Indian Army has to specifically, address its present technological gaps before participating in a Joint development of niche Unified Command tactics.

A Theatre Command shall have specific units from the three services: the specialized units from the Army, Navy and Air Force shall operate under a common Theatre Commander to gain a Tactical advantage over the adversary.


Rationalization of war fighting resources, the efficiency of executions and to face the Threat from our main adversary China, which has an established Theatre Level commands.

Is the Indian Army Ready For Theatre Command?

No. Theatre Command shall be highly dependent on the inter-operability amongst the units for the three services, which is not yet available. Already, the Indian Army has multiple issues like SDR based modern Joint Tactical Radio communication implementation for Tactical advantages.

The availability of a modern fully secure digital communication for voice and data services amongst the Tank units is important to achieve Situational Awareness and, in turn, these Tank units are to be digitally integrated with IAF fighter jets operating in an Air support role. Army requires to now include the well-evolved defensive and offensive tactics of IAF within its own Real-time operation schemes for an effective exploitation of the Air assets.

Which means that the Joint operations of Indian Army with IAF shall be far more than a mere hierarchal organization for communicating orders in modern interoperable warfare. Each Theatre Command probably is going to highlight more of the inter-service interoperability shortcomings as a hurdle to achieving the desired efficiency standards which are re-defined now for Theatre Level outcomes.

“Maybe it is time for the Army to introspect their warfare Doctrines and Concepts before inclusive operations with the IAF assets as a single Theatre Level Command,” a senior officer observed.


The IAF operates some of the latest multi role fighter jets and sharing of such resources under a Unified Command by Indian Army may not be fully leveraging the IAF capabilities due to want of hi-tech systems like Battlefield Management systems.

IAF has developed its own advance Teal Time Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) for Command and Control of Air assets. An inter-linking of AICCS with equivalent Battlefield Management System (as and when it evolves) shall leverage the true potential of Land-Air integration.

Defining the Battlefield Management level philosophies at this late a stage for a Theatre Command implementation that too involving latest IAF assets may be detrimental to the early readiness of these Land-based Theatre Commands. The boots on the ground require more technology on a soldier himself, and it can be a race against time to digitalize the human-centric Army.

The interoperability in a multinational Task Force where Indian Land forces too shall be participating under a Theatre level, requires far more digital effort now by Indian Armed Forces than ever before.

Complete Theatrisation Process By 2023

The CDS has said it will take three years to have complete Theatrisation. With Army having larger representation in all the Tri-services organizations, it may be a prudent mandate to make Indian Army responsible for centrally implementing the Theatre Level technological solutions (like Tactical Data Link, Software Defined Radios etc.) for the tri-services, even when Maritime and Air Defence Theatre Commands are likely to be formed prior to the launch of Land-based Theatre Commands of the Army.