Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Indian Army and navy plan to set up a marine brigade

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The navy and army have sent a proposal to the government seeking permission to transport a 5,000-strong armed infantry and special forces troops, tanks and weapons - an independent brigade group (IBG) - on foreign shores for active operations. This capability has both been controversial and strategically provocative.

It has been learnt that after years of consultations, the army and navy have finally started seeing eye to eye on the modalities required to incrementally build up the capability to deliver a full brigade- strength contingent of troops - including two special forces units - with arms, ammunition, vehicles and weapons outside the Indian mainland.

"The need to move forces is in keeping with the expanded security focus on India's island territories and the ability to deliver forces expeditiously for humanitarian relief operations," navy spokesperson Commander PVS Satish said. While the financial implications of such a capability are being worked out, they will involve integrated expenditure on larger amphibious assault vessels, equipment and joint training.

The army has an IBG, the 340 Independent Infantry Brigade under Jodhpur- based 12 Corps, for amphibious assault operations. It re-raised the 91 Infantry Brigade early last year for amphibious warfare.

But the navy currently only has the capacity to transport a little less than two battalions on expeditionary missions. The move now is to crank up that capacity more than twice over for a full IBG. Former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said it was absolutely essential that the navy built up the capacity to transport a brigade- sized group across the seas. "We have 1,200 island territories. We have energy investments worth thousands of crores far from our shores. We have huge diaspora in the Middle East. If there was a Kargil-like situation on any of our island territories, we would need adequate boots on the ground for combat. There are also other liabilities such as piracy and potential hostage situations. The most recent was the army's expression of interest in procuring up to 4,000 amphibious assault rifles for the infantry.

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