Firepower 2030

Firepower 2030

by P. K. Chakravorty


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789381904800
Publisher: Sun Links Ltd
Publication date: 05/15/2013
Pages: 140
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)

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Firepower 2030

By P K Chakravorty

KW Publishers Pvt Ltd

Copyright © 2013 Centre for Land Warfare Studies
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-93-81904-80-0



Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win.

— Sun Tzu

Firepower, as per the Oxford Dictionary, is the capacity to destroy, measured by the number and size of guns available. Warfare quintessentially comprises two ingredients: firepower and manoeuvre. Both complement each other and synergise to defeat the enemy. Manoeuvre entails moving to positions of advantage with dexterity to outwit the enemy. World War II and the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1967 and 1973 enabled skilful use of manoeuvre to defeat the enemy. However, future conventional conflicts would be influenced by the nuclear backdrop, bringing about constraints in time and space. Further, a large number of conflicts is visualised in mountainous regions which lack space for manoeuvre. Accordingly, firepower will be predominant in all conflicts of the current century.

The Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) has resulted in modernisation of global weaponry and provision of a galaxy of surveillance and communication devices. This has compelled all countries to restructure their armed forces and transform their strategic thinking. Nations today are moving towards network- centric warfare. This essentially links the elements comprising the sensor, command elements and shooter to engage targets instantaneously. Therefore, the current focus is on precision standoff strikes in real-time. Firepower presently is undertaken from land, sea, air and submerged surfaces of the sea. Outer space is currently being used for surveillance. It is likely to become an area for deployment of weapons in the near future. Technologically, it would be practical to consider deployment of Anti-Satellite (ASAT) and Direct Energy Weapons (DEWs) in this region, with the developments taking place in this field. Firepower should be capable of breaking the enemy's will to fight. This would entail causing physical as well as psychological damage to attenuate his mental capabilities and set in a fear psychosis. The process of employing firepower entails the need for surveillance, which would lead us to reconnaissance of selected areas, thereby leading to acquisition of targets. These targets would, based on their importance, be degraded or destroyed. This would be ascertained by undertaking Post Strike Damage Assessment (PSDA) and based on the assessment, reengaged till the result is accomplished. In the present net-centric environment, this is possible through the application of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CISR). The importance of firepower in the 21 century is supreme. Victory in any future conflict, in the current century, will be generated through asymmetries of firepower.


The constituents of firepower are platforms with ammunition, which can deliver from five dimensions: land, air, surface of the sea, below the surface of the sea (hereafter referred to as sub-surface) and, possibly, in the times to come, outer space. These are small arms, guns, mortars, rockets of artillery, tanks, aircraft, missiles, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs), armed helicopters, submarines and, in the future, possibly, stations in outer space. The ammunition, which is the payload, is the most important element of firepower. The various types of ammunition would constitute the conventional series, which would comprise high explosive, smoke, illuminating, armour piercing, high explosive squash head, fuel air explosive, cluster, precision, sensor fused, incendiary and propaganda. Apart from these, there is a strategic variety of ammunition which comprises Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC). A combination of platforms with different types of ammunition results in devastating firepower which paves the way for victory.

The constituents enable us to undertake net-centric operations in a full spectrum conflict. The conflicts visualised could be land operations in a counter-insurgency situation against non-state actors, air-land operations in a counter-insurgency operation or a conventional conflict, air operations for counter-air, air defence, sea operations for sea control or denial, sea-land operations to undertake amphibious operations, air-sea operations between two opposing naval task forces and, possibly by 2030, operations involving outer space. In these conflicts, victory would be attained by ensuring asymmetries of firepower.

The systems used in the Army are distributed according to the role of the corresponding arm in battle. Small arms are with the infantry; tanks with the armoured corps, Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) with the mechanised infantry; guns, rockets, missiles, UCAVs, and surveillance equipment with the Regiment of Artillery and helicopters with Army Aviation. Engineers play a critical role in the mobility of firepower platforms and ammunition, The Corps of Signals provides a substantial proportion of C4I2SR requirements. Systems in the Navy comprise frigates, destroyers, cruisers, corvettes, aircraft carriers, air defence ships, submarines, fighter aircrafts, maritime surveillance aircraft, helicopters, coastal guns and missiles. Air Force systems would include aircraft which are fighters and bombers as also armed helicopters, UCAVs, missiles for engaging a variety of targets and surveillance equipment like aerostats, Unmanned Aeriel Vehicles (UAVs), radars and C4I2SR aircraft like the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). These constituents would need to be modernised to undertake net-centric warfare in a full spectrum conflict. This would entail synergy of these constituents to ensure precise standoff strikes from long ranges with increased lethality. Further, Battlefield Transparency (BFT) is to be enhanced to ensure that everything tactically important is seen, and what is seen, can be hit in real-time.

The constituents of firepower would be used in operations which could be counter-insurgency, sub-conventional, limited, conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological. The operations would have to be effect-based, with possibly no collateral damage. Other aspects which characterise future operations are non-linearity, enhanced battle space and low threshold against the use of nuclear weapons. It is pertinent to note that more and more countries are developing nuclear weapons covertly to ensure their security. However, conventional conflicts can still take place between countries holding nuclear weapons as was observed during the clash on the Ussuri river between Russia and China, as also the Kargil conflict in 1999.

The constituents of firepower need to be optimally used to create asymmetries, thereby ensuring victory. This would be attained by seeking and identifying appropriate targets in the area of interest. Thereafter, the battlefield is to be shaped to one's own advantage by seamless engagements with the right combination of constituents. Further steps are to be taken to shield against enemy counter-measures. Finally, strikes would be needed to degrade, suppress and destroy, thereby breaking the enemy's will to fight. This would be possible with modernisation of our assets and correct application of resources.



Power flows from the barrel of a gun

— Mao Zedong


Technology has influenced firepower ever since the advent of war. Warfare initially was confined to stones, bows and arrows. The doctrines and method of fighting have been affected by technical advancement through the ages. It has often been debated that changes in doctrines have resulted in advancement of technology. This is at best partially true, as scientific developments cause evolution of technology which enables the "Revolution in Military Affairs" (RMA). As a matter of fact, both doctrines and technology keep complementing each other, resulting in mutual advancement. Historically the evolution of firepower can be traced to the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese in the 9 century. This technology was used by the Chinese military forces against the Mongols, when they invaded northern China. There is no record of when gunpowder was first used, therefore, it is difficult to correlate the events leading to its invention and passage of the knowledge to the Middle East onwards to Europe. Technologists, however, agree that it was invented by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality.

Firepower made its entry into the battlefield through the use of cannons. The history of cannons spans several centuries. Xian Zhang, a Chinese poet composed a poem in 1341, "The Iron Cannon Affair". This poem describes the firepower of a cannonball fired from an eruptor, which could pierce the heart or belly of a man or horse, and cause numerous casualties. The proto shells described in the battle of Huolongjing were probably the first to be used. The Chinese also mounted over 3,000 bronze and iron cast cannons on the Great Wall of China, to defend themselves against their adversaries. The cannons were later used by both the Mongol conquerors and the Koreans. Chinese soldiers fighting under the Mongols appear to have used hand cannons in the battles of Manchuria in the year 1288. Evidence for this has been found at the archaeological sites where these operations were conducted. Further, during the siege of Pyongyang in 1593, Chinese Ming troops used a variety of cannons to bombard an equally large Japanese Army. Despite both forces having similar numbers, the Japanese were defeated on a single day, due to the relative superiority of Chinese firepower. Guns came into being when the Europeans adopted gunpowder. They bored an opening in a cylinder of metal and drilled another hole of extremely small diameter at the closed end. Thereafter they poured gunpowder and a tight fitting lead ball which was ignited by a flame torch and the resulting force projected the lead ball into the target area. Often, a slow burning rope was used to control the initiation. By the 15th century, cannons were made in a greater variety of lengths and diameters. The guiding principle was that the longer the barrel, the longer the range. By the end of the century, cannons were made more mobile. Wheeled gun carriages and trunnions became common and the invention of the limber facilitated the transportation of guns. It was during this period that the Mughal Emperor Babur fought the first battle of Panipat on April 21, 1526, against Sultan Ibrahim Lodi of Delhi. Lodi had a greater proportion of soldiers and elephants. However, he had no artillery. On the contrary, Babur had cannons which he skilfully used to cause consternation among the elephants, thereby breaking Ibrahim Lodi's will to fight, thus, paving the way to victory. This was skilful use of firepower in our country in the 16th century.

King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden emphasised the use of light cannons and mobility in his armed forces. He stopped using the 12-pounder gun and used a lighter gun for the field artillery. He replaced the 12-pounder with the 4-pounder and the 9-pounder. These could be operated by three men, and pulled by 12 horses. Further, he introduced a special cartridge which had the powder and the shot which reduced the time for loading, thereby resulting in very high rates of fire. He also pioneered the cargo shot, in which a canister was filled with musket balls which was very effective against troops in the open. He also organised his guns into batteries and used the artillery skilfully to decimate opposing troops. In 1631, at the Battle of Breitenfeld, Adolphus defeated Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tily, in Germany, by his dexterity in the use of firepower. The Swedes were outnumbered, but they battered the Germans by their very high rates of fire which inflicted severe casualties. The Germans were decimated and lost the battle. During this period, efforts were made to ensure that guns could be aimed to hit a target. Accordingly, the range was controlled by measuring the angle of elevation, using a gunner's quadrant. However, in the absence of sights, aiming lacked accuracy.

The French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic wars revolutionised military strategy. Being a gunner, Napoleon used firepower skilfully in all his operations. Prior to his rise to power, Inspector General Jean-Baptiste Varvette de Gribeauval made a few technological innovations. Artillery pieces were made with components, which enabled mass production. Gun carriages were built to a standard model; the mobility of the guns was improved by harnessing the horses in pairs, instead of moving in file, hard wood axles replaced heavy iron ones, and accuracy was improved by the introduction of tangent sights, which enabled a layer to sight the gun on the target. French artillery, essentially comprised the Gribeauval guns which were 4, 6, 8, 12-pounders with 6 and 8-inch howitzers. These guns were extremely light and to compare, the barrel of the British 12-pounder weighed 3,150 pounds and the remaining components 6,500 pounds. The Gribeauval 12-pounder barrels weighed 2,174 pounds and the remaining components 4,367 pounds. Since Napoleon insisted on speed in conducting his manoeuvres, these lighter cannons provided the flexibility he desired. In addition, his Army possessed vast quantities of mortars, furnace bombs, grape and canister shot which produced devastating effects at the target end. Napoleon used firepower effectively in all his battles. He concentrated his guns to blast a hole in the enemy's defences, to enable the infantry to break in, and thereafter the cavalry broke out. Firepower played an important role in the sea battles, with most ships containing anything from 50 to 100 guns. Napoleon's flagship L'Orient, with 120 guns, was the most heavily armed vessel in the world. Napoleon's final battle at Waterloo saw him use many more guns than the British or Prussians. As the battlefield was muddy, the guns would foul with the ground during recoil, resulting in slow rates of fire and the projectile shots were buried and did not ricochet, thereby causing less casualties. Due to these disadvantages, along with the Prussians playing a better role, the French lost this critical battle. Napoleon optimised the usage of firepower in all his battles, thereby breaking the enemy's will to fight.

The technological process of rifling, which entails casting spiral lines inside the barrel of a gun, was applied around 1855. This provided spin to the projectile which improved accuracy. The Armstrong gun, invented by William George Armstrong, had rifling and was accurate at its maximum range. The projectile fired from the gun could reportedly pierce a ship's side and explode inside the vessel, causing total destruction of the target. The gun was procured by the British Army and the Duke of Cambridge was so impressed with the equipment, that he declared that it "could do everything but speak." The superior guns with rifling enhanced firepower tremendously. During the Opium Wars against China in the 19th century, British battleships bombarded the coastal areas and fortifications from safe distances, away from the Chinese guns. It may be pertinent to note that the shortest war in recorded history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 was brought to a swift conclusion by effective firepower from British battle ships.

It would be of interest to trace the developments in another field of firepower: rockets and missiles. Their usage dates back to the 13th century. They were possibly used by the Chinese against the Mongols in 1232. In the 18th century, Tipu Sultan developed rockets which he used during the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1792, against the forces of the East India Company. Their effective usage resulted in 3,820 soldiers being taken prisoner. The rockets were deployed by special rocket brigades called Kushoons. These rockets were later reengineered by the British and used for a limited period.


Excerpted from Firepower 2030 by P K Chakravorty. Copyright © 2013 Centre for Land Warfare Studies. Excerpted by permission of KW Publishers Pvt Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


1. Constituents of Firepower,
2. Evolution of Technology in Development of Firepower,
3. Technological Developments by 2030: Impact on Firepower,
4. Indian Perspective,
5. Optimisation of Firepower Assets in a Conflict with China or Pakistan,
6. Modernisation,

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