Theatre commands shouldn’t compromise doctrines: IAF
Oct. 5, 2022

In News:

  • While clarifying that the IAF is not against integration and creation of tri-service theatre commands, IAF chief expressed reservation with respect to the proposed structures.

What’s in Today’s Article:

  • Theaterisation of Armed Forces – About, proposed model, role of service chiefs, existing model, challenges
  • News Summary

Theaterisation of Armed Forces

  • It is a concept which seeks to integrate the capabilities of the three services - army, air force and navy – in order to optimally utilise their resources for wars and operations.
    • A theatre command/unit will be created by integrating elements/assets from all the three services
  • It will create a military structure in which specific theatre commands/units will be placed under the Theatre Commander.
  • The Theatre Commander will be a three-star general, drawn from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned.

Theaterisation model under consideration

  • The plan under consideration talks about setting up of six theatre commands. These are:
    • Air Defence Theatre Command
      • It will control air defence resources of all three services. It will be tasked with protecting military assets from airborne enemies.
      • It will be headed by a top three-star Indian Air Force officer based in Prayagraj.
    • Maritime Theatre Command
      • This will be responsible for securing India from seaborne threats.
      • Headed by a top three-star Indian Navy officer and will be based in Karwar, Karnataka.
    • Northern Command (Comprising Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh)
    • Western Command
    • Eastern Command
    • Logistics command - to avoid duplication of efforts and resources.
  • The first phase involves the creation of Air Defence Command and Maritime Theatre Command.

How will the role of service chiefs change after Theaterisation?

  • The operational control of the theatre commands will eventually come under the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • This would leave the Service chiefs with no direct control over their assets operationally.
  • The service chiefs will be responsible for raising, training and sustaining their forces.
  • Also, as each chief will be a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), and an expert of his/her domain, his or her inputs will be necessary for all operational decisions.

Existing Model in India

  • At present, India has 17 single service commands and only two tri-service commands.
  • The 17 single service commands are divided as:
    • Army – 7 commands; Airforce – 7 commands; Navy – 3 commands
  • The two tri-service commands are: Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), and The Strategic Force Command (handles the nuclear weapons).
  • Creating Theatres would involve merging existing commands.
    • After restructuring, the ANC command will come under the proposed Maritime Theatre Command and SFC will be under National Security Council.


  • Apprehensions of Air force
    • Air force has reservations regarding the asset division. The organization fears that it will lose control over its assets and operations.
    • IAF has also raised apprehension regarding the nomenclature of commands, the leadership of theatre commands and dilution of powers of chiefs.
  • Apprehensions raised by MHA
    • The MHA is worried about the operational command of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
      • It fears that the control of CAPF would go the Ministry of Defence

News Summary

  • Recently, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief said that Air Force is not opposed to the process of having theatre commands.
  • However, it has certain reservations with respect to the structures and that the doctrinal aspects of the force should not in any way be compromised by this new structure.

Objections raised by IAF

  • IAF contends it would be operationally unwise to divide its limited air assets among the different theatre commands.
    • IAF has 30-31 existing fighter squadrons (against the sanctioned strength of 42), six mid-air refuelling aircraft, three AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) etc.
  • The doctrinal aspects of the IAF should not be compromised in any way by the new structures.
  • The IAF believes a stand-alone or separate Air Defence Command (ADC) could prove counter-productive in the wars of the future.
    • Air defence and offensive air missions are interdependent.
    • If executed in isolation, these would not only be disjointed but also ineffective in design or execution of the joint strategy.
    • Modern 4.5 or 5th-generation fighter jets like the newly-inducted Rafales have “omni-role capability” ranging from offensive to air defence operations.
    • Restricting these aircrafts to any one role would lead to their under-utilisation.