For companies manufacturing military hardware such as armour vehicles, artillery guns, earthmovers, and military vehicles, it is very important for them to design equipment that conforms to military standards of shape and size. Image via TATA Motors

The ability to mobilise to the operational area and combat mobility within the war zone are foundational for the operational success of any professional armed force of the nation. Some military units can be declared ‘unfit for war’ primarily because they could not shake out of their military stations within the designated time, which could be anything as little as 45 minutes to two hours of warning.

National mobilisation is a larger subject. The strategy of Cold Start was adopted by the Indian Army primarily against Pakistan to ensure that large military formations are so located and equipped that they can reach their operational areas faster than the adversary. Strategic mobility entails the heavy lifting of large military formations over longer distances; these are mostly trans-theater. The airborne troops are always prepared for such mobility, fundamentally by large aircraft such as the C-17 or IL-76 class. The standard military formations are generally mobilised by military special trains and trucks. In both cases, the dimensions of the equipment and vehicles matter.

For companies manufacturing military hardware such as armour vehicles, artillery guns, earthmovers, and military vehicles, it is very important for them to design equipment that conforms to military standards of shape and size and is pliable for mobilisation. The vehicles or equipment that cannot fit on standard military rakes or aircraft is called OSD (Over Sized Dimension). During the mobilisation, the satellites of the adversary are always on a lookout to track these military movements. Nations can ill afford to have sluggish, disorganised, and time-consuming mobilisation. Stealth and speed dictate the success of military mobilisation.

Once deployed, the forces have to be highly mobile and manoeuvrable. The Jeep was an expression used by Americans for a General Purpose vehicle and was used extensively for reconnaissance, movement of small bodies of troops and officers, or even for combat when fitted with automatic weapons. In combat, speed, stealth, survivability, and swiftness in combat and operational mobility are extremely important. Militaries cannot risk having combat transport that is slow, noisy, terrain-sensitive, and delicate. The tactical and operational manoeuvre is all about projecting a superior force at the time and place of decision by beating the enemy in time, space, and force ratios. Manoeuvre is a factor of physics that is effectively achieved by mobility and firepower.

For combat mobility and operations, one needs a vehicle that is also amenable to modifications in military workshops and that can be repaired in field conditions and then congenial for long-term MRO support. It must have a low weight-to-power ratio that can ensure universal cross-country mobility without losing the Centre of Gravity (CoG). Even if it rolls over, it should have strong anti-roll protection and return to the top position. The vehicle tyres must create enough traction in deserts, plains, and roads in winter or snow; no longer should there be a need to put tardy non-skid chains in snow-bound areas. The troop-carrying vehicles must be able to withstand splinters, direct bullet hits, and belly attacks. The store and equipment carrying vehicles need additional fireproofing. Certain transport needs should be catered to operate in the CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) environment that is scaled to every combat unit.

Invariably and increasingly, the militaries are fielding sophisticated military equipment into the war zone. Most of the gadgets in vehicles need power and protection. EVs shall revolutionise and off-set the power generation in combat; however, in military combat, this may take some time. Some combat vehicles need double conventional engines that alternate between power generation and traction. When required, both engines can singly or together generate traction and power. Both engines need not be of the same power or be dependent on one type of fuel. Such vehicles should have the ability to perform the duties of Articulated All Terrain Vehicles (hook-pull-push) with easy reconfiguration.


Quick mobilisation needs palletisation models. The air mobility, rail mobility, and road mobility pallets have to be configured by the industry for rapid mobilisation. Similarly, combat loads need palletization. Military logistics are simple, yet cumbersome due to the variety of echelons that need to cater for different terrain and operational cycles and manoeuvres. The military innovates on the go. The military transport should have combat kits that can make the same vehicle perform different roles. The self-recovery winches can work for pulling the small pallets into the truck body, especially for loading heavy ammunition boxes. Some vehicles need waterproofing for deep fording or the ability to float—with simple modifications. Military ambulances are rarely comfortable in the mountains for an injured, lying soldier. The role of the ambulance in the mountains does not allow the patient to stabilise. The CoG of ambulances should be low, and these vehicles should lend themselves to juxtaposition to form a field hospital; this is being done in some cases. Military kitchen lorries, command posts, and caravans are being built in most armies.

‘Internet Inside’ for combat vehicles is the future of swarm warfare with autonomous vehicles. In the battle, no vehicle can be classified as a non-combat vehicle. All vehicles, including troop-carrying, store carrying, specialist vehicles, and logistical vehicles, have to be able to fit into a combat role. Every military vehicle manufacturer must assign the CW (Combat Worthiness) value to the vehicle. Military vehicles are likely to be put under a hard test, never seen before, as future battles are networked, transparent, highly volatile, and require high speed, manoeuvrability, and survivability. The combat columns need high redundancy, self-recovery, and self-healing properties. Military vehicles need positioning and tracking systems that are secure. Ground-based hopping positioning systems would ensure that location spoofing is built into a combat vehicle column. Most of the mobilisation would be done at night. Certain guide and pilot vehicles need combined night driving and navigation aids. Future military vehicles will invariably have drone companions built in to act as guides, surveillance buddies, and logistic support systems.

The combat monitoring and control vehicles would be necessary for mosaic battles. As and when the autonomous wars kick in, the column and combat commanders should be able to see themselves from terrestrial and space sensors. This would be necessary for any evasive or proactive decisions that the commanders would need to take. The commanders at all levels would be expected to be in the networked OOSDA (Observe-Orient-Share-Decide-Act) loop. These vehicles would need to have inbuilt jamming radiations to disturb the incoming guided ammunition targeting a vehicle or a column. These vehicles need to generate extra power to generate these energy waves.

Military vehicle designers need to cater for models that can be air-transported by Chinook helicopters and aircraft, such as C-295 aircraft, C-17 Globemaster, IL-76, and C-130. The vehicles and guns can either be loaded, taken underslung, or even paradropped. The traditional manufacturers in India, such as Tata, Ashok Leyland, and Mahindra, have their respective backgrounds in lorry and tractor manufacturing, both requiring heavy-duty and rugged designs and materials. Force Motors, with the background of manufacturing Light Commercial Vehicles also transformed, like the former three, into military grade vehicle manufacturing. Industrial houses like BEML, Kalyani Group, and Midhani brought in their traditional manufacturing strengths and expertise in materials to produce defence heavy lift and rugged mobility designs. These manufacturers are currently the suppliers of conventional war mobility hardware. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Research and Development and collaboration with future technology providers will make these companies stacked with designs and capabilities that will make them future-ready to work on networked and contested battlefields around the world.

Lt Gen (Dr) PJS Pannu is a former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff. He is a PhD in Management with the subject ‘Indigenization of Defence Industry’

(With Reporting by FirstPost)