Lt Gen (Dr) AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd)
Defence logistics, or ‘combat service support,’ as it is sometimes referred to, is an all encompassing term which involves providing the warfighter with the ability to live, move and fight. Simple as it might appear, it is a very challenging task at the best of times. With the changed nature of warfare, this has become even more complex, requiring accurate forecasting and deliberate planning. Catering for a force which is a short distance away in familiar territory is a lot easier than maintaining troops deployed as part of an overseas expedition, such as the UK in Falklands or the multinational ISAF in Afghanistan.
Geographic considerations are very important for all defence and national security decisions. Detailed terrain evaluation is a prerequisite for the conduct of any operation. Planning where to strike on a battlefield, identifying potential terrorist targets or deciding where to locate logistics infrastructure such as airfields, roads, rail, warehouses etc., – geography always has an important role to play. Every logistic asset or facility, own troops and enemy threat, has a location, which is part of geospatial information, gathered by various means. This geospatial information is critical for logistic planning. This information should be updated on a regular basis to enable planners to suitably modify their logistics plan. Fuel, food, ammunition, clothing, operational equipment, medical supplies, spare parts and more, need to be provisioned, stored and delivered. Location of warehouses, their security, mode of transportation, routes to be used, have to be planned. Stocking supplies closer to the troops who require them reduces the replenishment time and cost, and improves military readiness though increasing the risk of losses due to enemy action. Geospatial information assists in optimising the warehousing solution by taking into account all factors, such as distances, routes and traffic conditions, availability of transport, vulnerability to enemy action.
During combat, weapons and equipment get degraded due to usage and enemy action. Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities need to be created to ensure operational status of weapons and equipment. Similarly, when troops sustain injuries, these battle casualties need evacuation for treatment.
Ministry of Defence is one of the largest holders of real estate in most countries. Geospatial technology can be used in the management of military bases, facilitates maintenance and handling of all stores on the base. It enables defence land and infrastructure managers to reduce operational and maintenance costs, improve mission effectiveness and provide rapid modelling capabilities for analysing alternative strategies.
History is replete with instances of military campaigns that have failed due to inadequate logistics support for the operational plans. Geospatial technology applications for defence logistics can help considerably in bridging the gap between success and failure. Revolution in Military Affairs would be incomplete without a Revolution in Military Logistics.