New Delhi: The Indian Army is all set to operationalise its own amphibious brigade next month, which will likely form the core of a much larger marine force over the coming years. As with all marine forces, the 91 infantry brigade will be tasked with conducting offensive and defensive operations from the sea.
While expeditionary forces can be airborne or seaborne this is the first time that the Indian Army has raised a sea-based force large enough to be considered as an expeditionary force. So far, an infantry battalion has been undertaking such amphibious responsibilities on transfer to the tri-services command at Andaman and Nicobar islands.
It is not clear if Tiruvananthapuram-based 91 infantry brigade will become the core unit of any such permanent marine force.
Since the air force has a heavy air-lift capability transport of a large number of troops over long distances is possible. In the case of the sea, larger capabilities are now becoming possible thanks to the acquisition of the INS Jalashwa (ex-USS Trenton) from the United States Navy in 2007. The amphibious transport dock ship can ferry up to 1,000 troops at a time over long distances, and provides expeditionary capability to the Indian defence forces for the first time.
The most advanced amphibious warships of the Indian Navy, such as the Landing Ship Tank, INS Shardul, are more limited in their capabilities but adequate to fulfil littoral needs.
The 91 infantry brigade has been undergoing training for a year.
The brigade currently is composed of battalions from the Sikh, Gorkha and Madras regiments. It is not clear if these units will transfer to other duties once the normal course of deployment with a particular brigade is over or will stay on to become the core units for a permanent marine force.
Earlier this month, the amphibious brigade was part of a tri-services war game "Triveni" centred on an island in the Lakshadweep and Minicoy group.