The Armor Division Of Pakistan Army

Arslan

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The fist- the punch- the horse that can reach anywhere- Pride of Pakistan Army, The Armored Divisions of Pakistan Army.

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The Armored Division is expected to cross into enemy territory, leading the assault and wreak havoc in enemy lines. Its the main offensive power which when used en-massed can become a nightmare for the enemy. This is why in the event of war, the enemy tries it best to know the location of Armored Divisions to save itself from the costly nightmare of an Armored Division showing up unexpectedly in an undefended area. In the history of conflicts, especially 1965 and 1971, the Armored Divisions proved decisive only when defending an area from enemy onslaught. The vulnerable area of Sialkot-Chawinda-Zafarwal-Shakargarh axis in north-east of Pakistan was saved in 1965 war from Indian Army's 1st Armored Division's onslaught by hastily raised 6th Armored Division of Pakistan Army, ex-100 Independent Armored Brigade Group. This area was then reinforced by remnants of Pakistan Army's 1st Armored Division, which faced a tough resistance from Indian Army in Khem Karan and had to withdraw. The 1971 war saw none or negligible use of Armored Divisions.

As noted above, Pakistan Army has two Armored Divisions.
1. 1st Armored Division , as part of II Strike Corps
2. 6th Armored Division, as part of I Strike Corps

1st Armored Division is covering the central and south-eastern areas of Pakistan, basically the semi-desert and desert regions. Its accompanied by two Infantry Divisions, 14th and 40th Infantry Division. Its equipped with T-80 UD MBT which have been bought specially for Operations in the desert due to good mobility and firepower.

6th Armored Division is covering the North-East areas of Pakistan, plains of Punjab region and hilly areas of Southern Kashmir. Its accompanied by two Infantry Divisions, 17th and 37th Infantry Division. Its equipped with Upgraded AL-Zarrar MBT which has decent mobility in plains and hilly areas and has the necessary firepower to lead an offensive.

I will lay down the structure and then the desired revamps.


The Armored Brigades:

Each Armored Division has only 2 Armored Brigades. Each Armored Brigade has only 2 Armored Regiments. This is a pretty small number of four (4) Armored Regiments in the Brigade structure of Armored Division. Equipped with 44-45 MBT in each regiment, the Brigades have 176-180 MBT’s in total. Both brigades have similar type of MBT for ease in logistics, spare parts, maintenance, ammunition and trained crews who have thorough familiarization with the MBT they operate.

These Brigades are used in conjunction with each other for an effective utilization in the war zone; they supplement each other in same sector. Further distributing/dividing them will reduce their efficiency.


The Armored Division can be supplemented with an Independent Armored Brigade Group when the need arises in war. That’s a further addition of 88-90 MBT in 2 Armor Regiments and a mechanized Infantry Battalion along with Artillery and Air Defense Regiments. This is to beef up numbers to conduct operations with a more flexible approach during an offense or defense.


The Artillery Brigade:

The self propelled tracked Guns like M-109 A2/5 pride themselves amongst the ranks of Armored formations. 155mm in caliber with shoot and scoot tactics, these howitzers are very effective against infantry fortifications, counter battery fire and can cause all sorts of damage to enemy. The ability to keep up with MBT’s advancing ahead makes these Guns an invaluable part of the Armor Division.

A heavier gun can also find itself with in ranks of an Armored Formation, the M110A2 which is 203mm in caliber and is specially used for counter battery fire.

2-3 Artillery Regiments form the Brigade, 18 Howitzers each, totaling 54 Howitzers in the Armored Division.


Air Defense Brigade:

Providing defense against air threats like ground attack aircrafts , UCAV’s and Gunships, the Air Defense Brigade is an essential arm of the Armored Division. Equipped with Talha APC (M-113 variant) equipped with RBS-70 SAM, used with the GIRAFFE Radar, there are 2-3 Regiments forming this Brigade.

Medium to High Altitude Air Defense is provided by Corps Assets and Air Force.


The Armored Regiment:

There is a 5th Armored Regiment, directly under command of the Divisional HQ. This can be a Recce Regiment however Recce Regiments used Light Tanks like M-24 in the past and used to perform recon for the M-4 Shermans and M-47/48 Pattons equipped Armored Regiments. Usually now, this Armored Regiment is equipped with MBT, and functions in the role of a standard Armored Regiment.

Inclusion of this Armored Regiment brings the total of MBT in Armored Division to 220-225.


Assault Engineers Regiment:

More resourceful and better equipped than their Infantry counterparts, these troops are equipped with AVLB’s (Armored vehicle launched Bridge) and other Bridge laying boats and vehicles, mine laying vehicles, mine clearing vehicles etc, the job of Assault engineers is to ensure that no natural or un-natural obstacle can obstruct the path of the Armored Division.

The regiment can also be equipped with ARV’s (Armored Recovery Vehs) however ARV is also found in Armored Regiments themselves too.


Signals Battalion:

Tasked to provide a communication network for the whole Division, its equipped with at least 1 APC but otherwise has necessary equipment and tools.


EME- Mobile Workshop

The EME unit provides repairs to the armored vehicles in the field. The decisive action demanded from an Armored Division requires the knocked out and damaged armored vehicles be put back in action as soon as possible through field repairs. It has mobile set up and can be deployed wherever required. It’s costly and time consuming to bring the MBT’s and other armored vehicles back to the peace time workshops.


Ordnance Unit:

Since MBT’s and other armed armored vehicles use different kind of ammunition from 155mm to 125mm and then 12.7mm rounds, an ordnance unit in an Armored Division is tasked to distribute ammunition throughout the Division.

Performing side by side with POL (petroleum Oil Lubricant) Dets, the fuel supply is also maintained through fuel tankers.


The FIU, Medical and other Divisional units function more or less in the same manner.


The Big question – Where is the Infantry?

One would expect an Armor Division to have its own dedicated infantry assets with IFV’s and APC’s accompanying MBT’s but the infantry is provided by the assigned Infantry Divisions of the same Corps. It becomes important sometimes for any formation to operate independently to show desirable results which cannot be affected through delays caused by merging of formations and acquiring assets from any other formation for support. 220 MBT’s in a formation is a formidable strength, but the necessary echelon of infantry riding along them cannot be ignored. Squeezing assets from other formations like Infantry Division also weakens those other formations as most of their strength gets attached with Armor Division. This may lead to compromises at some stage of another. Pakistan Army attaches many battalion sized units with bigger formations in war time as it has done so in the past.

The plus point is that both the Armor and Infantry Divisions work in cohesion with each other and can share support elements easily between each other, with the Infantry Division supporting Armor Division as it advances into enemy territory.


The Independent Armored Brigade Group:

This is a very versatile Brigade, it’s the Corps Commander’s favourite trump card which he can flexibly use anywhere he desires. It can operate on its own and counter Indian CSD IBG’s. It can be assigned to an Armored Division. It can be assigned to support an Infantry Division. It can be held back in reserve until the very end and spring in action from any direction against an enemy offensive.

When assigned to the Armor Division, it beefs up the strength of Armor regiments instantly in the formation, taking them from 5 to 7. The enemy gets an unexpected surprise while the potential of operational capability of the Division rises.


Desirable – Full strength Brigade Structure

Most modern armies use 3 armor regiments per armored brigade, some use 3 armor regiments and 1 mechanised infantry battalion while others use 2 armor regiments and 1 mechanised infantry battalion. PA has 2 armor regiments per armored brigade, which needs to be increased in any of above combinations, preferably one more armor regiment, increasing numbers to 3 armor regiments per armored brigade.

Desirable – a Third Brigade

Instead of merging an independent Armored Brigade Group into an Armored Division, a mechanized infantry Brigade or a mix of Armor and mechanized unit brigade can be raised. This will bring in the infantry into perspective instead of grabbing infantry from Infantry Divisions. As it must be kept in mind that Infantry is to used to hold area, so any area captured will require infantry to dig in and defend that area instead of moving ahead in their APC’s with the advance of the MBT’s towards the next objective. Armor will require infantry to jointly attack an area for effective results.


Desirable – Anti Tank Units


Armor Division is not always expected to attack enemy’s armor formations, its expected to exploit weaknesses in enemy lines and make its way into enemy territory at weakly defended points which offer nor or little resistance and remove the enemy from the area so that the infantry can capture and hold it. However a MBT vs MBT scenario is very much possible and so the armor division should have dedicated support of Anti-Tank Infantry units like LAT/HAT as well as aerial assets like Gunships, UCAV’s etc.


Desirable – Dedicated Aviation units

Gunships and UCAV’s are not just anti-tank platforms, they can engage a wide variety of enemy targets and can soften the enemy positions before the Armor rolls in. The scout and recon helicopters along with UAV’s can give a full detailed view of the battlefield so the GOC can plan accordingly as the different variables in the situation of the battlefield keeps changing. MBT’s working closely with Gunships has been seen in exercises performed by Pakistan Army.


Desirable – The MLRS

Steel rain or MLRS can pour havoc on enemy strongholds, ammunition and fuel storage areas and depots, infantry positions and command/control/communication centers. A dedicated unit in Artillery brigade is a must.

This video shows the type of units in 6th Armored Div, from 8:25 to 15:05. No Mechanised Infantry Battalion M-113/Talha APC to be found.


comments and suggestions are most welcome.
 
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