Transformation of Armies Over the Ages

Armies changed with time. There were new discoveries and man understood the use of metals such as iron, copper, etc. He made an alloy called bronze. With the discovery of metal, he made weapons of metal which were more lethal and it could also be made in different shapes. Thus, armies changed old methods & evolved new tactics and methods to fight their enemies.

Transformation in Warfare

In the ancient age, it was the 'Chaturangabala' force consisting of Cavalry, Elephant, chariots and infantry. Warfare was a series of set piece battles at a pre-defined battle ground. While armies used various strategies and tactics to win a war, the fighting per se was static in nature.

Over the years, as metallurgy improved, new weapons were introduced. The chariots were not seen in battle in the medieval age. Cavalry was the arm used for speedy movement of troops to surprise the army. It allowed attack from unexpected directions and therefore was the most used in this age. As science improved, we saw the introduction of wheeled vehicles, guns and ammunition.

The Mughals used guns extensively to win battles. A soldiers personal weapon of sword, bow & arrow/spear were replaced by rifles and machine guns in the nineteenth century. World War I & II was the turning point for new forms of warfare when trench war fare was introduced.

Impact of Technology on Warfare

Science changed the nature of warfare due to newer inventions. The important discoveries that revolutionised warfare were:

  • Metals and wheel (Ancient age)
  • Gun Powder (Medieval age)
  • IC engines (motor cars, railway engines, tanks)
  • Aircraft
  • Naval battle ships, submarines, torpedoes
  • Missiles
  • Wireless communication
  • Nuclear bomb
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
  • Drones

As part of the modernisation and changes in the armies, the organisation also changed. Some of the new branches in the army were the Engineers, Signals, Army Supply Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Intelligence, Air Defence, etc. Obviously, each of these arms had its own specialisation.

The soldiers and officers had to be trained to handle the role and responsibility of that corps. Army, Navy and Air Force have to now fight together to win wars. This gave rise to Tri-Service organisations and Tri-Service training.

Transformation in Training

During the British period, armies were modernised and became more mobile. The new methods of fighting and modern weapons made it necessary to change the subjects being taught. What aspects of the army changed during the period before World War II?

  • Army became Armed Forces with the raising of Air Force and Navy.
  • Training in Military subjects became specialized to each of the three wings of armed forces - Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • Re-organization of army was done to suit the new methods of battle. Army raised additional arms such as Combat Engineers (building bridges and roads, clearing obstacles, etc), Signals (telecommunication).
  • The standard infantry had rifles, machine guns, guns, mortars, Anti Tank Missiles. Cavalry became an arm with battle tanks. Artillery had long-range guns and rockets, self-propelled guns.
  • The basic soldier training of skill at arms was the same, except that the subject became complicated and intense. A rifle replaced the sword.
  • All three services of Army, Navy and Air Force have to fight the war together. Hence Tri-service training was introduced.

Changes in Training the Army

As the armies transformed and acquired greater capabilities, the method of training also changed.