Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Mech unit likely,makeshift airstrip in place

There is buzz about a new Mechanised Infantry battalion coming up in the huge and the Indian Army's most important operational Command, the Udhampur-based Northern Command, and also a makeshift new airstrip in Mud village at the Sino-Indian border, near Pangong.

Coming from confirmed sources, the induction of one more mechanised unit in the Karu-based 3rd Division, the news was kept tight lipped by the Army here. The battalion comprising the indigenously made BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles (ICV), named 'Sarath', will be the mainstay of this unit which would be raised anytime in the next five years, said a source.

Increasing activities of China, at the border, has forced New Delhi to sit up and take notice and come up with measures.

Chumur, near Thankung post, where the airspace violation took place on June 21 this year, is 60-70 kilometers from the Line of Actual Control (LAC), near Pangong-tso, the world's most beautiful lake. The lake spreading 135 kilometers in length and about five kilometers in breadth and 210 meters in depth in right at the border and has 90 kilometers of its length under China occupation and the remaining 45 kilometers in India. Located at a height of 14,500 feet, the lake is exactly at the border of the two Asian giants, and a planned patrolling is carried out by the Garrison battlion of the Indian Army posted there.

Local villagers told People's Post that the airstrip which is a makeshift one made out of a special powder, meant for straightening the ground without heavy earth movers, was constructed after the Chinese airforce helicopter violated Indian air space, to which an army officer added that its a common phenomenon in that area, and it often happens.

Boats, worth 3.5 crore, go out on patrols five times a month, while patrols on foot are undertaken twice a week, in the 45 kilometer area which seperates the two countries.

The lone mechanised infantry battalion, presently 1 Guards, posted in Karu has 52 ICVs , which can be air lifted in IL-76 aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as can be moved on land at the height of 11,800 feet, have been deployed for defensive purposes and mainly safeguarding the region. Said an officer that it was still not clear about when the second mechanised unit would come up in the area, but it was in the pipeline and would be most propably deployed in the same region as it was to counter China, adding that the huge Northern Command required another mechanised unit. For the first time the vehicles went ahead of Zoji-La in Jammu and Kashmir in 1948 and are quite capable of operating in mountaineous regions.

The Northern Command, which is the largest Command of the Indian Army, has just one such mechanised battalion, which is moved throughout the Command and since there are two Divisions dedicated to Pakistan and China, coming under 3rd Division, the lone mechanised unit finds it difficult to counter both countries in the entire Command.

The mechanised battalion, which came up in the mountaineous region for the first time in 1986, uses surface-to-surface missiles and guns which can hit a flying chopper too. The battalion carries out annual exercises using the BMPs in Wari-La region in Pangong, which is situated at an altitude of 16,600 feet, the highest point at which the ICVs can go upto.

An senior officer told People's Post, "These violations, airspace as well as sometimes on land, take place at the LAC, as it is not recognised by the Chinese. They refuse to take any recognition of the maps offered by India in the late 90s and mid-2000s. Whenever a map was offered by the Indian side it was rejected by Beijing, and LAC is still disputed, which is why it is always violated."

Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, who took over as Chairman Chiefs of Staff on August 31, 2009, has said that there have been several violations by the Chinese in the recent past. Ministry of Defence figures say that there were 233 violations in 2008 and more than 75 in the past three months. The violation has been taken up with Beijing, but there has been no statement from the Chinese embassy in New Delhi.

The Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) is 982 kilometers, falling between Indiracol (the northern-most tip of India) and K2 and LAC begins after that between K2 and Arunachal Pradesh measuring around 3800 kilometers.

After 13 rounds of bilateral talks between New Delhi and Beijing, the dispute over LAC still remains un-resolved.

Copyright: People's Post

Army's Trishul Battle School in Karu-based China-centric 3rd Div !!

While New Delhi takes up the minor violations by the Chinese airforce and army the Indian Army seems to be all geared up and increasing their preparedness to counter their neighbour China, through all possible methods.
The Indian Army's Trishul Battle School (TBS) located 200 kilometers from the Sino-Indian border in Karu, 35 kilometers from Leh, has been lending pre-induction training to the army troops so as to prepare them for a tenure on the Siachen Glacier, comprising endurance, firing, mountaineering, rock climbing and medical problems. Considering the fact that the place is located at 11,800 feet, housing the Indian Army's critical 3rd Division, which fought during the Kargil conflict, it becomes mandatory that the training carried out in summers is complete in itself, before the troops and officers can be sent to the Siachen Battle School (SBS) at the Glacier, which is at a height of 13,000-14,000 feet, for further induction training.

The six weeks training, for which People's Post was taken, is rigourous and about 50 battalions have been trained in it, after it came into being three years back. The recently included battle obstacle course, is for endurance and includes 13 obstacles spread in an area of 800 meters. After the troops get acclimatised in Leh, they are sent to this School to build up stamina and endurance, before the snow sets in.

The TBS deals with rock craft and rock climbing and details of enemy locations where induction is to take place is shared with the Indian army personnel. Knowledge of special clothing and equipment is given to the troops coming to the mountains for the first time. Bayonet fighting and firing practice, which is done with the indigenous Insas rifle is carried out at this area.
The troops also carry out long range patrolling uptil the border which is about 200-250 kilometers, but they stop short at about three to five kilometers and take up issues for discussion at border meetings.

A five to ten kilometer run is also mandatory for the troops with full battle load, after they are acclimatised with the terrain and weather conditions.

An officer posted at the School told People's Post, "There have been no casualties so far in the training, as the men take to it quite well. The officers also undergo similar training, and a complete knowledge of the weapons, medical problems, equipment, survival in this hostile terrain is given to them. The School didn't exist before and all training was given only in SBS, but the need was felt for a pre-induction training, as sending troops directly to the Glacier-based SBS located at the Base Camp, was proving problematic, and there had been casualties."

Having rarified atmosphere at the height of 11,500 feet, Leh sometimes prives fatal for those coming from the plains, which is why a seven-day acclimatisation is recommended for the soldiers coming from lower areas, so that they get tuned to the environment. Since patrols are carried out at even higher altitudes, the troops need extreme levels of fitness. An officer posted at the border said that transportation and supplies are taken care of during the summers, during which the entire winter stocking of the supplies is done, but the troops still need to carry the weapon and essential items, which increases their load, adding that a pre-induction School is a very good idea as all troops are not mountain people, unlike the ones from Ladakh Scouts, which makes small things like loop formation, use of ropes etc also requiring classes.

The Karu-based 3rd Div, also called the Trishul Div, is mainly overlooking China and has an important role to play in Jammu and Kashmir, while the Chumathang-based 8 Div is to counter Pakistan. During Kargil, only the 3rd Div existed, after which the 8 Div was called from the north east and set up in Leh area for Pakistan, and the 3rd Div was dedicated to overlook China's movements.

Eastern Army Commander, Lt Gen V K Singh and the GOC of the Leh-based 14 Corps, Lt Gen S K Singh, both visited China last month for a round of bilateral talks. The 14 Corps comprises the 8 and 3rd Divisions.

Copyright : People's Post

Back in Leh, safely, after a strenuos trek !!

I am just back in Leh after completing 122 kms on the Glacier and shall leave for Delhi tomorrow after some formalities here, only after which I'll start posting the details and pictures here. I just need a couple of days breather to rest and re-coup after a hard journey. Minus 21 degree at Kumar, snowing at camp 3, winds at almost 70 kmph, rarified oxygen, despite all that I showed a perfect BP at 16,000 feet in Kumar ! I was the black sheep in this trek of professionals, but I did my instructors proud, by walking all along without medication and medical problems and sheer determination.

I have seen in the comments section that people have shown concern about my safety thinking I was stuck and had to be evacuated, thanx for that, but there was some other expedition in Himachal, which required ALHs, while the two men in my team who were evacuated used Cheetahs in Siachen. Minor casualities, is what I can say. I trekked on Indo-Pak border and not near China. I was close to Pakistan on the festival of Eid , but there is no movement in camps and posts after sunset !!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

China incursion reports affect foreign tourists.

Some Belgian tourists leaving Leh today, have just come back as the Jet flight to Delhi just got cancelled, and the first question they asked me, "has China invaded India, we heard on TV?"
They are stuck in Leh for an extra day till the next flight, and I could clearly see the fear writ large on their faces. I assured them, on behalf of our army, that all was normal and peaceful. They plan to stay indoors today and not venture out. Funny, indeed. Leh tourism would indeed be affected by such news. They asked me the complete incident. While they figure out whats happening, I leave for the Glacier. Juley.

Monday, September 7, 2009

"JULEY" !!

Ok report on Sino-Indian border---GOC 14 Corps, exclusive tete-a-tete with Chindits !!

Interacted today with the 14 Corps Commander at the 14 Corps headquarter at Leh, during tea at 10.30 am. Lt Gen S K Singh, originally from 8 Gorkhas, and has also commanded 102 Brigade and 3rd Div here, seems to know each stone in this area. According to him, the incident reported by Star and Aajtak, among others, took place in July in Chumur and the supposed 'red paint' had been removed long back.

Calling it normal, he said there's nothing to it and the country need not panic and its in safe hands. I saw a IAF Cheetah on an increased sortie/recce today morning atop my head, while waiting in my hotel. The GOC says that the Chief is to be believed, when he makes statements in the capital, and he means something when he says it.
He attributed the 26 incursions by the Chinese inside Indian territory in the month of August to different perceptions of the LAC, which needs sorting out at the highest level.
During his five-day visit, which the Lt Gen called part of military diplomacy, he along with the Eastern Army Commander and three more, visited Chengdu, Lhasa, Beijing and Shanghai in China. He's just back. He called it fruitful. Refuting reports that the dispute now is about the lake, he said both sides patrolled till the lake and entered each other's territory, which is ok and normal. Serious matters are taken up at border meetings.
Troops are alert and vigilant. There was no plan to increase recce and patrol, unless decided at the top. If and when required necessary action will be taken at the top level (looks like, its being taken even now). Tongue in cheek, the GOC hesitantly confirmed me my info, which I got from locals here about some activity in Mud village, in Chumur, near Chushul/Pangong.
There was no plan to take on outsiders for training in the Siachen Battle School, right now, due to infrastructure constraints.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lockheed Martin begins Phase-2 of MMRCA field trials

Lockheed Martin's F-16IN 'Super Viper' has completed Phase-1 of field trials. The week long training phase was in preparation for the field trials.

Phase-2 of field trials begins tomorrow, September 7, 2009. Phase-2 will last two weeks.

IAF's FSI writes to DGCA for recognition and affiliation

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has proposed to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Civil Aviation, that the courses conducted by the IAF's Delhi-based Institute of Flight Safety, be recognised and affiliated to a university.
The Institute, which came into existence in 1983, has been getting offers from civilian pilots from private airlines to enroll in the courses run by it, which is why the need was felt for affiliation and recognition.There are 18 courses run by the Institute, 16 of which are for a week and the remaining two for six weeks each, with 26 personnel in each, from the Navy, army, IAF, HAL, DGCA, Coast Guard, and other agencies which have flying in it.
The certificate courses are in flight safety and accident investigation. The proposal sent to the DGCA in January this year, has been pending ever since,as the DGCA has sent some of its queries to the Institute, like the employment guarantee of the courses, and if non-pilot civilians, connected with aviation, could enroll in them directly.The Institute has explained that it is in the process of upgradation with extra infrastructure coming up on its premises for additional faculties, one of which is a psychological department dealing with the human factor in flying.
The infrastructure development, worth crores, has already started. There are permanent faculty members, while guests are called in from various agencies for lectures, like on flight data recorder and bird DNA etc.Also after the recognition and affiliation, the course would be called Aviation Management and accident investigation. This being the only Institute in the country dealing with accidents and flight safety, had an internal control by the IAF, and hence the courses were not recognised outside, but now with civilians showing interest in the courses, the Institute had to take up the matter with the DGCA.
The civilians who would enroll in these courses would have to pay for them.The Institute, located in Palam, is headed by a three-star IAF officer and has mainly IAF officers as staff, while flying personnel from all services are enrolled in it, who come on deputation.All accident investigations are carried out and an annual review conducted by the Institute and presented before the Air Headquarters.Inquiries into crashes fall under various categories, from one to five. Category-1 crashes are considered the most severe, in which the equipment and life are lost. According to the Flight Safety Institute parameters, the categories, from one to five, decrease from the most severe accidents to just incidents.A flight safety source told People's Post that measures are being worked upon to bring down foreign object damage, reduction in incidents, and other causes. There is a team working in the IAF studying various types of birds which can cause bird-hit accidents in aircraft and there is a tie-up with a Hyderabad-based organisation to study the DNA of birds also.
Copyright: People's Post

Snow peak at the middle--Sino-Indian border between the lake, in Lukung village !

Random...IL-76 atop my head at 6 am before landing at K B Rinpoche airport, Leh !!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Acclimatising in Leh!!!

Seven days of acclimatisation in Leh, (I arrived one day late , so missed day of acclimatisation), after which I leave for the Base Camp on 7th September for another ten days of training in Siachen Battle School in ice-craft and snow-craft, safety and rescue and all about the Glacier.
We would cover 90 kilometers in 9 days, covering some posts, before returning back to the Base Camp. Undergoing BP, pulse checks and weight everyday. I've already got a high BP at this altitude---ten thousand feet. The SBS training is at twelve thousand feet and the trek somewhere around seventeen-eighteen thousand.

Weight loss, HAPO, etc are some of the things which are anticipated.
This trek is a personal journey for me, more of mental than physical endurance and I know I'll do it. All defence journos out there should attempt this one, trust me. Watch out for pics and posts.