Weapons of Choice

The Corps gets priority for new weapons

After the Kargil war, the army decided that no post, however inaccessible, in the newly raised 14 corps zone would be unoccupied. In addition to good intelligence gathering and information flow, this required procurement of new weapons and equipment, amongst other things, for night fighting in high altitude areas. Even as the government gave priority to the operational needs of 14 corps, Army Headquarters revised the Weapons and Equipment (WE) list infantry battalions to include new purchases, and facilitate their easy and automatic procurement. The revised WE has been cleared by the defence ministry and is expected to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on National Security soon. For the present, the equipment is being procured as sector stores, which are well within the financial powers of the Northern army commander.

To enhance the night fighting capability of the infantry, troops have been provided with imported Hand Held Thermal Imagers (HHTI), night vision goggles and binoculars, both optical and night sights for the 5.56mm rifle and light Machine Gun, and holographic aiming sight for rifle and carbine. The HHTI helps in observation up to two kms at night, and more numbers are now available with the Ghatak platoons in 14 corps zone. In addition, there are Hand Held Laser Range Finders, and Mortar Fire Director Controllers. The new surveillance and navigation equipment include Battle Field Surveillance Radars (short range), GPS, digital cameras, and light weight high resolution binoculars. The new weapons include Automatic Grenade System (AGS)-30, 84mm Rocket Launcher, Anti-Material Rifles with thermal imaging sights providing kill range of two km, Pump Action Shot Gun, Under Barrel Grenade Launchers. The AGS-30, which is being procured from Russia, is a vast improvement over the Automatic Grenade launcher-17 with Infantry battalions. The system is intended to be used on reverse slopes by high performance fragmentation ammunition. Moreover, the small dimension of the grenade launcher allows it to conceal the fire position, rapidly change it.

And deliver fire from small openings.

Even as new infantry equipment is being integrated into the 14 corps grid, two areas of concern remain. The communications from battalion headquarters down wards to platoon level are not satisfactory. Army headquarters has taken this up as one of its Key Result Areas: to identify the right type of radio sets for units, Moreover, it is felt that there is a need to identify a new personal weapon as the present weapon system is not found suitable for high altitudes.

“Our requisite requirement of artillery is being met,” says the corps commander. 14 corps, The artillery now has the Thermal Imaging Integrated Observation Equipment (THOE). Which includes a thermal imager, a laser range finder. And a goniometer to establish accurate range and bearing to the target. In addition to the integral artillery with the corps, the vintage 75/24 guns, and the L/70 and ZU-23 air defence guns are being used in direct firing role. “These guns have been pulled up by mules and provide devastating direct fire on enemy bunkers,” says a commanding officer Kaksar sub-sector. The 14 corps has more Before 155 mm guns than any other corps. Officers explain that once a threat from across the borders has been discerned. Or the adversary manages to evade detection and is able to penetrate the LoC and establish himself on Indian territory. As was the case in Kargil. The intruding forces have to be destroyed quickly so that the sanctity of the LoC could be restored. The artillery, firing 155 mm precision strike ammunition can best perform this task. Particularly in high-altitude mountainous terrain. Laser-guided artillery shells can destroy bunkers, bridges and small buildings with a single -shot kill probability as high as 80 per cen. Targets which can be seen by the troops in contact with the intruders can be ‘designeate’ (illuminated by a laser beam) by a ground based artillery observer (spotter) carrying a Laser Target Designator and those which are behind crest lines and on reverse slopes can be designated by an airborne artillery observer in an army aviation helicopter. Improved conventional munitions (ICMs) carrying anti-personnel grenades and lethal ‘air-burst’ ammunition can be dispensed over soft targets such as administrative based, rations and fuel storage dumps, headquarters and rest areas. As these are not precision strike munitions, these have to be accurately directed suing commando artillery observers or TV camera equipped Remotely Pilot Vehicles to achieve the desired effect. Though precision strike munitions are relatively more costly than standard high explosive (HE) shells, these ‘smart’ munitions are more effective since only a direct hit from a ‘dumb’ artillery shell can destroy a bunker. “If these are made available in large quantities, artillery can cause much greater destruction and indirectly reduce the number of casualties that the infantry has to suffer when the inevitable assault is finally launched.” says a colonel.

The corps has also bid for the soon to b acquired Russian Smerch Multi-Barrel-Rocket-Launchers. With a 90km range, Smerch is ideal for long range fire assault. “Smerch will tilt the firepower in the corps zone in our favour.” Says a colonel from the corps headquarters who expects the MBRL to enter service by the end of the year. Meanwhile, a squadron of army aviation corps, with three fights or a total of 15 Cheetah helicopters, is being used for multifarious purpose. Since the ceasefire in November 2003, these helicopters are being employed to drop essential food items, personnel mail, and for senior officer’s survey of their forward posts which are physically snapped by snow. Tn addition to the weapons and equipment, various short rang Unattended Ground Sensors, both seismic and infra-red have been utilized in the corps zone. However, “infiltration is of little consequence in this area, both because of the terrain and the lack of local support for infiltrators,” says Lt Gen. Sharma. This is a small relief for this corps where living conditions are extremely difficult.


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