The Army has significantly augmented its firepower along the 1300-km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Eastern sector, while also beefing up overall defences in the region, especially in the Tawang sector, by integrating various services in realtime through automation.
This includes upgraded L-70 air defence guns, M777 Ultra Light Howitzers, and automated and electronic fusion of Bofors and other artillery guns deployed along the LAC.
Army has set up “integrated defended localities” at several locations along the LAC. These integrate various arms of the Army like infantry, engineers, artillery, air defence, aviation and also the fighter aircraft of the Air Force, to respond to any threat in realtime and bring in maximum firepower, explained Maj. Rufus Johnson, a Company Commander at one such locality near the LAC near Bumla.
“Integrated defensive battle is not fought at the company or battalion level. It is a cohesive and coordinated battle fought employing all arms and services that are available with the armed forces,” he said. Army had infused significant technology to fuse various sensors and platforms for battlefield transparency and also quick response.
Talking of the significance of integrated defences built around Bumla area, Maj. Johnson said there were primarily two approaches for the enemy to move towards Tawang, 35 km from the LAC. One was the valley after the ridgeline of the LAC and the road from Bumla to Tawang for a stretch of 35 km. Dominating this area would help in thwarting the enemy’s plans.
Air defence guns
Speaking of the upgraded L-70 air defence guns, Capt. Sariya Abbasi, an Air Defence officer posted in the Tawang sector near the LAC, said this was their first deployment in high altitude areas across the country.
“The limitations associated with the upgraded guns have been overcome by incorporation of state of the art components, latest technology, making it a potent weapon system against all low level air threat that include unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned combat vehicle, attack helicopter and modern aircraft, to increase the target acquisition and automatic tracking capabilities of the gun,” she said briefing visiting journalists from Delhi.
Further, the use of modern proximity fuse ammunition had increased the hit probability of the gun, Capt. Abbasi added.
The L-70 guns was manufactured by Swedish company Bofors AB in 1950s and India procured them the late 1960s. These legacy guns were upgraded by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
The M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers inducted in November 2018 has been deployed all along the LAC. The M777 is a 155-mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun and weighs just four tonnes.
India has contracted 145 M777 guns from BAE Systems, of which over 75 had been delivered. Three regiments had been deployed and the fourth was in the process of being raised, Director General of Artillery Lt. Gen. T.K. Chawla had said recently.
The M777 had given significant flexibility in employment options for long range fire power, one officer posted near the LAC said on condition of anonymity. “It can be airlifted by Chinook heavy lift helicopters to any forward location at short notice in case of any contingency,” the officer said.
In addition, the Army had long deployed the legacy and battle-proven Bofors guns along the LAC. They had now been made more effective and the response time significantly improved under Project Shakti undertaken by BEL, by integrating them electronically with the command centre and forward troops.