Post standoff, 3D printed accommodation for troops in Eastern Ladakh

Leh to have all weather connectivity with alternate axis by 2026

November 15, 2022 06:57 pm | Updated November 16, 2022 09:35 am IST - NEW DELHI

Army Vehicles at the road between Leh to Hanle in Ladakh. File

Army Vehicles at the road between Leh to Hanle in Ladakh. File | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

As standoff began with China in Eastern Ladakh in 2020 and the Army mobilised thousands of troops to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Corps of Engineers used 3D printing to construct 22,000 temperature controlled, re-locatable habitat in the high-altitude areas, according to sources in the security establishment. On the connectivity front, forward areas of Leh will have all weather connectivity with alternate axis under construction by 2026 boosting the Army’s movement and sustenance to forward areas, a source said.

“With progress on the alternate axis we will have 365-day connectivity into Leh. It will be a big boost to our sustenance and logistics of the Army in the Ladakh sector,” one source said on November 15, 2022. “Work on 4.1 km long Shinkun La tunnel which will start shortly and the planned target is 2026 we should have the tunnel and entire axis coming through. Then it will be 365 days, the source stated.

The Corps of Engineers which will celebrate its raising day 242nd raising day on November 18 has recently undertaken major induction of technology and equipment, as a result of which, sources said, capacity of combat Engineers has gone up by 3-4 times.

Elaborating, the source said Atul tunnel provides unhindered access to Lahaul and Spiti valley and beyond that three more tunnels are required to be constructed, Baralach La, La Chung La and Tanglang La tunnels, with total distance being approximately 35kms. “This requires huge investment, time and effort.”

A road will provide alternate connectivity to Western Ladakh and the Zanskar Valley directly from the Manali axis. It is a 298 km National High Double Lane (NHDL) specification road and is 65% completed. The road also includes the 4.1 km twin tube Shinkun La tunnel for providing all weather connectivity, officials noted.

Atal tunnel inaugurated in October 2020 was designed for 3000 passenger cars per day but almost 7500 vehicles are crossing it everyday.

Work on the 255 km long strategic Darbuk-Skyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) road is complete. The 35 bridges on it are currently being upgraded to Class-70 specifications, which will allow them to handle heavy tanks and artillery. The upgradation is expected to be completed in 1-2 years, the source stated.

3D habitat and defences

Sources said that in addition to 3D printing habitat, the Army’s Corps of Engineers in consultation with Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar came up with 3D printed permanent defences for forward areas. Trails conducted in the deserts in Western sector have been successful and are now being implemented in the Northern borders as well, sources said. The 3D printed defences can take direct hit from T-90 tank from 100 metres away and can be constructed in a much shorter time frame compared to regular defensive bunkers, the source explained.

Habitat and technical storage to include assets for 22,000 troops and approximately 450 A-vehicles, tanks and guns have been constructed in the last two years, the source said on the overall effort during the standoff. “Focus has now shifted to undertake construction of permanent defences and infrastructure to improve defence preparedness in extant working season apart from completion of ongoing projects,” the source added.

In addition to better habitat, solar panels and fuel cells have been deployed to make it sustainable, sources added.

Infrastructure development has gained urgency given China’s massive expansion along the LAC since the standoff which includes, roads, habitat, airfields and ammunition dumps among others. Referring to this Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande said last week that infrastructure development, that is going on “unabated” adding there are roads, helipads, airfields including roads right upto the passes.

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