IAF transfers troops from one valley to other

Troops and artillery guns were shifted from Hailong to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh using heavy-lift helicopters as a part of Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018. (PTI file photo)

With Doklam on its mind, the Indian Air Force on Tuesday practised for the first time how to quickly move troops from one valley to another for emergency fortification near the disputed Sino-Indian border.

The troops and artillery guns were shifted from Hailong to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh using heavy-lift helicopters as a part of Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018 – one of India’s biggest operational drill since Operation Brasstacks in 1986-87.

Transfer of troops between two remote valleys in Arunachal Pradesh was one of India’s new operational requirements that were tested in exercise, sources told DH.

The need for such a drill was felt all the more after last year’s Doklam crisis when border guarding troops against India and China had a 72-day
face-off at a disputed site near India-China-Bhutan trijunction.

Since the Indian Army took some time to reinforce its positions in the Himalayan heights during the Doklam crisis, the military now wants to perfect its skills for a quick injection of troops if a similar situation recurs in the summer of 2018.

In last few months, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had maintained that though the People’s Liberation Army troops moved back from the disputed site, the infrastructure remained intact raising the possibility of their return. “There is storage space on the Chinese side and even the cots they brought in for the soldiers to sleep, remained there in packed conditions. There is always a possibility of movement once snow melts,” Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat had stated in January in a media interaction.

That’s the reason, the IAF went to validate its skill to improve the logistic support in the difficult terrain along the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control.

A similar exercise was undertaken at Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand on Tuesday.

“We are simulating multiple scenarios with embedded emergency situations. Inter-valley troop transfer is very critical,” said an IAF officer.

In Exercise Gagan Shakti 2018, IAF for the first time tests its war-fighting skills in a two-front scenario.

After flying nearly 5,000 sorties in three days close to Pakistan border last week, the war game shifted to the eastern front in less than 48 hours.

In Phase–II, the drill will also focus on maritime operations in the eastern seaboard right up to the Malacca Straits – gateway for the bulk of the Chinese cargo transiting through the ocean.

Extensive missions would now be undertaken by the Su-30MKI and Jaguar combat jets in conjunction with Indian Navy’s P-8I maritime reconnaissance plane to practice offensive and defensive tactics against maritime targets using long-range weapons.

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