Indian troops are now matching the Chinese army in engine power of the vehicles they use.
If the Chinese have Dongfengs, a knock-off of the famed US High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or Humvee as they are better known, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) -- the force that guards the Sino-India border -- is increasingly deploying Fortuners, Endeavours and Scorpios. And in the next couple of years, the ITBP intends to have Humvee like vehicles for its troops as well, possibly modified to suit Indian needs.
In the last one year, the ITBP has deployed one Toyota Fortuner and one Ford Endeavour in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and there are around five dozen Mahindra Scorpios catering to the transportation needs of the troops.
“These vehicles have performed well during their first winter at locations where day-time sub-zero temperature is a norm,” said an ITBP official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Around 350 to 400 incidents of ‘face-off’ are reported every year on the 3,488 kilometre-long Sino-India border where troops often come face-to-face, telling each other to back off from what they perceive as their territory. The ‘face-off’ can end within minutes, hours or might even take days to resolve, like the incident that took place in Chumar area of Ladakh region when Chinese President Xi Jinping was visiting India in September, 2014.
“The vehicles uses by the Chinese can gather a speed upto 60 to 80 kms per hour on the gravel roads that they have. Our vehicles were no match to them in terms of quick deployment of troops in cases of ‘face-off’. But now six to seven persons can sit in the new vehicles with their weapons and match up to the Chinese,” said Jaivir Chaudhary, who retired as a deputy inspector general from the ITBP and served both in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Chaudhary added that vehicles with powerful engines and better suspension system are a necessity at high-altitude areas.
“As of now these urban Sports Utility Vehicles are doing the job but the ITBP requires a made-to-requirement Humvee like vehicle with a patrol engine for patrolling and troop transportation. Diesel engines give starting trouble as they tend to freeze in these areas,” said Chaudhary.
For the ITBP, the SUVs are just the beginning. The force has also got five snow scooters and it recently tested all-terrain amphibious ‘caterpillar’ vehicle that rolls on a huge rubber band belt for its operational requirements in the high-altitude areas. It has decided to procure two such caterpillars also.