At a time when military is increasingly coming under attack in Jammu and Kashmir, an army report has pointed out at least 50 gaps --- ranging from body armour, night-vision gear to flawed fuel storage --- that pose a threat to soldiers’ lives.
If the army doesn’t make fuel storage safer at its forward bases, it could risk the lives of thousands of soldiers.
Militant strikes can cause greater damage not because of their sophistication but because tens of thousands of litres of fuel is being stored in make-shift shelters, says the document.
“The enormity of the problem can be gauged from the aftermath of the recent terrorist action on the FOL (fuel, oil and lubricants) dump at Uri,” says the report on Future Core Technologies and Problem Statements.
Nineteen soldiers were killed when suspected Pakistani militants struck at an army base in Uri in September. Fourteen of the troops were burnt alive as their tents were pitched next to a fuel dump.
The attack, one of the worst against the army in the border state, forced a rethink on fuel storage.
The army design bureau (ADB), inaugurated last August, has identified FOL storage in forward bases as one of the 50 problems that need to be resolved swiftly.
An initiative of the Modi government, the ADB has been tasked with promoting research and development and act as a bridge between the force and the private sector to meet the army’s requirements.
The ADB has stressed on the need for smart vests for soldiers with built-in codes for identification, sniper scopes to engage targets with greater precision and robots to carry equipment in high-altitude areas, including Siachen glacier.
The document, published by the CII, says “vintage barrels and jerrycans” used for storage and transportation of fuel are vulnerable, increasing the “scope for collateral damage”.
Make-shift fuel storage facilities are susceptible to enemy shelling and fire hazards, too.
The army has sought the help of academia and the industry to develop alternative mechanisms for storage. “In Uri, the soldiers were sitting ducks and even the terrorists must not have expected to kill so many of them,” a senior officer said.
The army is looking at solutions developed by other countries. These include “pillow tanks” used by Nato forces, collapsible storage containers used by the US marines and “quick tanks” with aluminium frames.
The report suggests use of lighter and fire resistant material for tanks, with capacity to hold more than 50,000 litres of fuel.