The army has urged the state government to expedite the issuance of fresh notification for extending the lease of the Kalith Field Firing Range, which expired in June this year.
The ten-year lease of the range starting in June 2004 got expired in June 2014.
This range around 45 km from Jammu is a notified range located in Akhnoor sub-division. The army has been using the range since 1970 for carrying out training of infantry and artillery weapon systems.
Every year the army units under 16 core (which covers the entire Jammu region), comes to this range for weapons practice. It is one of the largest firing ranges in northern India.
Talking to reporters, Brigadier RS Bhadauria of Pallanwalla sector pointed that owing to delay in extension of firing range, the army has lost two months of practice.
"We have made out for the lost time by practising on other locations. Technically, we have lost only one month, as the range is closed during the time of children's examination. But, any further delay will certainly affect the army's war-fighting capabilities", he said.
"In a single month, around 7-8 army units come here for training, with each unit getting 3-4 days", he added.
Whether, the army has applied for the extension of the firing range with the state government, the Brigadier said, "As per past practice, we apply six months before the expiry. This time, too, we applied six months prior, but we are still waiting for fresh notification. It for the first time since 1970 that the extension has been delayed, otherwise, we use to get timely notification."
On the area under the possession of the Kalith Field Firing Range, the Brigadier said, "In 1970 when the range started we had 99000 acres with 11 sectors. With the passing of time due to growing population, local needs and farming activity, the area kept on shrinking which has been reduced to only 8000 acres with three sectors. We use the fields only for one third portion of the year which is 138 out of 365 days".
In case, if the government did now give the extension, he said, "The closest range is in Rajasthan".
On the accident record of the firing range, the Brigadier said, "This field has a very good record as very few accidents were reported here. If we look back at the record of last five years, in 2011 there was only one accident and 2012 there were only couple of incidents. These accidents were very minor as persons injured ventured into the field to collect ammunition scarp."
"Taking opportunity of the time till extension comes we gave undertaken a large scale search operation 'Mission Humsafar' from August 5."
"In the mission, we are carrying out the physical search of the impact area of the ranges using explosive detector dogs, remotely-operated vehicles, mine prodders, deep search metal detectors and bomb disposal teams. During the search operation, we have found two blind which were later destroyed. Thus far we have completed the search operation of about 75% of two sectors", he added.
The army has also started clearing the Tosha Maiden Field Firing Ranges at Budgam in Srinagar. The operation will continue till the entire area is cleared. The Tosha Maidan Ranges were being used by the security forces for field firings since 1964.