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War exercises in Punjab showcase army's mettle

The mission: Enemy has 'blown' up a bridge over a canal and the army has to get its tanks to the other side.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 11:38 IST

A virtual war has broken out between the Blue Land and the Red Land on both sides of the river Sutlej and the Indian army's battle readiness is being put to the test.

The week-long 'Sanghe Shakti' military exercises in Punjab, the largest in recent history, are being held 100 to 130 km from the international border with Pakistan.

"Over 20,000 personnel are taking part in the exercises which are being held within a radius of 45 km," Brigadier SH Kulkarni said.

The troops have been divided into two opposing sides - Blue Land and Red Land - and have been showcasing their skills in a mock battle.

Jagraon, a nondescript village on the outskirts of Ludhiana, served as the location for one such drill last night.

The situation: the enemy has 'blown' up a bridge over a canal and the army has to swiftly construct a pontoon bridge to get its tanks to the other side.

As dusk falls, a team of around 100 sappers unload pontoons in position, using a combination of ropes and muscle power to set up a bridge over the 57-metre wide canal.

All this while being under constant 'enemy fire' depicted by loud explosions at regular intervals. The task is accomplished in a mere 70 minutes - in record time considering it has been done at night.

"Even if the enemy manages to destroy one or two of the pontoons, we always carry reserve ones so we can easily replace the damaged pontoons," says Kulkarni.
 
A couple of T-72 tanks now roll past the flimsy looking bridge, which as the Brigadier points out, can withstand a weight of up to 60 tons. The heavy vehicles make it safely to the other side, signalling 'Mission Accomplished.'

A barrage of flares were being continually set off at the site so that mediapersons and onlookers from nearby villages could catch a better glimpse of the action after dark.