India deploys air defence systems in eastern Ladakh
As part of its military readiness plan to deter any aggressive move by Chinese forces in eastern Ladakh, India has deployed its air defence weapon systems in the sensitive sector where tensions rose sharply after a brutal brawl in Galwan Valley left 20 Indian troops dead, people familiar with the developments said on Saturday on the condition of anonymity.
The June 15 clash left an unconfirmed number of Chinese troops dead.
“In this heightened state of readiness, necessary measures have been taken by all services working in an integrated environment to ensure that we are ready for all eventualities,” said one of people cited above.
The air defence weapons in the Indian military arsenal include the indigenous Akash, the Israeli SpyDer and Soviet-origin Pechora and OSA-AK systems. Air defence systems can engage targets such as fighter jets, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Both India and China have significantly reinforced their deployments with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery and missiles in the region that has garnered extensive global attention in recent weeks, particularly after the bloodshed along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Galwan Valley.
“We have strengthened our deployments responding to the military buildup on the Chinese side. We are keeping a strict vigil along the LAC and are fully prepared to respond to any threatening action by the PLA,” said the second official cited above.
Senior Indian and Chinese military commanders reached a consensus on disengaging from friction points along the LAC on June 22. However, China has not halted — and instead ramped up — its military activity in Galwan Valley, with a concentration of soldiers, military vehicles, earth-moving machinery, and erection of structures, including near the same point where Indian and Chinese troops clashed on June 15.
“When the end state of a situation cannot be predicted, military prudence says you should be prepared for the worst,” said Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd), a former Northern Army commander.
India has moved thousands of additional troops to the Ladakh sector along with air, artillery and armour support to cater to any eventuality, said a third official.
The Indian Air Force and the Indian Army have deployed their air defence systems in eastern Ladakh even as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has activated several of its bases in both Xinjiang and the Tibet Autonomous Region with Chinese fighter jets regularly making a show of strength in the Aksai Chin area, said the first official cited above.
Air defence refers to protecting military assets from an aerial threat by the enemy. India is working on setting up an air defence command to enhance military synergy and optimally utilise the resources of the armed forces.
The IAF has raised its guard to deal with any military provocation by the Chinese forces and forward bases have been ordered to be on their highest state of alert, the first official said. Apart from Sukhoi-30s and upgraded MiG-29 fighter jets, the IAF is operating Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters --- both imported from the United States --- in the region.
The Indian Army has deployed its new US-origin M777 ultra-light howitzers, which can provide accurate artillery fire support in mountainous terrain, in eastern Ladakh, said the second official cited above. The 155 mm/39-caliber M777 howitzers can be sling-loaded to helicopters and swiftly deployed to high-altitude areas. India ordered 145 howitzers from the United States for $750 million in November 2016. The howitzers have a range of 24-30 km.
Disengagement of Indian and Chinese forces from friction areas along LAC is likely to be cumbersome and long-drawn, and it could take weeks, or even months, for the border situation to improve, as reported by Hindustan Times on Friday.