Retooling for war in super-high altitudes

Lt Gen. P. Ravi Shankar (Retd), India Today

The Indian armed forces are rebalancing along the northern borders. The total number of troops in super-high altitudes (over 12,000 feet) will increase manifold. Rebalancing additional forces into super high altitudes has implications on operational efficiency, financial impact and logistic viability.

Our experience of last year’s confrontation with the People’s Liberation Army of China in eastern Ladakh, more than three decades on in the Siachen Glacier and other super-high altitudes in the north and the east indicates that we must invest in certain technologies to contend with China effectively along the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Very importantly, super-high altitudes are like space—devoid of resources where survival is the first mantra.

Significantly, these areas will not always require the latest technologies. They require ones that can survive the environment and function there. The best technology is the one that ‘works’ in super high altitudes. Many a time, technologies fail during operations. At that point, it is the man and his will to fight with what he has that becomes paramount. We should not lose sight of this fact.

The first prerequisite in any operational scenario is to enhance ‘battlefield transparency’ in depth across the LAC. This is achievable through a combination of applied technologies related to space, manned and unmanned ground as also aerial systems. These systems have to be backed by night vison, GIS and AI to get a clear 24×7 picture of the battlefield. This is a constant requirement before, during and after battle.

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