The deployment of the anti-aircraft guns having a range of 3.5 km in the treacherous region is part of a series of measures that the Army has taken to bolster its operational preparedness along the over 1,300-km LAC in eastern sector in the face of the 17-month standoff in eastern Ladakh.
The Army has already positioned a significant number of M-777 howitzer guns that were first received three years ago. As part of a high state of preparedness to deal with any eventuality, the Army units including those of the ‘integrated defended locality’ have been undergoing strenuous physical training and military drills on a daily basis. The ‘integrated defended locality’ is a specialised unit comprising various arms of the Army including infantry, air defence, and artillery.
Military officials said the upgraded L70 guns were deployed around two-three months ago in several key locations in Arunachal Pradesh in addition to other sensitive positions along the entire LAC and that their inductions have significantly enhanced the Army’s overall fire power. ”The guns can bring down all unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, attack helicopters and modern aircraft.
The gun has enhanced target acquisition and automatic target tracking capability under all weather conditions with high-resolution electro-optical sensors comprising a daylight television camera, a thermal imaging camera and a laser-range finder,” said Capt Sarya Abbasi of the Army Air Defence.
”The gun is also equipped with a Muzzle Velocity Radar for enhancing the accuracy of fire. The gun has the ability to be integrated with tactical and fire control radars which give it more flexibility in its deployment,” she said. Capt Abbasi said the legacy gun has now been transformed into a sophisticated air defence gun. Another official said the upgraded gun system that operates along with a high-end Israeli radar can be counted among the best available air defence guns in its class globally.
In the last few months, the Army has also deployed a good number of easily transportable M-777 ultra light howitzer guns which are at times moved from one place to another in Chinook helicopters depending on operational requirement. ”The addition of upgraded L70 air defence guns to the existing Bofors guns and recently inducted M-777 howitzers significantly enhanced the Indian Army’s overall operational capability,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity. The L70 guns were originally manufactured by Swedish defence firm Bofors AB in 1950s and India has stared inducting over 1,000 of them in the 1960s.
The legacy guns have been upgraded by state-run Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Following the escalation in tension in eastern Ladakh standoff, the Army has taken a series of measures to boost its operational capabilities in the eastern sector bordering China that included procurement of all terrain vehicles, precision guided ammunition, high-tech surveillance equipment, radars and weapons. Officials said enhancing combat capability is a continuous process and it will go in sync with operational requirements and overall security situation. They said an equal amount of focus has been given to enhancing operational capability in the Northern as well as eastern sector.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry. The tension escalated following a deadly clash in Galwan Valley on June 15 last year. As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the Gogra area in August and in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February.
The last round of military talks on October 10 ended in a stalemate following which both sides blamed each other for the impasse. In a strong statement after the 13th round of talks, the Indian Army said the ”constructive suggestions” made by it at the negotiations were neither agreeable to the Chinese side nor could Beijing provide any ”forward-looking” proposals. Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the sensitive sector.