Indian Army fighting fit at the LAC during harsh winters
The deployment of more than 100,000 soldiers of two big armies, strung out over 872 km, in one of the harshest climes in the world, is simply without parallel in military history.
- As the Indian and Chinese armies deployed at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) eyeball each other, sometimes separated by just hundreds of metres, they are up against the same formidable foe, in a way that ambitious military campaigners of previous centuries might not have imagined.
- Eastern Ladakh is no Russia. Here, soldiers are deployed at heights over 15,000 feet and above.
- At this time of the year, the maximum temperature in the forward areas of the LAC is as low as 3 degrees Celsius; the minimum temperature can plunge between -10and -15 degrees Celsius.
- December and January will see -30 to -40 degrees, and snow.
- Acute Mountain Sickness, high altitude pulmonary oedema, deep vein thrombosis, cerebral venous thrombosis, psychological illnesses — these are just some of the medical risks the soldiers are up against.
- Hypoxia can lead to disorientation, nausea, headache, and if not detected early, more serious complications. With falling temperatures come frostbite, snow-blindness, chilblains, and peeling of skin due to the extremely dry conditions.
- At high-altitude posts, soldiers carry anything between 20 and 45 kg of equipment, says a serving officer who did not want to be identified, depending upon the role the soldier is playing, whether offensive, defensive or on patrol.
- First and foremost are the weapon and ammunition. The weapon can be a pistol or a carbine, a rifle.
- If the weapon is heavy like a machine gun weighing over 20 kg, multiple soldiers help carry it. A company of 60 to 120 soldiers carries at least one Medium Machine Gun, a section (6 to 20 soldiers) a rocket launcher. The ammunition load is divided.
- Apart from this, a soldier’s gear includes boots, clothing for extreme weather, a set of inners, a multi-layered jacket, face protection from the cold, goggles to prevent snow-blindness and a helmet. Then there is a ‘sustenance kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, mattress, two pairs of change, toiletries, extra socks, a water bottle, and at least 24 hours’ worth of emergency, high-calorie cooked rations.
- The layers of clothing one wears also cut efficacy and affect mobility, which is unless they are of superior quality, they could end up being a problem, not a solution. In the 1962 conflict, the Indian forces across all sectors faced a severe paucity of winter clothing.
- The Army unveiled newly constructed heated accommodation for troops deployed behind the LAC; sources say facilities to accommodate all the men are in place. These are “smart camps” with barrack-like structures, and including electricity, water, heating, and other facilities.
- At the frontline though, where soldiers sit on peaks facing the PLA, they live in “heated tents as per tactical considerations.
- In order to reduce the exposure of soldiers at these forward posts, troops are being rotated as quickly as every two weeks.