Pallu (Rajasthan) : Tanks rumbled across the desert as helicopter gun ships hovered overhead to provide protective cover and as night fell, hundreds of soldiers parachuted into “enemy” territory during an Indian Army war game being conducted to test its newly-acquired IT-based battlefield techniques.
Elsewhere, soldiers scrambled across a water obstacle after a furious fire fight while helicopter borne troops surreptitiously penetrated into “enemy” territory to neutralise a radar installation and open an air corridor for the attacking forces.
These were but some of the elements of Exercise Ashwamedha that 25,000 Indian Army troops were engaged in along an 80-mile long and 40-mile wide front in the scorching heat of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert. Pallu is located some 400 km from state capital Jaipur.
“We fight to win. What we are aiming at is to validate our network-centric warfare capabilities and night fighting capabilities,” the Indian Army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh told reporters here Wednesday on the penultimate day of the five-day drill.
“We have progressed reasonably well in both areas in validating our concepts,” a very pleased looking Singh added.
Network-centric warfare means the ability to convey information in real time through satellite imagery, UAVs (unarmed aerial vehicles) and battlefield radars from the scene of action to the highest level of command and vice versa to facilitate quick decisions in an evolving situation.
Night vision devices like handheld thermal imagers, the TISA integrated fire control system of the T-72 main battle tank (MBT) and the LORROS long-range radar light up a battlefield like day and enable effective counter-action against advancing forces.
“The exercise will enable the integration of surveillance systems and night vision devices with the weapons systems of the army and the air force,” Brigadier Amarjeet Singh, the army spokesman for the exercise, explained.
“The aim is to integrate the various fighting elements so that combat power is optimised and simultaneous and concentrated attacks can be staged at several points along a front.
“The exercise is also meant to practise operational synergy within the army as well as with the air force,” Amarjeet Singh added.
For the war game, the troops of 1 Corps, one of the three strike corps of the Indian Army, were split into the Blue Force representing the attackers and the Blue Force representing the defenders.
On the first day of the exercise Sunday, Blue Force troops made a concerted effort to breach the Red Force defence at three points along a canal dividing their territories but succeeded at only one spot.
This breach was consolidated on the next day and a perimeter established to keep the defenders out.
This bridgehead was further consolidated on the third day and a town captured as the Blue Force dug in with the night drop of some 330 soldiers from IAF An-32 transport aircraft.
By the fourth day, the Blue Force had moved 30 kilometres into Red Force territory and a vigorous tank battle ensued as the defenders threw in their reserves.
The engagement was underway late into the night Wednesday, with the final denouement coming Thursday to decide on the outcome of the “invasion”.
However, it will be a few weeks before the “winner” and “loser” is named.
As part of the exercise, the army’s Special Forces displayed a variety of infiltration methods – including one that involved jumping from an aircraft at a great height and paragliding into enemy territory before deploying their parachutes for landing.
Besides, IAF fighters and attack helicopters as well as the army’s attack helicopters undertook a number of missions during the exercise.
“This will enable us gauge the effectiveness of airborne operations to engage the enemy across an entire front. It will also validate our concept of utilising air power at the decisive point of battle,” Amarjeet Singh pointed out.
Prior to the exercise, the troops had been practising tactical level operations at the battalion and brigade level for the past 30 days.