In an effort to meet the challenge of growing military might of China, the Government has given the nod to some key projects, including creation of a new artillery division, a special forces unit and purchase of three aircraft for long-range reconnaissance.
The raising of a new artillery division (each division has more than 200 long-range guns) will be completed by the end of 2011 while the special forces unit, also to be raised and trained in the same time span, will aim to perform strategic role behind enemy lines in case of hostility. The three reconnaissance aircraft will be acquired, most probably from Israel, by the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), sources said.
The nod for these crucial steps came two weeks back, sources said, adding that the artillery division and the special forces unit will work alongside two mountain divisions which were created last year. Each division has 10,000 soldiers and they are specially trained for mountain warfare on the eastern front.
The process of equipping them with state-of-the-art equipment was in progress, sources said, adding that the new artillery division would also be equipped with ultra-light howitzers.
Incidentally, India has two artillery divisions at present and needs to urgently acquire new long-range guns as the present arsenal is outdated. The artillery needs more than 1,000 guns and it would cost about `20,000 crore. However, the Army has not bought a new artillery gun in the last 20 years in the wake of the Bofors controversy.
As regards the special forces unit, the battalion strength group (1,000 men) will be trained for destroying logistical lines, electricity plants and other war-supporting efforts behind enemy lines.
Explaining the significance of this unit, officials said it would work in close coordination with intelligence agencies and used as a “national asset”. The trained commandos of this unit will carry out strategic strikes.
The Army currently has seven special forces battalions and most of these are engaged in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations in Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east.
However, their counterparts in the US, UK and Russia are deployed for much more sensitive and crucially important strategic assignments and New Delhi has also decided to go the same way.
The need for the exercise arose after the Chinese Army conducted a military exercise, Stride, in 2009. This exercise showed the capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in launching a focused attack using the artillery and special forces unit in mountain warfare.
India, at that point, lacked those capabilities and the Government, therefore, gave the go-ahead for acquiring “matching capabilities”, sources said.