India has significantly shored up up its day-and-night surveillance apparatus at the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) in the Arunachal Pradesh sector using a fleet of remotely piloted aircraft and other assets as part of a broad strategy to strengthen overall military preparedness to deal with any Chinese misadventure, sources in the defence ministry said on 17 October.
As tensions boiled over between the two countries following the Galwan Valley clashes last year, India ramped up its overall deployment along the nearly 3,400 km long LoAC besides speeding up infrastructure development to gain a tactical advantage.
The sources said that a sizeable fleet of Israeli-made Heron medium-altitude long-endurance drones was carrying out round-the-clock surveillance over the LoAC in the mountainous terrain and sending crucial data and images to command and control centres.
Along with the drones, the aviation wing of the Indian Army has been deploying the Weapon System Integrated (WSI) variant of the Advanced Light Helicopter Rudra in the region, adding more teeth to its tactical missions in the region, they said.
In an expansion of its aviation wing in the region, the army has come out with an independent aviation brigade in the region this year to bolster its overall operational preparedness in the sensitive region, they said.
They said though the Heron drones had first been deployed in the region around four-five years ago, now the integration of surveillance has been significantly enhanced under the ‘sensor to shooter’ concept to employ military forces at short notice for any possible operational objectives.
The deployment of the WSI version of the ALH helicopters has provided the army with an added advantage to carry out various missions in the high-altitude areas.
Asked about the weapons package of the ALH helicopters, they refused to divulge the details but said it was one of the best and would be very effective against the adversary.
“Overall, our day and night surveillance capability has seen massive upgrades since last year and we are in a much better position to deal with any eventualities in the region,” said one of the people cited above.
The Indian Army is procuring a fleet of Heron TP drones on lease from Israel that are capable of operating for nearly 45 hours at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet.
The Heron TP drones are equipped with automatic taxi-takeoff and landing (ATOL) and satellite communication (SATCOM) systems for an extended range.
They said additional roads, bridges and railway infrastructure are being built in the Arunachal sector considering their strategic requirement in the wake of evolving security dynamics in the region.
The government is working on connecting Tawang with a railway network as part of the decision to enhance infrastructure in the region.
The people cited above said that infrastructure at almost all airfields along the LoAC including the Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) was enhanced as per operational requirements.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the militaries of India and China erupted on 5 May last year following a violent clash at the Pangong Tso. Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
The tension escalated following the deadly clashes in Galwan Valley on 15 June 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.
However, the last round of military talks on 10 October ended in a stalemate. Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LoAC in the sensitive sector.