After China border emergency, India Army buying light tanks for Ladakh

Photo: Russia’s Sprut SDM1 light amphibious battle tanks.

New Delhi: It takes a China wake-up call in the Ladakh borders for the Indian Army to finally buy some fire power in light battle tanks for use against the nation’s enemy forces at high altitude battlefields.

Amidst China amassing its battle tanks at the Debsang plains, Indian Army has got the government approval for emergency procurement of the tanks, an upgrade in tactics to allow redeployment of light battle tanks in a critical defensive and offensive role along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The light tanks can be nimble and manoeuvre quite easily in the Ladakh plains, though it is located at 18,000 feet above sea level, and the acquisition and deployment of these fighting machines will bolster India’s defences against the irresponsible Chinese.

The deployment of new Type 15 light tanks by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in late April has come as a wake-up call, the Economic Times reported today. The army has been given the go-ahead for urgent purchases amid signs that Beijing intends to keep the border hot, it reported, without naming the source from where it got this information.

The Indian Army will now scout for air-transportable battle tanks to be dropped off at forward locations for quick deployment to counter any Chinese aggression or to provide a thrust to any action the military commanders may plan to defeat Chinese offensive designs against India in Ladakh.

The decision to induct light battle tanks were part of a slew of emergency procurement decisions taken by the government at a critical meeting last week.

In an analysis on reintroduction of light tanks, written for the state-run think-tank Centre of Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), former Indian Army Director General for Mechanised Forces Lieutenant General A. B. Shivane wrote that light tanks would add to the credible deterrence posture and war-fighting capability on the northern front where medium-category tanks cannot reach. He has also suggested that these new tanks be made in India.

“The satellite imagery visuals of Chinese T-15 / ZTPQ light tanks camouflaged in the depth areas of eastern Ladakh, during the recent standoff, is a wake-up call for upgrading deterrence in areas where medium-category tanks are difficult to employ,” Lt Gen Shivane wrote.

For procuring the light tanks off-the-self from a foreign vendor, India’s options would be limited, as only a few nations today produce a light tank. The United States has recently embarked on a Mobile Protected Firepower Program through BAE Systems for a light tank, which is now at a prototype stage. Russia has an air-liftable Sprut SDM1 light tank offered to international customers by Rosoboronexport that has commonalities with the T-72 and T-90 that are a major part of India’s armoured forces inventory.

Including the indigenous Arjun Main Battle Tanks, the T-72s and the T-90s are a potent heavier fighting machines and hence are suitable only for the western borders with Pakistan in Punjab plains and Rajasthan desert.

Though India has deployed the heavier tanks in Ladakh as part of the defensive posture against China during the last two months of conflict, these vehicles are facing terrain related restrictions that may become a handicap during operations.

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