Significance Of Army’s New Tank Repair Facilities In Ladakh

The tanks and infantry combat vehicles have been deployed in Ladakh.

New Delhi:

The Indian Army has set up two of the world’s highest tank repair facilities in Ladakh close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along China. The repair facilities are located in the north and east of Ladakh in one of the most strategically important areas on the eastern front.

The development is crucial as friction continues in Demchok in Eastern Ladakh and Depsang in the north. These points have witnessed intrusions in the past as well even before the 2020 India-China standoff. 

“To help sustain the armoured vehicle operations in the region, we have set up these Medium Maintenance (Reset) Facilities at Nyoma and near KM-148 on the DS-DBO Road in the DBO sector. These are the two main areas where tank and ICV operations are focussed in the eastern Ladakh sector,” the Army officials told ANI.

“The tanks and infantry combat vehicles have been deployed in the area with over 500 of its tanks and infantry combat vehicles deployed in Eastern Ladakh,” ANI reported.

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Indian Army tank regiments prepare for operations at high-altitude areas, in Nyoma 

‘Strategically Important Areas’

Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) lies south of the Karakoram Pass, with Siachen on its west and China’s illegally occupied Aksai Chin on its east. The Daulat Beg Oldie Advanced Landing Ground (DBO ALG) is the highest airstrip and was re-activated in 2013 after the landing of the Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules. The entire region of DBO, Depsang Plains make the Sub Sector North (SSN). 

The region of Depsang Plains, a flat land that stretches for miles, is located at an altitude of approximately 16,000 feet. The area has witnessed the deployment of T-90s, T-72s and BMP II Armoured Vehicles. In 2013, Chinese troops entered 19 kilometres into Indian territory and set up camps in DBO. Both sides agreed to pull forces back to positions held before the confrontation, ending the 21-day stand-off.

In 2020, tanks were deployed not just for muscle-flexing, but these heavy platforms provide manoeuvrability and firepower cover to infantry. Lt General Amit Sharma (Retired), former chief of India’s nuclear command, says, “Tank is the only piece of equipment that will enable the infantry to move and capture the objective. Tanks provide staying part to the enemy to defend it.”

The temperature at those heights can plummet to -40 degrees Celsius, and climate conditions can heavily impact the performance of such platforms. The impact exponentially increases with rarefied air (air with low oxygen level), affecting the performance of tanks like their firing system, hydraulics, and engines. 

The dusty, rocky terrain is suited for light tanks. The Chinese deployed ZTQ-15 Light Tanks to ensure manoeuvrability and quick transportation at high altitudes. The Indian Army will soon deploy the Zorawar light tanks in Ladakh. The repair facilities could cater to platforms developed for such altitudes.

The repair workshops will ensure rapid maintenance of tanks at high altitudes to allow sustenance of forward deployments. Tanks are airlifted to forward areas in heavy transport carriers like C-17, C-130 and Il-76. The repair facility on DS-DBO road will cater to tank operations in the area. 

The Darbuk-Shyok Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road runs parallel to the LAC and was reportedly a point of contestation during the 2020 standoff. It took the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) almost 20 years to complete it, connecting Leh to DBO by road. The Colonel Chewang Renchen Setu on the DBO road is the highest altitude all-weather permanent bridge just 45 km from LAC and can allow the movement of tanks.

‘One In Nyoma’

India will upgrade the Nyoma airfield in eastern Ladakh, just 50 km from the Line of Actual Control, to operate fighter jets. The second tank repair facility is located in Nyoma. The repair facilities are close to strategically important airfields and may allow quick transportation, repair and re-deployment. 

Demchok, the easternmost region in Ladakh, remains a flash point after 21 rounds of border talks between the two sides.
In 2020, videos surfaced, showing the the army’s T-72, T-90 and BMP II armoured vehicles deployed in Demchok.

The mechanised units of the army have set up a robust infrastructure in the Ladakh sector for the repair and maintenance of tanks, but facilities very close to the LAC will ensure rapid deployment in the event of a conflict.

Recently, Army chief General Manoj Pande also visited the Medium Maintenance (Reset) Facility for Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV) established at a high-altitude area in Ladakh. The army said the unique maintenance facility promotes enhanced serviceability and mission reliability of Armoured Fighting Vehicles and keeps the combat fleet operationally ready even in rugged terrain and challenging weather, with the temperature dipping down to minus 40 degrees Celsius.