People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is making operational as well as logistics preparations for permanency of presence on the India China border with the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector being the primary focus now.
Here is a review of infrastructure and logistics preparations including training for speedy acclimatization amongst other developments-
In strategic infrastructure development the PLA already has a lead which is now being expanded for facilitation of movement of operational and tactical reserves.
One such attempt observed in the past few months is the construction of two bridges across the narrowest part of Pangong Tso at Khurnak Fort where the lake is only 354 meters wide.
One bridge constructed is 6m wide or Class 5 for movement of tactical loads while the second is said to be 11m wide wherein operational reserves can also be moved from the North to the south of Pangong Tso.
In addition, a road from the bridge to Moldo garrison and PLA military base camp behind Spanggur Tso is also being constructed. This will facilitate movement of reserves from the Rudog base to the forward areas as well as faster tactical deployment of troops within the theatre to avoid being upstaged by India as on August 29-21, 2020 when the Indian Army and the Special Frontier Force occupied the Kailash Range.
In the Eastern theatre as well PLA capability enhancement in terms of infrastructure and operational capability in Arunachal Pradesh is continuing as per General Officer Commanding-in Chief of the Eastern command, Lt Gen RP Kalita.
Addressing a press conference as per the PTI report, the general officer said, “We talk about border villages created close to LAC which have dual-use possibilities. If we put everything together, it would suffice to say that the PLA is carrying out capability enhancement whether in infrastructure, or operational capability in a large measure.”
"Across the LAC in the Tibet region, a lot of infrastructure development is going on. The other side is constantly upgrading their road, rail and air connectivity so that they are in a better position to respond to a situation or mobilise forces," he added.
To operate in high altitude terrain in Ladakh which extends from 3000 to 4500 metres and beyond extensive acclimitisation is required so that troops can function with reduction in oxygen at these heights.
The PLA as per a report by Wang Song and Zhao Qianli for China Military online has launched a pilot programme jointly, by PLA Xizang Military Command and the Department of Highland Military Medicine of the PLA Army Medical University of "low-pressure hypoxia cabin acclimation training" for recruits to be stationed in the highland area of Xizang (Tibet).
The report states that “Xizang features high altitude, low atmospheric pressure and sparse oxygen. After entering the plateau sections of Xizang, recruits tend to show symptoms of discomfort such as being out of breath in running and inability to do strenuous exercises”.
The training program involves, “remote ischemic conditioning and highland combination exercises”.
Photos accompanying the article denote troops wearing masks and with oxygen cylinders possibly to control oxygen intake, thereby getting used to the rarified air in the high altitude.
According to the director of the base says the report, the training has reduced the challenge of recruits of "unacclimatization," and leading to operational deployments in shorter period of time.
Fresh Vegetable Supplies
In another report the China Military online has touted how a company of the PLA in the Karakoram at an altitude of 5270 meters created a “vegetable factory,” to provide for fresh green vegetables to troops.
"Even if we were cut off from the outside by heavy snow, we can still have green vegetables every day," Zhao Duofeng, commander of a border defense company under the Xinjiang Military Command, Western Theater Command of the PLA is quoted by China Military online.
The report also highlights how the “Logistics Support Department under the Central Military Commission (CMC) cooperated with civil scientific institutes in developing vegetable planting technologies for plateau areas and guided the construction of "vegetable factory" at all the border defense units of the PLA stationed at the plateau areas at an elevation of 3,000 meters and above”.
The green house concept has been used in these areas by equipping these with artificial lights and high-performance heating insulation equipment.
“The temperature, humidity, lighting, carbon dioxide concentration in the greenhouses is monitored by a smart system,” and even claiming that refinement in nutrition formulas of the plants can be carried out through a smart system.
A constant temperature vegetable cellar also facilitates storing fresh vegetables
Shedding past inhibitions Indian Army has also launched extensive upgradation of infrastructure to include bridges, tunnels and roads in high altitude areas in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. General Officer Commanding-in Chief of the Eastern command, Lt Gen RP Kalita confirmed that Indian forces are also taking suitable upgrades as per the PTI. He said, "We are continuously monitoring the situation. We are also upgrading our infrastructure and capabilities as well as the mechanism to handle the situation. These have put us in a robust position".
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has also been experimenting with formulations for speedy acclimitisation of troops moving to high altitude areas thereby overcoming the time required in this process which could be from 7 to 21 days. Provision of fresh supplies with long lasting properties has also been envisaged apart from ready to cook tetra packed meals.
The Indian Army has extensive experience of operating in high altitude areas whereas the PLA is believed to have only recently taken to occupying front line bases on the LAC round the clock. The IA thus enjoys and advantage but with focus on application of scientific knowledge and expertise the PLA may also be rapidly overcoming deficits.
Developments in the field of infrastructure and logistics by the PLA suggests that preparations are being made for permanent occupation of the forward defences at least in Eastern Ladakh.