‘Operation Him Vijay’, a military exercise designed to test out Indian army’s offensive capabilities against China has started.
Since the exercise is being held in Arunachal Pradesh away from the line of actual control with China, no formal intimation has been given to China.
The army plans to convert the new 17 Corps or ‘Brahmastra’ Corps into ‘a lean and mean force’ for ‘swift attacks’ inside Chinese territory in the event of a war.
‘Himvijay’ , which will test that out, will be in full swing when Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit India in mid October for the second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This exercise is also meant as a major combat exercise to test its new integrated battle groups (IBGs) for mountain warfare in Arunachal Pradesh.
Army sources said the month-long ‘Him Vijay’ exercise will test out a dynamic operational scenario involving ‘vulnerable contingencies for the enemy in multiple valleys’ in the mountainous region.
The three IBGs, carved out of the 17 Corps with around 5,000 soldiers each and a mix of tanks, light artillery, air defence units, signals and other elements, are exercising in conjunction with IAF’s C-17 Globemaster-III, C-130J Super Hercules and AN-32 aircraft as well as helicopters for airlift of soldiers and equipment as well as rapid inter-valley transfers.
While the IBGs of the 17 Corps, headquartered at Panagarh under the Kolkata-based Eastern Command, are being test-bedded in the ongoing exercise, the IBGs meant for Pakistan were similarly ‘test-bedded’ under the Chandimandir-based Western Command in April-May.
Each IBG will be configured considering the nature of threat envisaged in an area, the type of terrain involved and the task that will be given to it.
In effect, the IBGs for Pakistan will be focused more on tanks and heavy artillery, while the ones for China will revolve more around infantry and light artillery due to the different terrains.
The ones under the 17 Corps, for instance, will have Chinook heavy-lift helicopters swiftly transporting M-777 ultra-light howitzers to forward and high-altitude areas with China.
IAF has started inducting 15 CH-47F Chinooks under a deal signed in September 2015, while Army is getting 145 M-777 howitzers under a Rs 5,000 crore deal inked with the US in November 2016.
The entire concept of IBGs is based on the need to have leaner and meaner forces that can operate and execute tasks faster with the element of surprise
This has led to ‘a mid-course correction’ in raising of the 17 Corps, which began in January 2014 to acquire ‘quick-reaction ground offensive capabilities’ for the first time against China because the Army’s existing three ‘strike corps’ were largely geared towards Pakistan.
With two high-altitude infantry divisions as well as armoured, artillery, air defence, engineer brigades spread from Ladakh to Arunachal, the 17 Corps was to be fully formed with 90,274 soldiers at a cost Rs 64,678 crore by 2021.
But paucity of funds delayed the raising and now the need to integrate the IBG concept.