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Tanks, air power deployed in Ladakh now feature in counter terror drills with US

Tanks and choppers deployed at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh after the border dispute with China are now part of the Indo-US joint drill

Two Apache helicopters hover over a recreated combat area in Thar desert as troops slither from four Mi-17 transport choppers in batches of two during the India and US armies joint drill at Mahajan Field Firing Range on Saturday.

Minutes later a Chinook, a multi-mission helicopter, comes carrying an armoured transport vehicle, drops it at the designated location and leaves. The hovering Apaches also stop. The troops are on the ground and now they are ready for action.

During the drill, mock terror situations like in Afghanistan and Iraq were created at Mahajan Field Firing Range and counter terror operations were carried out by a joint team of Indian and US Armies.

Tanks and air power deployed at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh — after the border dispute with China — are now part of the drill.

Rajasthan's Suratgarh based Brigade represented by 11th Battalion of Sapt Shakti Command of Jammu and Kashmir Rifles carried out counter terrorism drills with the Seattle based soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, also known as "Ghost Brigade".

The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team earned its name as Ghost Brigade for carrying out counter terror operations stealthily in Iraq.

Major Spencer Garrison of the Ist Stryker Brigade told IANS, "We gained the reputation as Ghost Brigade in early 2003 during first deployment in Iraq. We gained the reputation for quickly and quietly entering enemy town homes in certain areas and we were able to strike and defeat the enemy before they knew what hit them. From then on our motto became 'Arrive in Silence'."

He said that it is a Brigade of over 4000 soldiers from various military specialities.

During the drill the joint team move towards a built up area, a village, were militants are hiding. Troops with long range and short range guns along with Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP and T-90 Bhishma Tank, Stryker Armoured Vehicle and troops use their firepower in a coordinated manner.

Thereafter searches were carried out to trace the militants.

During the mock counter terror operation, fire support was given by Army Aviation. Four Indigenously Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Rudra hit the targets with missiles. The drill culminated with destroying the militants hideouts.

It is the 16th edition of Exercise Yudh Abhyas, a bilateral exercise. It started on February 8 and will end on February 21.

The drill is named Zorawar after Dogra military commander General Zorawar Singh who is known as 'Conqueror of Ladakh'.

The focus of the drill is on counter terror operations. Apart from that both the countries' militaries are carrying out familiarisation and handling of weapons, battlefield trauma management, casualty evacuation, tactical level questioning, intelligence collection, tracking and interrogation techniques and counter IED drills.

A total of 240 soldiers of the US army are part of the exercise.