Exercise Sindhu Sudarshan, one of the largest field exercises of the Indian Army, concluded in Thar desert in Rajasthan recently The Indian Express explains the objectives of the exercise, how it was conducted and the message an effort of this scale sends. The exercise was also aimed at conducting an overview of the preparedness of the Army

The Scale of The Exercise

The exercise was conducted by the Sudarshan Chakra Corps, which is a strike formation of the Southern Command, to assess the capabilities to strike across the border, deep in enemy territory in the Western theatre. The exercise was named Sindhu Sudarshan, signifying the target of reaching the Sindhu river, in the case of an offensive.

Nearly 40,000 troops, 700 Armoured Vehicles and 300 artillery guns, with the support of Indian Air Force elements, were part of the exercise. Preparations for this massive training exercise had started almost a year ago. Other than being a training event, the exercise also intended to send a message to the adversary, and was a show of capability for the world and also a confidence-building measure within the country.

How It Was Conducted

An important feature of the exercise was organisation of available forces in the form of several ‘Integrated Battle Groups’ which would simulate an attack deep into the enemy territory. The battle groups comprised units of rocket launchers, artillery guns, armoured vehicles and Infantry, with the close support of air defence element.

An imaginary international border was drawn and adversaries, namely Blue Land and Red Land, engaged in full-scale battles. Several such battle groups mounted an attack into the Red Land as part of the exercise. While the actual firing from these elements was only done in Pokhran firing ranges, their tactical manoeuvres were held in the area spread over 100 km in Thar desert.

To put it simply, it was a full-scale war game with real equipment.

The Aim of The Exercise

The movements of these units and their responses to simulated contingency situations were closely watched by observers of the exercise. Officials believed that the exercise will also result in additions to the existing battle strategies of the Indian Army.

With such training events, the Army also had a chance to test its own equipment and cohesion within, and to draw lessons which shall again be put to its own test in the years to come.

The Special Equipment

The armoured element comprised Bhishma or T-90 tanks and the Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP2, which have night-vision capabilities. The artillery element comprised newly-inducted K-9 "Vajra" along with war-tested Bofors and field guns, and the ‘sensor to shooter’ technology, which brings high precision to firing capabilities with the help of UAVs and satellite data.

The Infantry or foot soldiers used the newly-inducted high-mobility vehicles and tested the sustenance of man-pack load for over 96 hours under extreme conditions.

All these elements got an air defence cover, with their anti-aircraft guns and radars deployed all across the exercise area, and with important assets on the ground.

Other elements put to test were the engineering formations, which, as the saying goes, ‘pack their bags first and unpack last’. Their preparedness was tested by laying assault track ways, bridging over water obstacles, negotiating various obstacle systems, building new ones and constructing helipads in quick time in enemy territory, among other drills. Communication capabilities, crisis management drills, ammunition management, transportation, and staging ahead of supplies were also tested and feedback was given for future actions.

The Lessons

While these numerous formations took home a lot of lessons from the exercise, the effort underlined the time-tested quote: ‘The more you sweat in peace, less you bleed in war.’