An Indian Army petrol tankers in the Ladakh region as defence preparedness for long winter haul

New Delhi: Underground fuel dumps with a capacity of four lakh litres each, vast quantities of high-grade diesel and kerosene, and mobile Air Traffic Control (ATC) units — these arrangements form the backbone of the massive logistics operation in Ladakh where India has pumped in over 40,000 additional troops and equipment amid the ongoing stand-off with China.

Meanwhile, efforts are also underway to find an underground source of clean drinking water for soldiers in Ladakh, which has a lot of rivers and rivulets that freeze during the winter.

With no easing of tensions between the two Asian giants in Ladakh, soldiers are set to remain deployed in the region through its bitter winter.

“We are prepared for the winter. There could be some small logistics issues here and there, but our boys are ready for any eventuality. With time, these small issues will also be taken care of,” a source in the defence and security establishment said.

Massive logistics have been put in place to house the additional troops with heated prefabricated tents, specialised clothing and high-energy rations, the source added.

“This was something that the Indian Army had not planned in its annual winter stocking. The Army has been able to quickly adapt to this logistics challenge and various arms have come together to ensure that the soldiers posted in forward locations have the right equipment, clothes and place to stay this winter,” a second source said.

Kerosene, Fuel, Water

The military has deployed transport aircraft like the C-17, IL-76, C-130J, besides as many as 6,000 Army trucks to carry tonnes of rations, clothing, tents and kerosene oil into Ladakh.

“The heaters use kerosene and, hence, it is very important. The Army has also moved a large number of armoured personnel carriers and tanks into Ladakh besides a host of other vehicles and others that need fuel. We have tie-ups with all the oil companies and there is no dearth of supply,” a source said.

According to sources, the Army has, in the last few years, created multiple underground fuel dumps that are capable of storing up to four lakh litres each.

State-run Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC) had last year launched a special winter-grade diesel that remains unfrozen up to -33 degree Celsius. The fuel will help provide year-round access to snow-capped forward areas, besides being an asset in stocking up on supplies, including ammunition, which get cut off during the winter.

Kerosene in cans is also taken to various forward posts through helicopters, which require fuel to fly.

Sources said trucks of the oil company transfer their fuel into these underground dumps, from where they are pumped into barrels and sent ahead, depending on the use.

Meanwhile, with a high number of helicopters and aircraft deployed by the Army and the Air Force in the forward areas of Ladakh, the one at Leh was proving insufficient and a need was felt for more ATCs.

The Army is thus setting up mobile ATCs in Ladakh, a set-up that is also available in Siachen. These mobile ATCs look like the OB vans of television news channels.

Another requirement that is high on the Army’s agenda is the availability of clean drinking water.

As mentioned before, Ladakh’s many rivers and rivulets freeze during the winter, and have silt issues during the summer. Even the Pangong Tso lake has salty water.

Accordingly, external water experts and geologists have been engaged by the Army to find clean underground water for use by soldiers. Efforts are on to find such spots in the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) sector, Pangong and Depsang Plains, which are among the flashpoints in the ongoing India-China stand-off.