Friday, 18 September 2009

On equal terms with the Chinese on the Pangong Lake

(Photos: courtesy Ajai Shukla)

Photos of the Pangong Tso, taken by me from an army helicopter. The Indian Army is now deploying 12-tonne Fast Interceptor Boats to patrol on more equal terms with Chinese troops on the lake.

Below those are photos of the 5-tonne Fast Interceptor Boats that GRSE, Kolkata is building for coastal police stations. India will now deploy 12-tonne versions of these boats, also built in GRSE, for patrolling the 5-km maritime Line of Actual Control

Below the boat photos, an aerial photo looking down at the Chang La pass, more than 17,000 feet high, over which the boats will have to be taken to the Pangong Tso. The helicopter, flying over the Chang La pass, is at an altitude of close to 19,000 feet.)

By Ajai Shukla
GRSE, Kolkata
Business Standard, 18th Sept 09

Indian soldiers, who patrolled the stunningly beautiful Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, rarely got the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. As their vintage assault boats approached the Line of Actual Control with China (two thirds of the 134-kilometer long lake is under Chinese control) sleek Chinese speedboats would surge towards them, turning sharply away at the last minute to strike a glancing blow that rocked the Indian boats.

Indian soldiers were sometimes thrown out of their boats by the impact, but they had to bear the indignity. Since 1993, when China and India signed an Agreement on Peace and Tranquillity, not a shot has been fired on the LAC.

To restrain the Chinese boat-bumpers, India equipped its lake patrols a couple of years back with bigger, more rugged, army assault boats. But, even if the bumping stopped, the Chinese boats still ran rings around the Indians.

Now, the Pangong Tso playing field will become more level. The army will soon patrol in modern, indigenously-built Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs) that can travel faster than the Chinese boats, while carrying 16 fully equipped jawans to respond to a crisis.

Rear Admiral KC Sekhar, Chairman and Managing Director of the public sector Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata, confirmed to Business Standard, “We have received a Request for Proposal (RfP) from the army. They want 17 FIBs for deployment in a high altitude, extreme cold environment. We have prepared a design which we hope will be accepted.”

Sources in the army confirm that the boats will be deployed on the Pangong Tso.

GRSE is offering the army a modified version of the 12-tonne FIB it is building for the Home Ministry. Built of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), and capable of a scorching 38 knots (70 kmph), these FIBs were designed by Greek shipbuilder, Motomarine. GRSE bought this design, along with that of a smaller 5-tonne FIB, for building 78 such boats by September 2010 for coastal police forces of states along the Bay of Bengal. Goa Shipyard Limited is simultaneously building the same boats for the Arabian Sea coast.

GRSE’s Deputy General Manager (Design), JN Roy, says the army’s requirements are specific, but they can be quickly met. “These boats must be capable of operating in a bitterly cold, high-altitude environment, unlike the humid tropical climate of the coast. [The Pangong Tso is at 13,900 feet] The army boats also need higher endurance, allowing them to remain on station longer. And finally, we will build a cabin for the 16 soldiers on each boat, providing protection from the weather as well as from small arms fire.”

Meanwhile, the army is wondering where they can hold trials for the FIBs; conveying them all the way to Pangong Tso would involve too much expense and effort.


Anonymous said...

"patrols a couple of years back with bigger, more rugged, army assault boats"

Just out of curiosity, did the Indians with bigger boats try to bump Chinese boats?

Anonymous said...

GRSE will build fast boats for Indian army. We saw in this blog the pathetic quality of the work done at GRSE and the perpetual gear box problems. Hope they do some real work on this one.

Anonymous said...

Will the 12 tonne boats have any weapon systems installed on it?

Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope that the Indians return the favor to the Chinese with their new faster boats.

Anonymous said...

Ajai, you are doing some quality reporting. I really enjoy your blog.

Would like your take on the TN bomb controversy.

Anonymous said...

I am saying for many years that PRC not Pakistan is the number one enemy of India. This evil steadily gearing its power and one by one will capture Taiwan, Vietnam, India and even Russia.

Our political babus always failed us but now hey will lead us to another defeat!! SHoles.

Still time is there prepare for a future battle with PRC we want it or not but they will attack us for sure. Current border incursions wit 'China' written on Indian hill s is just a start.

Be prepared or die.....

Venu said...

[i]Indian soldiers were sometimes thrown out of their boats by the impact, but they had to bear the indignity.<\i>

Why are our men so ill prepared. After all they know that these bastards are going to ram their boats with ours.

I also want to know whether our men can stand with Chinese soldiers in hand to hand combat. Forget about the weapons daggers etc, can our veer jawans stand up, fight and win over those langoor faces considering their hu ha kung fu and monkey acts.

Anonymous said...


INDIA also needs Black projects.

Anonymous said...

It is high time that we provided our jawans with some respectfull tools. Unfortunately they will have to suffer the humility for another year or so until the boats are built and the Chinese will now become more agressive. Maybe it will be worth it to weld some sharp spears below the water line of the smaller Indian boats so that when the monkey rams our boats, they will part with a hole in their boat

Anonymous said...

Can't wait any longer. LCA PLEASE.

Rahul Singh said...

Can't wait any longer. LCA PLEASE!!!

Vincent the Great said...

Fight China for the sake of the free world. We stand right with you.

Anonymous said...

yes, america will fight chine till the last Indian soldier.

thanks but no thanks !

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To BROADSWORD: Why is it that the Indian Army is being issued with such Interceptor Craft instead of the ITBP, which is the designated CPMF for patrolling the Sino-Indian border areas? Why does the Army, and not the ITBP, launch peacetime patrols in the Panggong Tso Lake throughout the year? Afterall, from the Chinese side it is the PAP and not the PLA that conducts such routine border dominance patrols. Still, if the Indian Army insists on conducting such patrols along the Lake, is it also allowing detachments of the Navy's MARCOS to be embedded within such patrolling operations? Lastly, will all the Army-operated Interceptor Craft be equipped with low-probability-of-intercept marine navigation radars, just as the PAP-operated interception craft?

Broadsword said...

Prasun, there is no need for marine radars on a lake that is 5 km wide at its widest point. Everything is in visual range at the maritime LAC.

There are no MARCOS embedded with the patrols on the Pangong Tso. Why on earth would Special Forces be used for routine patrolling?

Anonymous 08:39, the FIBs being built for coastal security have a 7.62mm machine gun mounting on the prow. The army will choose its fitment weapon once the build commences.

Pritam, do enlighten us: what are "political babus?" I've heard of the political class; I've heard of babus, which is another name for bureaucrats. Now what are political babus?

Presumably you live abroad somewhere? Your patriotism has that "from afar" quality.

Anonymous 08:08, these are not luxury boats being built for playboys on the French Rivera. The goddam finish is less important than actually getting the boats to the troops there. And the gearbox problems relate to an entirely different boat.

Is your logic as follows: India's WJ-FACs have gearbox problems. So every vessel built in India has to have gearbox problems.


anon @ 18 September 2009 08:08 said...


Ajai we will see what happens to these boats very soon. I hope you will not be the one reporting on another flop defence contract in India.

Anonymous said...

Col Shukla, I think you have seen all 3 P15A destroyers at MDL. Please enlighten us regarding the status of INS Kolkata. Has any progress been made on that ship or is it still just like it was at launch. Also when is the 3rd warship expected to be launched.

Monish said...

All said and done , how are IA going to get these boats on to Pangong Lake ? By airlift to Leh airport after that heavy lift copper to the lake ? This will interesting !

Anonymous said...

anon @ 19 September 2009 12:38

IMO, this project should be a done deal considering that builders bought the design. It will be another story if the army asks for considerable changes to be made to the design being offered.

FIBs were designed by Greek shipbuilder, Motomarine. GRSE bought this design, along with that of a smaller 5-tonne FIB

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To BROADSWORD: I raised the issue of marine navigation radars since the PAP's vessels at Panggong Tso are equipped with them as well as SATCOMS terminals.
Ideally, the border policing, border management and border dominance functions (including routine patrols) along the LAC during peacetime ought to be conducted by CPMF entities like the ITBP, just as such functions from the other side are conducted by the PAP, and not the PLA as the Indian newsmedia has been mistakenly reporting. Consequently, it should be the ITBP that should be the recipients of the armed rapid interception/assault craft. The Army is a warfighting force and as such should not be undertaking any such kind of routine all-year-round patrolling during peacetime. Yet why is it that the Army is now receiving the GRSE-assembled rapid interception/assault craft? And what exactly is the Army's experience when it comes to operating in what is clearly a maritime environment? If the Army was that well-experienced in terms of undertaking maritime boundary patrolling then why did the Navy deploy its MARCOS detachments in Kashmir's Wullar Lake in the 1990s. The point I'm trying to make here is that in a maritime environment, it should be the Navy that should take the lead IF the Govt of India mandates that routine patrolling along the country's maritime boundary be conducted by the armed services and not a CPMF like the ITBP. And the only 'boots-on-the-ground' forces available to the Navy at the moment is the MARCOS. Obviously I'm totally disinclined to see either the Army's special operations forces or the Navy's MARCOS being deployed against the paramilitary PAP (thereby keeping the opposing deployments to the paramilitary forces-level, instead of escalating it to the military versus the paramiliary-level as India has done so at the Panggong Tso Lake--again something the Indian newsmedia has failed to take into account). I would much rather see the ITBP being beefed up and properly equipped to operate in a maritime environment.

Ajai Shukla said...

Your point about the ITBP doing the patrolling is a good one.
I don't know if you're aware, but there are several sections of the LAC that are held by the Indian Army, not the ITBP. Pangong Lake is one of them.
As far as expertise is concerned, the Corps of Engineers has considerable expertise in operating assault boats.
Bringing in the Indian Navy to patrol a 5-km frontage of the LAC is, frankly, ridiculous! The MARCOS, who operated on the Wullar Lake, were not engaged in patrolling. As I mentioned in my last comment, Special Forces do not do routine patrolling... that is a basic principle. The MARCOS were deployed there, at the request of the Indian Navy, in order to give them some combat experience and some medals on their chests.

Anonymous said...


Your questions are rediculus!! Are you trying to say that the IA is making it's decisions after consulting Ajai. You keep asking his why this and why that. It is for the IA to decide what it wants to do under different theaters and from your different reports that I have read definitely do not qualify you as an expert in defence. You are an expert in distorting and anti-India establishments. You would very much question the reason for existance of the Indian defence forces. Makes one wonder if you are on the payroll of some foreign entity. You need to start asking relevant questions and not act like the expert that you are not.

shamsheer said...

Thanks for the update Ajay sir, its funny, weird and dangerous at same time to see a water body being controlled by two countries at such an altitude. Hope the new speed boats bump them and bump them hard

Anonymous said...

Hi Ajai
Do we really need the Fast Patrol Boats now? We have been sleeping all over it since 2003 when our jawans got ambushed in their so called 16ft boats. Do we really need firangi design to protect us, when we have indian guys sitting with it for over a decade? Debatable isnt it. We need to realise our competency and dedication to a job in its totality. uh!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the specifications of the 12 tonne FAC offered by GRSE?

Anonymous said...

Have a look Sir, U may have an Update, But its not enough..