Seeking to strengthen troops’ ability to conduct counter-terrorist operations along the Brahmaputra in the Northeast, the Indian Army is planning to deploy hovercraft on the river to carry out strikes in marshy areas and shallow waters.
The initiative is being taken by the army’s eastern command in Assam, where terrorist groups such as National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) have been getting active and have traditionally had their camps in marshy lands and high grass areas along the river.
“We are in the process of deploying hovercraft on the Brahmaputra as part of Inland Water Transport (IWT) units, which were on the verge of disbandment, and will now be provided with new equipments and assets to strengthen them,” an army officer told MAIL TODAY.
The army’s IWT units have been in existence since the British era and were used extensively in operations in Burma and Bangladesh during WW2.
Sources said the Brahmaputra passes through the heart of Assam and other Northeastern states and in the past, terrorists from various outfits such as ULFA and NDFB used islands on the river as bases. “The hovercraft can also be used for area domination and prevent terrorists from setting up base in areas around the river,” an official said.
The hovercraft, also known as air cushion vehicles, can swiftly chase terrorists out of their hideouts that operate under the cover of high grass found abundantly along the river, sources said.
Of the 14,500-km of navigable waterways in India, a major chunk of navigable stretches is along the Brahmaputra, Ganga-Hooghly and Barak rivers in the eastern part of the country. These are manned by the army command based out of Fort Williams.
HELPING SOLDIERS REACH DEPLOYMENT AREAS QUICKLY
With the hovercraft, the eastern command is also looking to help out soldiers who have to reach their deployment areas quickly. “IWT units ferried more than one lakh soldiers in that area,” an official said. The availability of such vessels will also help forces carry out disaster relief operations in the Northeast where floods and landslides are common.
The army has also deployed IWT units in Ladakh where they dominate the Pangong Tso Lake with its new hydrojet boats to meet the aggressive People’s Liberation Army patrols, officials said.
Sources said the army may also consider deploying swift boats in the Northern command where terrorists in J&K have used lakes such as Watlab and Manasbal to act against forces.