The Indian Army is working on a new proposal to replace mules with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) for transporting weapons, ammunition, and equipments in mountainous terrains. Besides that, the army is also considering the numerous possibilities that lie in drone technology for many of its deployments in high-altitude locales. Mules have played a crucial role in supporting the Indian Army for transporting in difficult terrains particularly during times of heightened conflict like the 1999 Kargil war.
Currently, the animal transport (AT) units of the army consist of a large number of mules that transport vital supplies to the remote outposts located as high as 19,000 feet. The need to deploy ATVs comes ahead of the latest army report that emphasized quicker transport of ammunition and equipments, especially in the northern and eastern sectors. This new proposal, if implemented, can fully replace the mules with ATVs in two years.
A statement released by the Army Design Bureau (ADB) has explained the intentions behind exploring options like ATVs and drones. It said, “Construction of roads and tracks in these areas is time-consuming and requires massive effort in terms of reconnaissance and surveillance, construction equipment and subsequent maintenance, mandating a complete revision of operational plans in a specific sector.”
Along with that other reports made by the ADB has brought out key issues that need proper addressing. As per the reports, this would be instrumental in enhancing the protection of soldiers positioned in the frontline and for the developments of new weapons and systems.
In addition, the report also stated, “At present, the troops operating in rugged areas are required to traverse vast distances on foot, which imposes time penalty and exposes troops to undue fatigue. In the absence of roads in forward areas, it is important that the mobility of the troops is enhanced by providing some variant of ATVs.”
Lieutenant General Subrata Saha, retired army deputy chief said, “A mule can carry only 40kg load. The army has to find smarter solutions to transport stores in high altitude. A mix of ATVs and drones will allow us to carry more load at a swifter pace.”
To improve transportation, the army has conducted many experiments using ropeways and modified load carriers. However, these were only partially successful and encouraged the army to look for other options. The report identifies that in active operations, rapid deployment of personnel and equipment is necessary. This is solved by the use of ATVs to speed up the movement of troops and equipment.