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HomeOpinionsLadakh buildup – India’s Bhishma stands her ground eye to eye against Chinese tanks

Ladakh buildup – India’s Bhishma stands her ground eye to eye against Chinese tanks

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Abhishek Mishra
Strategic analyst and political commentator with two decades of experience in Security & Investigations industry currently leading a multinational at S Asia

China is a larger country with a bigger force, but her armed forces have longer boundaries to defend. China is in a state of muddle at Ladakh, and it is amplified by the fact that she has manufactured border disputes at over seventy percent of her land and water boundaries. She is surrounded by Mongolia and military heavy Russia in the north, a destabilized Afghanistan, and resurgent India in the East & South, in the west she is involved in bitter disputes with all her neighbours namely Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and Philippines. In nutshell, China can not withdraw all her army to put up a challenge to India. The most aggressive posturing that China can engage in is by deploying forty percent of her total men and machine against India.  

India too has her own predicament. India shares hostile boundaries with now two neighbours- Pakistan and China. These disputes are over 70% of her land border and overall, it is around 40% of her total land and costal boundaries. India shares a peaceful relationship with Nepal and Bhutan in North, Bangladesh and Myanmar in east, Sri Lanka in the South, and Maldives in the West. Her reach is not immediately challenged in Indian Ocean as no other country exists for hundreds of miles except a friendly Sri Lanka. Hence in case of any conflict, India can deploy sixty percent of her defense resources against China maintaining the rest forty percent in reserve to keep Pakistan in check.

Indian army by deploying sixty percent of her resources is of the same strength as Chinese PLA with forty percent of her resource. This upsets the numerical advantage that China’s PLA has otherwise on paper over Indian armed forces. In contrast to quantitative advantage, China does not have the qualitative edge with all her men and machines. Indian army has over 55% of her defense armaments sourced from Russia, another 25% have their origins in Israel, USA, France, and other West nations and only 20% is engineered in India. On the other hand, China’s weaponary is 60% made in China, 30% in technical collaboration with Russia and only 10% are sourced from elsewhere.

Chinese technology is not state of the art, with questions on reliability and robustness of their products when compared to either Western or Russian technology. This raises doubts on the dependability factor of the fire power of Chinese military. US, Russia, and Israel together manufacture 80% of World’s most innovative and deadly weapons. By sourcing her equipment from all three, Indian army has her strong points in men and machine against Chinese military.

Recently at Ladakh, India has deployed third generation Russian designed 45 tons-125 mm-three layered protected T90-Bhishma tanks while Chinese deployed their agile 38 ton-105mm-standard steel armoured T15 tanks. Chinese tanks are lighter in weight, have higher top speed of 70 km/s but have lower range of 450 kilometers. They are fitted with 105 mm NATO standard guns which reduces the range of these tanks to just 3 kms and total rounds to 38. The lower barrel size also reduces the kinetic energy of the fire power thus rendering it insufficient to counterattack the armory of Indian three layered Bhishma tanks. The T-15s can best be described as Howitzers converted into tanks. The penetration level of Chinese tanks is not sufficient to penetrate three layered front armour of Indian main battle tanks T90-SM Bhishma.  

The three factors that define the efficiency of any battle tank is, first the fire power of the tank, second the Tanks Armoury for protecting the tank from enemy fire and third is the Mobility of the tank. In high mountains mobility is an important factor when temperatures drop to abysmal low levels. Engineered in Russia and manufactured in India T90-SM Bhishma is rated as best in the world. While most 125 mm main battle tanks weigh more than 65 tons, India’s T90-SM weighs around 45 tons. It offsets to a great extent the mobility advantage that Chinese will have against Arjun or any other heavier main battle tank of the world. T-90SM Bhishma is best tank in mobility in the category but unlike Chinese tanks, T90s cannot be easily air lifted or paradropped. It carries 43 rounds on main 125mm armament with piercing kinectic energy and has a range of 5 to 7 kilometers. It is huge advantage over 105 mm 3 kms Chinese tanks.

Bhishma also has LEDS-150 Land electronic active protection system by Saab Avitronics, Kaktus K-6 bolted reactive armour package on its frontal and turret top and cryogenic cooled thermal imagers. Overall, Bhishma is better than Chinese tanks in the fire power, in armoury and in tank construction material. To counter Bhishma T-90SM, the only other option that Chinese have is to field their main battle tank T99 tanks. While T99 matches the fire power of Bhishma, the weight of T99 is 60 tonnes. Such weight is a big disadvantage at high altitude as air becomes thin and engine starts to lose power. To sum up, irrespective of whether China deploys her T99 or her T15 tanks, it is advantage India with her T90 in the mountainous Ladhak region.  

The Ladhak faceoff is not over. Prelude to 1962, it took Chinese three years for military buildup and catch India off-guard. In 2021, India cannot be shoved away. China will pay a heavy price if she uses the same yardstick against India that she does against Hong Kong or Taiwan. At the same time India needs to remain watchful, utilize the time to quickly arm herself up, build necessary transport infrastructure and be battle ready. Chinese are around the corner , the game has begun!!!           

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Abhishek Mishra
Strategic analyst and political commentator with two decades of experience in Security & Investigations industry currently leading a multinational at S Asia
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