Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh): Amid continued tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), including in the eastern sector, the 17 Mountain Strike Corps (MSC) — rebalanced and beefed up — is in Arunachal Pradesh to fine-tune its Integrated Battle Group (IBG) strategy for the winter.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said units from the Panagarh-based MSC are in Arunachal Pradesh, undergoing acclimatisation before they head for high-altitude regions to train in extreme cold conditions.
The exercise, the sources added, will also see the use of various IAF assets and integrated operations with a focus on springing offensive capabilities in a short period of time.
The specialised corps carried out its maiden exercise, HimVijay, in 2019, but was forced to skip it last year.
This was because of the stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, where elements from the offensive formation were actively involved in operations, including in occupying the crucial Kailash Range on the southern banks of the Pangong Tso.
The 2019 exercise of the 17 MSC was actually a test bed for IBGs. Following this, the Army received in-principle approval from the government to create such warfighting units in the Pangarh-based formation and the Yol-based 9 Corps.
The Army headquarters is still in the process of finalising the administrative changes that would be required for the IBGs to come into actual operation because this would have an impact on the current command-and-structure pyramid, including command tenures of officers.
Beefed up and rebalanced
The Army has made key changes to its ORBAT (Order of Battle), under which the 17 MSC will now exclusively focus on the eastern sector, where China and India have ramped up troop presence and infrastructure since tensions erupted in Ladakh last year.
For the northern sector, another strike corps, which was earlier focused on the borders with Pakistan, has been re-balanced to the LAC under the Northern Command, also catering to the central sector.
While the Mountain Strike Corps was originally envisaged in 2000, it was finally sanctioned in 2013.
However, the raising of the new corps, which was to be manpower- and equipment-intensive, hit a financial roadblock and the formation only got one division — the Panagarh-based 51 Division.
The MSC got renewed focus in light of the stand-off with China, and received its own artillery brigade.
While the corps’ lone division had an existing artillery brigade attached to it, the new brigade will be attached to the corps.
In the military, a division constitutes three brigades, which usually consist of armoured, infantry and artillery units besides other elements. Two or more divisions then make up a corps.
As part of the rebalancing tactic, the MSC also got another division attached to it from the east.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)