Three soldiers killed in Indian military war gameMarch 20th, 2008 - 10:17 pm ICT by admin
Pokhran, March 20 (IANS) The Indian military staged one of its biggest war games in the deserts of Rajasthan - close to the Pakistan border - that foreign observers termed “excellent”, but the event ended in tragedy with three soldiers losing their lives. Just as the mammoth event involving some 10,000 troops was coming to an end Wednesday afternoon, a 125 mm mortar exploded at the Pokhran Field Firing Range killing a soldier and two non-commissioned officers, an army spokesman said.
“The accident happened due to explosion of the bomb inside the barrel leading to the bursting of the barrel,” the spokesman told IANS in New Delhi. “A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate the accident.”
Two soldiers were also injured in the “Blazing Chariots” exercise.
Another officer termed the accident “unfortunate”, saying it was an “operational hazard” since live ammunition was used during the exercise. He said such accidents had occurred in the past too, during exercises and training.
“Blazing Chariots”, meant to showcase the “shock and awe” the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) could create in a battle, was witnessed by upwards of 100 observers from 59 countries.
The exercise saw elements from the army and IAF coming together as the Blue force to “invade” neighbouring Red land to prevent a threatened aggression.
“This exercise was not aimed at anyone, nor are we trying to send out a message. We are only demonstrating the synergy between us and the air force,” Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor said of the drill jointly staged by the army’s Pune-based Southern Command and IAF’s Gandhinagar-based South West Air Command.
Military sources admitted the war game was meant to convey to India’s neighbours that New Delhi was a major player on the regional and global stage.
Reinforcing this was the fact that Pakistan was not invited to the event - while China was.
The exercise was conducted in two parts. In the first, the foreign observers were taken on a 20-km ride through a simulated desert battlefield that had been overrun by the Blue forces.
Along the way, there was live firing as the mighty Bofors 155mm field howitzers displayed their ability to shatter enemy ranks. Salvos of Smersh multi-barrelled rocket launchers were fired into the air. The army and air force first inserted and then extracted a commando team deep behind “enemy lines”.
The second part saw frontline IAF SU-30MKI and MiG-27 combat jets pulverize an enemy position before a combination of armour and mechanized infantry went in for the kill. It was during this phase that the accident occurred.
“We knew India’s armed forces are very professional. The exercise has only reinforced this,” Col. Yossi Turgeman, the Israeli military attach