Had longer range MBRLs such as Smerch, which has a range of 100 kilometres, been available, it would have been possible for the Indian artillery to hit Skardu from Kargil. Mortars of artillery regiments that rendered yeoman service in the Kargil conflict included 120-mm mortar and the 160-mm heavy mortar.
By honouring 108 Medium Regiment with the Unit Citation for the battle of Tiger Hill, the army has acknowledged the Immense part played by all the units of the Regiment of Artillery in the gallant fight to recapture Indian territory from Pakistani intruders in Kargil. Despite the controversy over its induction into service, the 155-mm FH 77-B Bofors medium howitzer performed remarkably well and was the mainstay of artillery firepower in Kargil. Its maximum range of 30 kilometres enabled deep strikes to be made at the enemy’s gun positions, administrative installations, ammunition dumps and headquarters, besides neutralising forward positions held by the intruders. By moving up these guns into advanced gun positions for ‘direct’ fire on Tiger Hill, literally under the nose of. the enemy, and thereby inviting certain enemy artillery fire onto themselves, the gunners exhibited unparalleled courage in battle.
The other long-range gun that notched up signal successes in Kargil is the tried and tested 130-mm medium gun. This gun, with a maximum range of 27.5 kilometres, had earlier proved its worth during the 1971 war with Pakistan. The 105-mm Indian Field Gun (IFG) provided ‘close’ support to infantry battalions by destroying targets in the immediate vicinity ff the attacking troops. Indigenously designed and manufactured, the IFG is one of the best guns of its calibre in the world. 122-mm Grad, the multi-barrel rocket launcher (MBRI), was extensively used to decimate enemy camps, administrative installations, headquarters and other large area targets with its high volume fire delivered in a short time frame. Grad in Russian means ‘hail’ and a battery of six 122mm MBRLs can deliver a devastating punch of 24) rockets in 20 seconds on an unsuspecting enemy target.
Had longer range MBRLs such as Smerch, which has a range of 100 kilometres, been available, it would have been possible for the Indian artillery to hit Skardu from Kargil. Mortars of artillery regiments that rendered yeoman service in the Kargil conflict included 120-mm mortar and the 160-mm heavy mortar. Artillery fire is normally ‘directed’ onto enemy targets by the artillery’s forward observation officers (FOOs) who work hand in glove with infantry cOmpany commanders.
FOOs acquire targets, relay orders to the Gun Position Officer (GPO) for their engagement, adjust the fire onto the targets using a few spotter rounds and, finally, bring down a heavy volume of fire from all available guns or mortars to destroy them. The FOO’s party comprises an artillery officer, a technical assistant, radio Operators and a few linesmen who provide and maintain telephone communications between the FOO and the gun positions.
As FOOs are up front with the infantry at all limes, they are exposed to the same risks, hardships and privations as their infantry counterparts. Though they belong to the Regiment of Artillery, with their spirited performance in battle, they get assimilated into whichever infantry battalion they serve and become part and parcel of that battalion. Three officers (Major C. B. Dwivedi, Captain P. V. Vikram and lieutenant R. J. Premraj) and a large number of gunners made the supreme Sacrifice in Kargil along with their infantry comrades. Artillery firepower plays a major part in the battlefield, as it did in Kargil. Accurate artillery fire reduces the enemy’s defences to rubble.
Sustained artillery fire gradually wears down the enemy’s resistance and ultimately breaks his will to fight. By systematically degrading the enemy’s fighting potential before a physical assault 1s launched, the artillery helps to reduce the casualties suffered by assaulting infantrymen. Thousands of shells, rockets and mortar bombs were fired in the Kargil sector and enemy defences were pulverised.
There is need to invest more heavily in modern artillery equipment. Precision strike ammunition such as laser-guided artillery shells would prove to be more cost effective in the long run than the firing of hundreds of ‘dumb’ HE shells. There Is also a case for acquiring long-range MBRLs such as Smerch so that the battle can be carried deep into the enemy territory and his sensitive command centres can be hit with impunity.
Other items of equipment that could be procured include gun-locating radars for effective counter-bombardment, remotely piloted vehicles equipped with television cameras and suitable for high altitude operations, powerful binoculars for target acquisition and engagement by day and long-range night vision devices for the same purpose at night. These would greatly increase the capacity of the Regiment to act as a force multiplier on the modern battlefield by several orders of magnitude.