NEW DELHI- The Army is now trying to upgrade as well as indigenise specialised extreme winter clothing for its soldiers deployed in “super high-altitude” areas of the country.
Sources say the Army has now asked the defence ministry to go in for clothing procurements for super high-altitude deployments in Siachen, Drass, Kargil, Sikkim and Arunachal — which are over 16,000-feet with temperatures ranging from minus 10 to 50-60 degree Celsius — for five years at one go.
“There are eight major clothing items still being procured from abroad. At present, specialised clothing for over 27,000 soldiers is procured for three years at a time. But since the process is long, with complaints of irregularities often further slowing it down, it would be better to buy for five years at a time,” said a source.
Concomitantly, attempts are also being made in conjunction with the Indian Technical Textile Association to “tap the technology available within the country” to gradually replace imported winter clothing.
Similarly, Indian vendors have been identified for making the three-layered ECCWS and gloves as well as the four-layered socks. “The overall aim is to improve the products further by reducing bulk and weight to ensure soldiers can be more agile and combat-effective while getting higher thermal insulation from the extreme weather,” source said.
Just since 1984, India has lost around 900 soldiers on the Siachen heights. But with better infrastructure being built on the glacial heights, where soldiers are taught to “survive first and then fight”, the number of casualties has gone down over the years.
But soldiers still have to constantly battle high-altitude pulmonary odema, cerebral odema, hypothermia, hypoxia and frost-bite in the extremely tough terrain, where avalanches, blizzards and “white-outs” are the norm. Just last week, an Army doctor, Capt Ashwini Kumar, was killed after a patrol got hit by an avalanche in Siachen.