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Three soldiers killed during Pokhran wargames
Manash Pratim Bhuyan in Pokhran | March 20, 2008 21:08 IST
Last Updated: March 20, 2008 23:33 IST
India staged one of its biggest military wargames in Rajasthan's Thar desert but the showcase event was marred by tragedy when a mortar explosion killed three soldiers and seriously injured two others.
The wargames of the Army and the Indian Air Force--'Blazing Chariots'--involving over 37,000 military personnel, tanks and fighter jets was in its final moments, just 75 km from the Indo-Pak border, when a mortar barrel exploded. The victims were from the 15 Artillery Regiment.
The accident happened when the artillery soldiers were firing live 120 MM mortars to stop a tank blitzer. "While firing, a mortar barrel burst hitting the five soldiers, three of whom died instantly," the spokesman added. The injured included an officer.
The incident could be the result of defective ammunition, he said. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the incident.
Watched by diplomats and military attaches from 59 countries including China, the exercise had Army's frontline T-90 tanks, SMERCH long-range missiles, spy drones, latest air defence gun systems, and fighter jets in action at the Pokhran field firing ranges.
Voicing happiness over the synergy achieved by the Army and the IAF during the simulated land and air exercise, Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor said, "All the objectives that we had set for ourselves were fairly well achieved.
"I think it has gone excellently well. The aim was to try out the modern weapons and their efficacy. And also to carry out a bit of synergy with functioning of the air force and the army together and see the effect," General Kapoor said after the exercise on Wednesday.
The Army's Southern Command and IAF's South Western Air Command participated in the exercise.
Asked if the exercise was aimed at sending any message to the foreign observers, General Kapoor said, "It is not aimed at anyone, we are not trying to send out any message through this exercise."
"The foreign observers are here to see what the Indian Army and the IAF are capable of," the General added.
Synergy between air and ground forces marked the Corps level exercises with IAF fighters like SU-30 MKI, deep penetration MiG-27s, upgraded MiG-21 Bisons and attack helicopters coordinating with their counterparts on the ground.
Over 37,000 personnel from the Army and the IAF took part in the fire and manoeuvre combat exercise, manning Army's tank and artillery units and IAF's frontline combat jets unleashing their firepower to devastating effect on the enemy targets.
For most of the over 100 foreign observers, the exercise, providing an opportunity to witness Indian Armed Force's military assets and capabilities, was more than impressive.
"The synergy between the ground forces and the aerial attack was perfect. It was a well executed performance," a US official said.
In a sign of growing proximity in military-to-military relations between New Delhi and Beijing [Images], a strong Chinese military observer group also witnessed the exercises.
"I found the exercise impressive. It was a well planned exercise," Chinese Defence Attache in New Delhi Li Chao said.
Pakistan was not invited to the exercise as the country has not yet signed on one of the military confidence building measures of exchanging military observers.