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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Siachen Tragedy: Army’s Weakness or Limitation

When American SEALS took out Osama Bin Laden within the territories of Pakistan a blow was struck to a nation which satisfactorily took pride in being a nuclear power & having 6th largest military. A hard realisation dawned upon them that their impenetrable  ‘Islamic Fort’ was not only penetrable but the continuing avalanche of drone attacks would prove it more & more fragile. That incident however didn’t budge my confidence in Pakistan’s army, simply because my ‘degree of confidence’ never revolves around fictional religious mantra & I knew beforehand that my army doesn't have a weakness though it inherits natural limitations of a third world’s army.

The recent fatal Siachen tragedy & the not yet successful army operation to recover missing soldiers made me rethink my previous stance on Pakistan’s army capabilities because this isn’t a limitation (as many will call it a natural occurrence) but to me its a weakness!

I may be labelled as unfaithful to my country for calling my army incapable but let us not be hasty. An army potency isn’t alone a measure of its fighting capability but also includes executability for rescue & search operations. Although glistening F-16s & JF-17s cruising high in the sky adequately fulfills defending role but army seemingly fails to adopt contemporary technological advancements to improve & hasten its rescuing capability. It is clear from media footages that army till now has resorted to conventional means of digging things up based on antiquated probability models established via conventional pen & paper. There seems to be inconsistency between  defending role & rescuing role of Pakistan’s army. Former is receiving million dollar budget annually but the latter unfortunately doesn't seem to be on the updating list at all!

Army should realise that those mighty tanks & gigantic warplanes are driven by human beings (~soldiers) so in a sense lifesaving is a more important aspect than buying war machinery alone. Burning dollars upon dollars to buy, maintain & build combat vehicles must not be prioritised over attaining & (if possible) domestically producing relatively less complex & cheap life-saving equipments. Being an engineer myself I will put up a list of recommendations for senior geologists & army personnel to ponder upon:

  • We have nuclear school of thought, we have engineering universities why not establish institutions specifically for the study of arctic conditions? This is the platform that will provide technical solutions & may also supervise operations in subzero conditions.

  • If you have played modern army games on your PC or XBOX you will definitely remember how easy it is to track your comrades using their personal beacons. These beacons emit radio waves at special frequency & we are able to receive them, using their strength magnitude we can roughly tell how far or near we are to our fellow soldier (try thinking it as bluetooth signals). These beacons sadly weren’t made available to the soldiers at Siachen. If one out of every four soldier was equipped with a beacon (or more effective GPS transmitter) we would have a total of 31 beacons (remember there were 124 soldiers) oozing out enough electromagnetic rays to confine our search area, thereby, immensely increasing probability of finding buried soldiers.

  • Using an airborne or a land-based Ice Penetrating Radar (IPR) more commonly known as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Technologies used in both of these equipments are thoroughly researched & a quick google search shows that these equipments have many vendors. I have skipped the underlying principles but if you are interested in learning how these technologies work refer to following links:

  • Let us learn from the West that in hostile & life threatening areas (be it because of terrorists or nature itself) using robots can turn the tables. That is why I suggest solar-powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to patrol our arctic regions & if human presence is necessary even then UAVs operating overhead can pinpoint exact location in case the soldiers below suffers any misfortune incident. Now I will make myself clear here, we don’t need expensive UAVs like Raptor or Global Hawk because we only need surveillance therefore local universities/industries can be made to compete in delivering the most economical package that meets following major requirements:

    • Small size & portability

    • Able to perform in subzero conditions

    • Greatest amount of operational hours

    Visit this link to see how a graduate student build his own arctic UAV.


Image taken from defence.pk

Only by carefully examining & evaluating the present & future natural disasters that may beset our soldiers we will be able to channel our efforts in the right direction to create risk-free ventures & in turn avoid grievances that presently haunt the families of lost soldiers.

** If you want to know how avalanches are caused let me know using comment section below


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