Caterpillar ATVs to transport ITBP men along China border soon
After SUVs and snow scooters, ITBP troops deployed along the Sino-India frontier will soon have all-terrain amphibious 'caterpillar' vehicles to undertake patrols and operational movements in the icy heights of the region.
The force has decided to procure at least two such giant rubberband belt rolling vehicles to transport troops on high-altitude deployment, along with their arms and ammunition, along the China border in the Ladakh region.
"We are in the final stages of procuring these vehicles.
The trials have been successful and they will be used for transport of troops. These amphibious vehicles suit our requirements in the high-altitude areas," ITBP Director General Krishna Chaudhary said.
He said the all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are adept at maneuvering at low temperatures and can carry about a dozen troops at a time.
The final clearance, a senior officer said, is awaited from the Union Home Ministry after which the ITBP will place orders for two such giant machines from a US-based firm at a cost of around Rs 9 crore.
The vehicles, called 'caterpillars' due to their design, can negotiate treacherous slopes and stay afloat in shallow waters. They operate on four-cylinder engines and have automatic gears – five forward and 1 reverse.
The rubberband track also allows the ATVs to move over snow, the official said. Its two aluminium alloy-made cabins are connected to each other via a symmetrical connecting joint (SCJ) shaft with a four degrees maneuvering range so that the rear cabin perfectly follows the driving box while moving.
The official said the force proposes to deploy the first lot of machines in the Ladakh area along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
The original caterpillar vehicle comes with an air conditioning system, which would not be of use in high-altitude areas.
So the ITBP has sought modification of the vehicle through installation of a heater that can keep the troops warm and insulated from freezing winds while traveling in sub-zero temperatures.
The machine is powered by a 250 litre diesel fuel tank and while floating on water it can achieve a maximum speed of 3.5 km per hour. Its speed is about 30 km per hour on a dirt or uneven track.
A slightly similar version of the caterpillar is used by the BSF to patrol the marshy Rann of Kutch along the Gujarat coast.
The ITBP has recently procured five snow scooters which will be deployed at high-altitude border locations in Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that overlook the Chinese PLA deployment on the other side.
The force, as part of moves to bolster its capabilities to effectively secure the 3,488km border, had last year procured over six dozen SUVs and sent them to far-flung border areas for patrol and transport.