New Delhi: The moment one hears about Bofors, it reminds most people about the Bofors scam that had rattled the political history in 1980s and gave it a new turn.
But the same controversial Bofors howitzers will, one day, chart a new chapter by strengthening the Indian Army during the 199 Kargil war and will lead to its victory by giving it “an edge”, nobody could have imagined it. During India-Pakistan Kargil conflict, when the Indian army was going through a tough phase, then the Sweden-made Bofors weapons came to the rescue of the Indian soldiers.
Major highlights of all the operations in “Operation Vijay” was comprehensive destruction of enemy defences and suppression of enemy artillery forcing them to vacate their defences, leaving behind a large cache of arms, ammunition, equipment and stores.
The suppression of enemy small arms and artillery fire reduced own casualties considerably. The infantry battalion Commanding Officers, company commanders, platoon commanders and men did not mince words in expressing their gratitude to the gunners. The role of artillery in the battlefield, as destructive and decisive arm was indeed written in golden letters in “Operation Vijay”.
India’s victory in Operation Vijay was not achieved without major sacrifices. Three valiant officers and 32 brave soldiers of the Regiment of Artillery laid down their lives in the true spirit of Izzat-O-Iqbal. Pakistan lost is estimated 69 officers and 772 OR, mainly of Northern Light Infantry (NLI). Over 1000 Pakistani soldiers were wounded.
Despite the controversy over its induction, 155mm FH 77-B Bofors performed remarkably well and was mainstay of artillery in the operations. Its maximum range of 30 km enabled deep strikes on the enemy’s gun positions, administrative installations, ammunition dumps, and headquarters, besides neutralizing forward positions held by the intruders. By moving up these guns, 105mm field guns, 160mm and 120mm Mortars and 122mm GRAD BM 21 Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher’s (MBRLs) into forward guns positions for ‘direct’ fire on enemy localities, literally under the nose of the enemy and thereby inviting certain enemy artillery fire onto themselves, the gunners exhibited unparalleled courage in battle.
The Indian artillery fired over 2,50,000 shells, bombs and rockets during the Kargil conflict. Approximately 5,000 artillery shells, mortar bombs and rockets were fired daily from 300 guns, mortars and MBRLs while 9,000 shells were fired the day Tiger Hill was regained. During the peak period of assaults, on an average, each artillery battery fired over one round per minute for 17 days continuously. Such high rates of fire over long periods had not been witnessed anywhere in the world since the World War II. Even during World War-II, such sustained artillery firing was not common at all.
The men at the guns had blisters on their hands from carrying and loading shells and cartridges. Very few of them got more than a couple of hours of sleep in every 24 hours cycle. They had no time for proper meals and were often themselves under enemy artillery fire. Yet, they carried on relentlessly. Last but not the least artillery was, in fact, the prime killer since 80 per cent of the casualties suffered by the enemy were on account of artillery fire.
Sources: India Today