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High altitude operational areas and battlefields are energy guzzlers due to rarefied atmospheres, lack of oxygen and inefficient engines. Energy requirement of the battlefield will keep increasing with modernisation. Till now the single-point answer to meeting energy requirements in high-altitude areas has been fossil fuels—kerosene, petrol and diesel. Not anymore.




India’s armed forces are rebalancing to the north. Infrastructure development will continue. Good news. Across the LAC, China is ‘solidifying Tibet’. Hereafter, the areas adjoining the LAC will see elevated troop levels even if there are no hostilities. The number of troops to be maintained permanently in extreme high altitudes will nearly double (including IAF personnel). It also means an increased logistical load year on year. In these areas, energy is required to power battlefield systems (weapons, surveillance platforms, networks), transportation and most importantly for human sustenance. High altitude operational areas and battlefields are energy guzzlers due to rarefied atmospheres, lack of oxygen and inefficient engines. Energy requirement of the battlefield will keep increasing with modernisation. Till now the single-point answer to meeting energy requirements in high-altitude areas has been fossil fuels—kerosene, petrol and diesel. Not anymore.

Advanced Winter Stocking: Presently an intricate and complex system is in place to ensure that the required fossil fuels are sent up from the plains through a time-tested procedure called the Advanced Winter Stocking. In this system, the complete requirement of energy for one year is stocked from plains in high altitude in about 3-4 months of the ‘Road Open’ period. It involves multiple legs, modes and transfers. It is a complicated, laborious, tenuous, and extremely expensive process. Environmental degradation is high. This will now have to be doubled. We are exacerbating a nightmarish and unsustainable process. The answer is to find energy in situ.

The High-Altitude Problem: The problem in High altitudes is that other energy options—Hydro, Solar or Wind are unreliable and available only for part of a year. Significantly, hydro and solar energy are inadequate in winter, when needed most. Continuing to burn fossil fuels is extravagantly costly and intensively polluting. To give an idea of cost. The landed cost of kerosene at any post in the Siachen was Rs2400/-, when a litre cost Rs 15, a decade back. That is a whopping 160 times increase. Today it should be around Rs 4,000 per litre. All posts in eastern Ladakh which have now been added are in that variety. Can we bear this burden hereafter at inflated costs? So, what do we do? Turn to technology. I got this idea when I was studying about energy requirements in space being met through the hydrogen—Fuel Cell system.


‘Oil of space’ in high altitude. Space applications need enormous energy which is created out of water, hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, water is called the ‘oil of space’. Simply put, hydrogen and oxygen are used in space to create energy. They are derived from water (which incidentally is not available in space). The entire business of lunar landings is all about the search for water; which is then converted into energy for further exploration and sustenance. Just think. High altitudes are as desolate as space but have water! Hence, we must exploit this resource and not look outside. I am convinced that since we have to deploy large numbers of troops in High altitudes and also be able to sustain people through development, the only way forward is to take a technological leap by using water for energy—Fuel Cells and the Hydrogen system. Let me elucidate this further.

Fuel Cells: Fuel cells can provide power for systems as large as a utility power station and as small as a laptop computer. A fuel cell combines hydrogen with oxygen to produce electrical power. It works similar to batteries, but never runs down or needs to be recharged. It has a cathode and an anode separated by an electrolyte. In a fuel cell, the electrode is not consumed, and the cell can produce electricity as long as hydrogen and oxidizer levels are maintained. With hydrogen as fuel, heat and water are the only by-products. Fuel cells are of many types: proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), regenerative fuel cell (RFC) systems, alkaline fuel cells, direct methanol fuel cells (DMFC), phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFC), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC) and solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).They can run indefinitely, as long as they are supplied with a source of hydrogen and a source of oxygen (usually air).

Efficiency: Fuel cells are less efficient than electric batteries. However, present day fuel cells are comparable with internal combustion engines. IC engines convert fuel into kinetic energy at roughly 25% efficiency. A fuel cell, by contrast, can mix hydrogen with air to produce electricity at up to 60 % efficiency.

Hydrogen: Hydrogen can be produced cost-effectively through electrolysis by splitting water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms or from LNG. Currently only 2% of the world hydrogen production is from water electrolysis. 98% is produced from natural gas. We have to focus on electrolysis. Electrolytically produced hydrogen is presently costly. It will need initial investment in hydrogen production and distribution infrastructure. The scarcity of infrastructure is the largest obstacle to the adoption of hydrogen technology. This process is getting cheaper with time.

International Efforts: The Toyota Mirai, the most popular Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV), sells world-wide. UAE’s first hydrogen station has been opened by Toyota. In Japan, 100 refuelling stations have already been established, and the government aims to have 800,000 FCEVs on the road by 2030. Cost of Hydrogen is expected to reduce by 90% by 2050. Hydrogen technology is being contemplated for a range transport market segments and other applications. Hydrogen trials have been conducted on everything from public buses and forklifts to trains, planes and boats. In Europe, the ‘EU Turbines’ group was to make their gas turbines run with 20% hydrogen gas initially (it was to be completed by 2020). They want to develop turbine technology to allow all manufactured units to run, or be retrofitted to run, on 100% hydrogen gas, and be carbon-neutral, by 2030. All major gas turbine manufacturers are currently developing gas turbines that could combust 100% hydrogen, for power applications as a decarbonised alternative to natural gas. These are just examples to highlight international efforts.

Falling Cost of Hydrogen Systems: The cost of hydrogen is falling due to improvements in water electrolysis and hydrogen fuel cell technology. The Paris-based International Energy Agency expects the cost of producing hydrogen to fall by a further 30% by 2030. It might fall even faster. Since 2010, the cost of electrolysis has fallen about 60% (from between $10/kg and $15/kg hydrogen to as low as $4/kg). By 2030 costs could fall another 60%. As investment in hydrogen infrastructure grows, net costs will continue to fall. However, hydrogen will only be “relevant in regions constrained in renewables potential and situations where alternatives like fossil fuels are not an option.” This is a ready-made high-altitude scenario. For an assumed import price of $3/kg of hydrogen (international average cost), power produced from hydrogen turbines could cost about $140/MWh. In comparison, Lazard’s November 2019 levelised cost of energy (LCOE) analysis suggests unsubsidized natural gas combined cycle generation today costs between $44/MWh and $68/MWh (approx. three times costly).

Strengths and Challenges: Hydrogen and fuel cell systems are very reliable, quite in operation (no moving parts) and need very little maintenance. They are modular and scalable. They occupy less space when compared to wind or solar systems, and can be sited both outdoors and indoors. Fuel cells are pollution free when run on pure hydrogen. They are more efficient than combustion engines. Fuel cells can be refuelled, which is faster than recharging. A fuel cell gives more bang per energy buck than a similarly-sized battery. Fuel cell systems are lighter even taking into account hydrogen storage. The main challenges of fuel cells are price, cost of producing hydrogen and need for pure fuels. Hydrogen is difficult to store. It must be heavily compressed in order to fit into a practical container. Hydrogen gas requires high-pressure fibre-composite tanks. Liquid Hydrogen requires keeping its temperature down to cryogenic levels. However if the system is in a ‘consume as you produce’ mode the costs will reduce. Hydrogen is mass produced in the US. The technology has been around for over half a century.

We need to think out of the box: Technologically and practically to solve the exponentially increasing battlefield energy requirements. The current system will be an unsustainable nightmare. If we think of ‘High Altitudes’ as ‘Space’, the answer lies in water! Compare costs. The current cost of fuel in high altitudes should be around 60-70 times on an average at the delivery point. Hydrogen based energy would be far cheaper and less complex even now including infrastructure. The cost of fossil fuels keeps inflating whereas the hydrogen economy is deflating. In the long term, the pollution free, fuel cell-hydrogen system wins hands down. The technology is established. It needs to be adapted, It also needs a multi-agency approach at national levels since there are wider implications than just for the Armed Forces. From a national perspective this should be a civil military fusion project led by the Armed forces. Do we have a choice in not following this route? Of course, we have. We can remain primitive.

It is my recommendation that an inter-departmental pilot project be started in Leh under the aegis of the Army. In about a year or so we will have gained enough experience to scale it up. It is also cautioned that fuel cells cannot be deployed everywhere and are not the ultimate solution. We have to eventually have to look at an energy mix in which fuel cell energy share is expanding. Use of some fossil fuels and naturally renewable energy systems will continue. Most importantly we need to start somewhere.


This is not a flight of fancy. I do hope someone with sense in the decision matrix reads it and takes action.


The Chinese will read this and pick up the idea. They will implement it while we keep humping kerosene-like cavemen to Siachen and revel in burning it in soot filled bukharis which will choke our lungs and continue to degrade our environment. The day Global Times puts out a video showing off their fuel cell deployment ahead of us will be a sad day for me.

Lt Gen P.R. Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenization of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on

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Major push to Make in India in defence sector

Ajay Jandyal



To give a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atamanirbhar Bharat mission, the Indian Army has joined hands with various technology firms to cater to the demands of the present security scenario.

The Army says if it has to remain operational all around, it cannot rely on obsolete technology hence latest advancement in the sector have to be adopted.

“The Northern Command is always combat ready in the times to come, the challenges will continue to increase so we have to rely on advance technology and keep on innovating,” Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told The Daily Guardian on the sidelines of the Northern Technology Symposium held in Udhampur on Sunday.

North Tech Symposium was organized under the aegis of HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Technology symposium, exhibition was organised wherein 162 companies from Indian defence industry including MSMEs, DRDO, DPSU, participated and exhibited their products.

In addition, 42 innovative solutions by Army establishments towards enhancement of combat potential of the Army were also on display. Lt Gen BS Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff inaugurated the first of its kind technology symposium in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing the event, vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen V S Raju said that he would have appreciated if the investors, capital ventures would have also shown interest in the event to boost the new start-up.

“To cope up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing security scenario, we also need to adopt changes and keep on innovating. I am happy that so many companies have shown interest to showcase their products at the North Tech Symposium. I am hopeful that in near future, many of the products would be put in use by the armed forces,” General Raju said.

In the wake of recent incidence of drone dropping in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab from across the Indo-Pak border, various companies have displayed their products including anti- drone system, drone jammer which can strengthen the forces and border guarding forces to thwart Pakistan’s plan of disturbing peace.

Other than drone dropping threats, detection of tunnels on Jammu and Kashmir border is also a major threat for the security forces these days as 11 tunnels have been detected on Indian-Pakistan border in the past few years. There was number of companies which showcased their products to detect underground tunnels by using artificial intelligence and special radar.

The symposium saw active participation from of senior officers from different forces including IDS, Army HQ, HQ ARTRAC, other Commands, HQ Northern Command, and its subordinate formations. This interactive platform for knowledge diffusion through Joint Army-Industry participation was an important step in the direction of the government’s initiative of “Make in India”.

On the first day of the seminar, the participants from Army and industry discussed the policy and procedures for expeditious procurement, Raksha Atmanirbharta initiatives by Indian Army, DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, how can private sector contribute towards surveillance system, weapon sights, drones and counter drone system and miscellaneous technologies like 3D printing.

The symposium served to showcase cutting edge technologies and innovative products providing solutions to some of the complex challenges faced by the security forces in Northern Command and also acted as an ideal platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the domestic defence industry and the Army. The technologies and products on display covered a wide canvas, the prominent ones being surveillance and situational awareness, tactical mobility, firepower, force protection, communications, combat medical facility, robotics and simulators.

The symposium was a huge success and Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, AVSM lauded the initiative and innovations of all the vendors. The General Officer expressed his conviction that the plethora of technologies available indigenously can further boost the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” project of the nation. The spirit of Atmanirbharta demands that research and development, the domestic defence industry and Army have work in a synchronized manner to realise the nation’s vision.

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An Indian Army Major lost his life after slipping into a ravine during a counter-infiltration operation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Major Raghunath Ahlawat.

Late Major Raghunath Ahlawat, 34 was leading his team on a counter-infiltration operation based on reliable intelligence input. “To identify a safe approach for the team he led from the front while carrying out reconnaissance on a route through a steep cliff. “Unfortunately, he slipped due to bad weather and slippery conditions and fell 60 meters into a ravine. Critically injured, he succumbed to his injuries enroute while being evacuated to the nearest Army Hospital,” Indian Army officials said in a statement.

The Army paid tribute to the officer in a ceremony held in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar led by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General DP Pandey.

Major Ahlawat was commissioned into the Army in 2012 and hails from Dwarka, New Delhi and is survived by his wife and his parents.

The mortal remains of Late Maj Raghunath Ahlawat were taken for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.

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For over USD 20 billion tender for manufacturing 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) would prefer to take the ‘Buy Global Make in India’ route over the strategic partnership policy model to produce the planes within the country.

‘Buy Global Make in India’ is a category of procurement process provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 under Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to smoothen the acquisition of foreign weapon systems and their production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ in the defence programme. Along with the indigenous LCA Tejas and the 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, the 114 MRFA project would also be required by the IAF to maintain an edge over both the Northern and Western adversaries. We would prefer to go in for the Buy Global Make in India route which is preferred by the vendors also who are expected to take part in the programme, government sources said. Three American aircraft including the F-18, F-15 and F-21 (modified version of the F-16), Russian Mig-35 and Su-35 along with the French Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are expected to participate in the programme. The Indian Air Force had also sought the views of these companies on the acquisition procedure that they would like to opt for in the programme and most of them have shown a preference for the Buy Global Make in India route only, they said.

The sources said that the force has also sought directions from the government on the project.

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Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, defence supplies from Moscow are continuing as the Indian defence forces have received a shipment of overhauled aircraft engines and spares. However, there is concern about whether this would continue in the near future as a solution for making payment to Russia has not yet been found.

“The defence forces have received shipments from the Russians very recently and it is still on. So far, there has not been any glitch in supplies for our forces,” a government source told ANI.

“However, there are concerns on whether these supplies can continue in the same manner as the Indian side cannot make payments to these Russian firms in view of the sanctions related to their banks,” he added.

The sources said the Indian and Russian sides are working to find a way this issue can be overcome and many options are being explored.

The latest supplies from Russia included overhauled fighter aircraft engines and spares for an aircraft fleet and they arrived through the sea route, the sources said.

India also received the final parts of the S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia whose first squadron is operational with its elements deployed to take care of threats from both Pakistan and China.

India is one of the largest users of Russian weaponry including major platforms like fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, warships, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and submarines.

Over the last couple of decades, it has broadened its source base by including equipment from countries like the US, France and Israel in a big way but the dependence on Russia still remains very high.

The Air Force is dependent majorly on the Russian supplies as its mainstay Su30 aircraft fleet is Russian along with its Mi-17 helicopter fleet.

The Army is also dependent on the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tank fleet for the armoured regiments.

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The top brass of the Indian Army and Air Force would be assessing the preparedness of their forces and infrastructure requirements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the militaries of both India and China continue to remain in a standoff position in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force brass would be meeting this week from 6 April to discuss the security situation including air operations along the northern borders. The Indian Army commanders led by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane would be assessing the present deployments along eastern Ladakh and the northeastern sectors from 18 April onwards in the bi-annual commanders’ conference.

The top brass of the Indian Army had jointly discussed the infrastructure requirements and developments required by the Indian side from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh during a conference in Lucknow recently.

India has made several changes in its deployments post aggression shown by Chinese troops in April-May 2020.

India and China have been talking to each other at both military and diplomatic levels to address the issues but so far they have not been able to do so mainly because of Chinese reluctance. In recent talks to address the Patrolling Point 15 friction, they proposed a solution that was not acceptable to the Indian side.

Indian security establishment led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been of the view that the issue would be resolved only if the Chinese completely disengaged and went back to pre April 2020 positions.The Indian side has strengthened its deployments manifold all along the LAC. The Indian Air Force has also started building advanced bases in the forward areas including infrastructure to operate fighter jets and attack helicopters from the forward fields such as Nyoma.

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Sharp fall in infiltration of foreign terrorists, stone pelting: CRPF DG



There has been a sharp decline in the infiltration of foreign terrorists as well as in stone-pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.

However, noting the targeted killings in Jammu and Kashmir, the officer said, “Some time there is a spurt in terrorist incidents” and the recent killing in “periodic series” are among those, and “it occurs”. Replying to queries during a press briefing here at the CRPF Headquarters, Singh said, “CRPF immediately try to control terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir soon after it gets inputs. These incidents are not totally controlled by internal terrorist people who are there. On many occasions, it is controlled by those sitting across the border and it is directed whom to be targeted or not.”

The CRPF DG reiterated that “some directions comes from foreign lands too”, and thus, “terrorist incidents some times increase and sometimes decrease” “It does not mean that things are out of hand…You can see that the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There has been a sharp decline in the number of infiltration of foreign terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, there is a spurt in terrorist incidents but it happens,” he said.

The officer informed that the CRPF has neutralized 175 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and apprehended 183 from March 1, 2021, to March 16, 2022.

Meanwhile, the CRPF has recovered 253 arms from Jammu and Kashmir and seized 7,541 ammunition as well as 96.38 kg explosives, 23 Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 232 grenades, and 36 detonators from the Union Territory, Singh said. Further, he informed that as many as 91 encounters have taken place from March 1, 2021, to March 16 this year. CRPF is the premier Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the internal security of the country. It is deployed across the length and breadth of the country, assisting various state police in the discharge of their duties. CRPF is providing security cover to 117 protectees of various categories, he said adding that 32 women personnel have been inducted into the VIP Security Wing.

A total of 41 VIPs were provided security cover by the CRPF during recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the DG said adding that the security of 27 protectees has been withdrawn post-elections. The CRPF chief also said that under financial assistance from the risk fund, ex-gratia for personnel martyred in action has been increased to Rs 30 lakhs from Rs 20 lakhs, and for all other cases, the ex-gratia has been increased to Rs 20 lakhs from Rs 15 lakhs.

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