India is mulling creating helipads along the open 699 km-long border with Bhutan to ease travel to difficult locations in the region and provide air support facilities for border guarding troops deployed there.
The border is marked with difficult and forested terrain and officials who operate in the area say it takes a lot of time for them to travel from one border post to another due to the terrain and interior locations of posts.
Border guarding force Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is posted along this frontier.
"We are planning to build helipads at our locations along the Bhutan border. Air support will help in easy transportation of our troops to their posts and will also cut short the travel time," SSB Director General B D Sharma told PTI.
The Indo-Bhutan border runs along the states of Sikkim (32kms), West Bengal (183kms), Assam (267kms) and Arunachal Pradesh (217kms). SSB, which functions under the Union Home Ministry, has been guarding this frontier since 2004.
Sharma, who took over the reins of the over 50,000 personnel-strong SSB recently, said the paramilitary force is preparing a proposal in this regard which will subsequently be sent to the Home Ministry for final approval. The helipads, the DG said, can be developed in SSB locations for their safety and activation for any quick movement.
He said to enable his troops to effectively guard the border, which is prone to movement of various insurgent groups, the force will be procuring hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) as these gadgets enhance the capability to see human movement at night.
Forces like BSF and the army use it along the Indo- Pakistan border.
"The plan is to initially procure 75 HHTIs and provide them to important areas along the border. We can look to enhance their number further in the future," Sharma said.
On providing his troops with better equipment and armour, the SSB DG said the force is also acquiring close to 10,000 bullet-proof 'patkas' for its men. The "patkas', made of metal-bands, are worn on the forehead to prevent bullet wound during an operation.
SSB, apart from guarding this border, also mans the open Indo-Nepal boundary. It is also the lead intelligence gathering agency of the government at both these frontiers.