SRINAGAR: After Army got a major boost in strategically significant Ladakh region with the allotment of 4.8 lakh kanals land for Field Firing Range (FFR) at Mangal Thang in Durbuk area, bordering China in Leh district, it is now seeking land for three more Firing Ranges-one each in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions to ensure that training of its jawans, which is very vital part of the troops, didn’t suffer and the soldiers don’t have to go to Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan for raising their skills.

Official sources told a Jammu based newspaper that after Home Department of the Jammu and Kashmir Government formally issued an order handing over 4.8 kanals of land to the Army at Mangal Thang in Durbuk area of Leh district, which is located close to Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, the Army has decided to seek land for three more FFRs.

India shares LAC with China in five States, all of which are locked by the hills including J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

Initially, the Government has allotted the land to the Army at Mangal Thang for a period of five years only but, according to sources, the Army authorities have been assured that the lease period would be extended after every five years, the newspaper reported.

“Strategically, Mangal Thang has been very significant Field Firing Range for the Army as it was not only located close to the LAC with China but also surrounded by the rugged mountains, which was best suited for the training of Army jawans for raising their skills at par with People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China,” sources said.

Deputy Commissioner, Leh, Prasanna Ramaswamy, when contacted, confirmed the allotment of land to the Army for Field Firing Range at Mangal Thang. He said it was around 4.8 lakh kanals of land and was “strategically very significant”.

Pointing out that Mangal Thang is one of the most strategic part of Leh, located close to the LAC, sources said the State Government has conceded one of the major demands of the Army, which had repeatedly been raised by the Army Commanders at the meetings of Unified Headquarters and Civil-Military Liaison Conference, chaired by the Chief Minister of the State.

The newspaper added that Army has now reiterated its demand for grant of land for three more Field Firing Ranges-one each in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions on priority basis.

Sources said the Government is reported to have assured the Army Commanders at various levels that it was seized of the matter including problems faced by the troops in firing practice due to expiry of lease of 10 firing ranges in Jammu and Kashmir including five under the command of 16 Corps i.e. Jammu region, one under 15 Corps (Kashmir) and four under the jurisdiction of 14 Corps (Ladakh).

Fifty years lease period of 10 firing ranges had ended in November 2014 and since then the Army has been pursuing the case of their extension.

Ten firing ranges, whose lease period has expired, included Mahe (Nyoma, Leh) with an area of 67,953,97 hectares, Khurbarteng (Kargil), Tartar (Leh) having an area of 650 hectares and Kulum (Upshi) in Leh with and area of 24,858.5 hectares, all four in Ladakh region falling under 14 Corps, Tosa Maidan (Budgam) with an area of 27016 hectares in Kashmir under 15 Corps, Chorkhud in Poonch, an area of 10625 hectares, Kalith, Akhnoor (15,604 hectares), Rajouri, Jhallas in Poonch (both small arms firing ranges) and Garhi (Nowshera) in Rajouri district, all five in Jammu region, falling under the Command of 16 Corps. The Government had only last year granted land to Army at Nowshera for Firing Range.

In addition to this, the Army has also been asked to vacate 130 kanals land in Leh, 200 kanals at Kalsar, 1710.77 kanals at Tattoo Ground, 297 kanals at Wuzur and 137 kanals at Jammu Airport.

Though there was strong demand from the Army for grant of land in Kashmir region but going by the situation, the Government might not concede request of the Army immediately, teh report claimed.

While contention of the State Government in denying extension of lease of the firing ranges was that built up areas have come up near the ranges, the Army has projected that it was suffering heavy loss to the State exchequer and defence budget as the artillery units deployed in Jammu and Kashmir had to move to Mahajan and Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan and Babina, Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh for practice and training along with lock, stock and barrel.

“The Army has three types of ammunition reserves. While first and second lines were meant to be used in conventional war, the third is kept for practice firing,” sources pointed out.

The Army has pointed out that they were left with just about 66 operational field firing ranges as against 104 it had once. Of them, Jammu and Kashmir still accounted for highest number of 12 Field Firing Ranges.

“In view of this, military skills and battle-conditioning of the soldiers was adversely affected. No amount of substitutes like simulators and practice ammunition can replace live firing effects and experiences,” they said.