Expensive and sleek snow scooters, usually found at ice-capped tourist spots for adventure sport lovers, have for the first time being inducted for patrol by ITBP troops along the Sino-Indian frontier.
Five of these powerful scooters, procured from a US-based firm, have been deployed at high-altitude border locations of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) in Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim that overlook the Chinese PLA deployment on the other side.
Officials said the modern scooters, all costing around a crore, can seat two personnel (driver and pillion rider) with their rifle and ammunition in tow and can negotiate a 45 degree slope on the hills and are supported by chaincase belts to help the 278 kg machine glide smooth and cut through the ice.
The force, as part of bolstering 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.
This is the first time that such scooters, used for tourist purposes in the upper reaches of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh and by defence forces for training, have been procured and inducted for operational roles by Indian Security forces.
"These snow scooters have been procured as part of the modernisation of the force to better equip the personnel on ground in rendering their duties in the hard areas they serve.
These will act as force multipliers," ITBP spokesperson Deputy Commandant Vivek K Pandey told PTI.
The black and white scooters, 325 mm in length, are powered by hydraulic brakes for effective ground control and its carbureted ignition system can hold over 41 litres of fuel in one go and are one the most modern variants of such patrol vehicles produced in the world and used by global security forces who have icy terrains to guard.
The ITBP has sent these five vehicles to its mountain training and skiing institute in Uttarakhand's Auli where a select contingent of troops are being trained in its operations after which they will be sent to locations in Ladakh and Uttarakhand (2 each) and one to a border post above 16,000 feet in Sikkim.
Officials said the performance of these scooters will be analysed over few months and once found okay, more of such snow-terrain vehicles will be procured for the ITBP, primarily tasked to secure the Chinese frontier.
"The idea is to enhance the mobility of the troops in areas deep into the border locations and at high-altitudes.
Once they are found to be useful, important locations on this border will be provided a cluster of these scooters for an entire patrol party to travel," they said.
Last year, undertaking a maiden initiative, the force had purchased and deployed expensive SUVs, usually found zipping across roads in urban locations, at its high-altitude border posts along the Sino-India border to transport troopers.
The 80,000 personnel strong force is tasked with guarding the 3,488 km Sino-India border.
Its posts are in some of the harshest areas at this border with locations ranging from 9,000 ft to 18,000 ft where mercury often plunges to minus 20-30 degree Celsius.