The defence ministry has approved the construction of 17 new “baffle” firing ranges, which are smaller and covered shooting practice areas to prevent possible accidents due to stray bullets, for the Army at a cost of Rs 238 crore.
Seven of the new firing ranges at military stations, cantonments and training establishments have been earmarked for the region under the Army’s Southern Command (headquarters at Pune), while three will come up in Eastern Command (Kolkata), two in Northern Command (Udhampur) and one each in South-Western (Jaipur) and Central (Lucknow) Commands.
“These 17 new ranges will be in addition to the 60 similar firing ranges existing all over the country. The proposed baffle shooting ranges can facilitate firing from 300 to 500 meters,” said an official.
The 1.3 million strong Army has been grappling with a steep decline in availability of firing ranges due to rapid urbanization, with growth of civilian population around cantonments, as well as growing environmental and safety concerns.
“The possibility of bullet injuries to civilians has increased many folds in recent times. To prevent such casualties without affecting the training requirements of the armed forces, MoD has approved the additional baffle ranges,” said an official.
Baffle ranges require less than 50 acres of real estate as compared to about 500 acres needed for conventional small arms practice firing ranges. “Apart from less land, baffle ranges use a system of ground barriers, side-walls, baffle walls and stop-butts to stop or trap misdirected or ricocheting bullets,” said an Army officer.
The Army, of course, is also battling a shortage in larger ranges like field-firing ranges (FFRs) and manoeuvre ranges to train soldiers for use of heavier weapons like artillery guns and rockets. The force now has only about half of the 104 FFR ranges it once had. “With notifications of many ranges steadily expiring, it becomes extremely tough to get re-notification due to environmental laws and safety concerns,” said the officer.
Incidentally, India provides training facilities to armed forces of some countries like Singapore, where land and airspace is a scarce commodity. For instance, Singapore’s mechanized and artillery forces train at Babina and Deolali ranges, while its fighters exercise at West Bengal’s Kalaikunda airbase.
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