Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

India: China Builds An Iron Road To Victory

July 23, 2008

Strategy Page
July 21, 2008

Two years ago, China completed the first rail line into Tibet. India
saw this as a military threat of the first order, and for good
reason. The 1,956 kilometer long rail line is the highest railroad in
the world, with 80 percent of it at least 12,000 feet high, and one
pass that is 16,640 feet high. This line can move about 13,000 tons
of cargo, or military equipment, a day. This has India worried,
because it enables China to quickly move ground forces into Tibet,
should there ever be another war on their mutual border. Before the
railroad, there were several highways into Tibet, but these would
wear out the mechanized units that used them. By the time they got to
the Indian border, many, if not most, of their vehicles would be in
need of maintenance of repair, and many would be stranded, where they
broke down, along several thousand kilometers of road.

The railroad eliminates most of this "road fatigue" for China's
mechanized infantry divisions. These units contain 600 armored
vehicles, plus several thousand trucks. Moving long distances is not
that hard on the trucks, but it is hell on the armored vehicles,
since most of them run on tracks (like a bulldozer).

Some mechanized divisions are designated as "rapid reaction" units,
and are kept at a higher state of readiness (repairs on made on
vehicles promptly and fuel and other supplies are kept on hand so
some portions of the division can be sent off within hours of getting
the order. These units also have a third or half their 350 tracked
vehicles (BMP clones) replaced with T-90 wheeled armored vehicles
(like the U.S. Stryker). These survive long road movements better
than tracked vehicles, they are still heavy (15 ton) vehicles, and
some will break down when covering long distances.

A typical mechanized division weighs about 15,000 tons. So it would
take less than two days to move a division into Tibet over the
railroad, and there would be little wear and tear (most from moving a
hundred kilometers or so to the railroad).

There are some problems with the Tibet railroad, however. Special
diesel engines, modified to operate at high altitudes (where the air
is thinner) are normally used. There are not enough of these engines
to run the Tibet railroad at full capacity. Ordinary diesel engines
could be used, but they would not operate at full capacity. Another
potential problem is attacks on the railroad, especially the tunnels
and 675 bridges. But overall, the Tibetan high line is a military
plus, although that angle was rarely mentioned during the decade or
so it took to complete it.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank