The Indian Air Force has successfully converted one of its old landing grounds in Ladakh – close to the Sino-Indian border – into an operational airstrip where military transport planes can land.
The first AN-32 landed at Nyoma advanced landing ground in Ladakh at 6.25 am on Friday. The army and IAF use AN-32 for carrying troops and logistics. The first aircraft carried two three-star generals who commanded two of India’s most critical military commands monitoring borders with China and Pakistan.
Air Marshal N A K Browne, who commands the Western Air Command of the IAF and Lieutenant General P C Bharadwaj who heads the critical northern command visited Nyoma airstrip in the first flight, which was flown by Group Captain S C Chafekar.
Though helicopters used to land at this ALG, this is for the first time a fixed wing aircraft landed at Nyoma airstrip at an altitude of 13,300 ft.
Nyoma has now become IAF’s third operational airstrip in Ladakh close to the Line of Actual Control.
Two dilapidated advanced landing grounds used in the 1962 war with China – Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and Fukche – were made operational last year.
An IAF transport plane landed in DBO on 31 May 2008 and in Fukche on November 4, 2008 after four decades.
While DBO is 8 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Fukche is within 2.5 km of the LAC. At an altitude of 16,200 ft, DBO is the world’s highest airfield. Nyoma is slightly away as it is located 23 km from the LAC. Operationalising airfields near the China border will give India a strategic advantage to quickly mobilise troops close to the LAC in case of any necessity. This will also improve border patrolling in harsh winter.
Once the Centre decides to develop Nyoma for fixed wing operations, the Herculean task of converting the ALG to the standards required for fixed wing operations was undertaken by the engineer regiments of 14 Corps.
Officials said that Nyoma has been developed with an aim to connect the remote areas of Ladakh to the mainland. Following Beijing’s superior infrastructure close to the border, New Delhi is slowly sprucing up its border infrastructure and in the process of mobilising assets targeted at the Chinese threat.
The IAF is keeping one squadron of its most advanced Su-30 MKI fighters in Bareilly whose primary responsibility is the western and middle sector of the LAC. Similarly a Su-30 base is being created in Tezpur, Assam, for the eastern sector.