IAF reopens eastern-most airstrip in Arunachal

Milestone achieved: Air Forces AN-32 aircraft lands at Vijaynagar runway

milestone achieved: Air Marshal S Varthaman, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air CoVijaynagar, Air Marshal S Varthaman, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command along with the air crew during the inauguration of the Vijaynagar Advance Landing Grounds in AP, on Friday.  PTI

After more than two years, an IAF troop carrier, AN-32, landed at Vijaynagar carrying Arunachal Pradesh Governor and former Army Chief Gen J J Singh, Lt Gen Rameshwar Roy, director-general of Assam Rifles and senior officials of the armed forces.

IAF flights to Vijaynagar were discontinued in 2009 due to poor condition of the runway made out of pierced steel plate sheets. But with threat perception from China rising, the Centre decided to reactivate six advanced landing grounds in Arunachal, including Vijaynagar. Subsequently extensive repairs were undertaken and the entire runway surface was renovated by the IAF with the help of the Arunachal Pradesh government. This
ALG will now facilitate routine and regular air maintenance.

The airfield — situated on the eastern-most tip of the country at the tri-junction of India, China and Myanmar, will now be able to operate the IAF’s latest and most advanced C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, which can also fly in the night and drop special forces.

Landing the Super Hercules at Vijaynagar would be an extremely challenging task for the
IAF pilots as the advanced landing ground offers zero margin of error on the part of pilots.
“While normal runways are 9,000 ft, Vijaynagar runway is only 4,000 ft long. It is surrounded by hills from three sides and one has to take off and land in the same direction. There is absolutely no scope for maneuverability,” said an IAF pilot who flew to this ALG.

Others ALGs to be reactivated in Arunachal Pradesh are Passighat, Mechuka, Walong, Tuting and Ziro. Several unused helipads will also be reopened.

Before discontinuing its service, the IAF used to fly occasionally to Vijaynagar carrying
ration and supply for the Army and IAF personnel and local villagers. The flights were scheduled as per the requirement specified by the Arunachal Pradesh Directorate of Supply and Transport.

The IAF commenced its operations in Vijaynagar with Dakota and Otter in 1962 and subsequently the role was transferred to AN-32 since 1984. Three ALGs in Ladakh — Nyoma, Daulat Beg Oldi and Fukche — have been reactivated in the last three years in an effort to match China in sprucing up the border infrastructure. The IAF now plans to convert Nyoma into a full-fledged air base supporting even fighter operations.

India is also planning to raise a new Mountain Strike Corps after raising two new mountain infantry divisions to increase manpower in the Northeast.

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