Hercules pressed into rescue mission

During military operations, a C130J Super Hercules aircraft transports Special Forces commandoes in an all-weather condition with the motto “Kill with Stealth”.

But, the “veiled vipers” that made its first ever landing on the barely-kilometre-long make-shift Dharasu airstrip on Saturday, overcoming inclement weather, was saving the lives of 140 stranded pilgrims in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.

In the three sorties it did from Hindon airbase in the bordering district of Ghaziabad to advance landing ground at Dharasu, built at a height of 2,900 feet with restricted approach, the Super Hercules also delivered 8,000 litres of fuel, giving life to stationed choppers as well.

An aircraft the size of Lockheed Martin-manufactured C130J, six of which were procured from the United States in 2011 by the IAF, ideally would need an airfield having a runway about 2.5 km long for landing and take-off.  But that is acquired primarily because the aircraft is fitted with modern avionics, which gives it an edge in carrying out sorties from improvised airstrips to drop commandoes for operations. 

Describing the attempt as “innovative”, the IAF, in a statement, stated that the first C130J aircraft landed at Dharasu (a landing ground only 1,300 feet long) early on Saturday morning for the first time, despite bad weather.

On landing, the aircraft emptied 8,000 litres of fuel into an empty Bowser airlifted on Friday from Sarsawa by an Mi-26 helicopter, giving greater impetus to the rescue operations that are severely restricted due to lack of aviation fuel.


The forces are rushing to beat a weather forecast that predicts rains from Monday.

“Apart from the carrying fuel to Dharasu, the first C130J, on its return trip, carried about 40 injured and stranded pilgrims, and about another 100 the second time, to the safer plains of Air Force Station Hindan. An emergency medical centre has been set up there for medical check-up of all the arriving tourists,” the IAF said in its official statement.

Of the three attempts, the C130J aircraft carried fuel twice to Dharasu, while the third was to pick up an IAF medical team to attend to sick people at the advance landing ground before moving them to safer place.

Flying in the narrow valleys of Uttarakhand’s hills posed a new challenge to the IAF, with additional personnel being inducted to ensure smooth planning, coordination and execution of flying operations, be it the Air Force, Army or civilian operators, said the release.

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