India plans advanced landing strips at Ladakh, Tawang

India may come up with yet another advanced landing ground (ALG) at Padam in Ladakh besides readying a new strip at Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, where the IAF's newly acquired C-130J Super Hercules carrier can land.

“The feasibility of a new ALG at Padam (south-west of Leh) is being examined,” Defence Ministry officials informed the parliamentary standing committee on defence, which submitted its report recently.

Once operational, Padam in the Zanskar valley will be the fourth ALG in Ladakh, where the Sino-Indian border is disputed. The other three landing strips are at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), Fukche and Nyoma.

Last August, the IAF's C130J Super Hercules touched down at Daulat Beg Oldie, world's highest airfield at an altitude of 16,614 feet, located within 10 km of India's de-facto border with China. Since then, there have been regular C-130J flights to DBO.

On the eastern flank, an ALG is being developed at Tawang, a border town in Arunachal Pradesh that lies at the core of the Sino-Indian territorial dispute, for landing of both transport aircraft and helicopters. Tawang had been under administrative control of Tibet before it became a part of India in the early 1950s.

7 more ALGs

Besides Tawang, seven more ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh are being developed with a Rs 720-crore package. The first landing is expected around 2016. They are at Mechuka, Vijaynagar, Tuting, Passighat, Walong, Ziro and Along.

The disclosure on Padam and Tawang came within a week of India-China talks on boundary dispute between National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi. The two sides have held 17 rounds of bilateral talks.

The IAF wants to upgrade the Nyoma ALG, located within 25 km of the border, as well as the Kargil air base into full-fledged airfields capable of handling all types of aircraft, including the fighters.

The House panel has strongly criticised the government for its failure to improve road and railway connectivity to the border. While most of the road projects are behind schedule, 14 strategic border rail projects are struck in a bureaucratic tangle for want of funding.

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, however, promised that the strategically important 510-km Rangiya-Murkongselek metre gauge line will be converted to broad gauge within this financial year.

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