IAF lands heavy plane near China border

Months after a border stand-off in the region with China raised tensions, India landed a special operations military aircraft at the highest airstrip in the world in Aksai Chin, with the defence ministry stating that it has demonstrated an “increased capability to induct troops” in the area. Terming the landing of a C 130J ‘Super Hercules’ transport aircraft at the 16,614 feet Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip as a “significant capability demonstration”, the defence ministry said that “with this enhanced airlift capability the air force will now be in a better position to meet the requirements of our land forces”. The IAF said it has created a new world record with the landing of an aircraft of the class on the airstrip. DBO, which is the world’s highest airfield, is located adjacent to the Depsang Plain in Ladakh that saw controversy in April after a Chinese military patrol set up a temporary camp in what is considered as disputed land. The setting up of tents in the region had sparked a stand-off on the border that was resolved more than three weeks later after hectic diplomatic discussions at the highest levels. While the IAF had been using DBO for air supply missions after the 1962 war and had reactivated the base in 2008 after 43 years with the landing of an AN 32 aircraft, Tuesday’s event is significant for the capability it has added for the forces in the region. Incidentally, when the airstrip was reopened in 2008, China had registered a formal protest to India. In the past, AN 32 aircraft as well as Mi 17 helicopters that were operating from the base had very limited load carrying capacity due to the altitude at which DBO is located. Although fixed wing operations were on since 2008, there was very little “useful load” that was being carried to and from the airfield, given the technical limitations of the aircraft. However, the IAF said that the C 130J will be able to carry much greater loads, reducing the time for supplies and evacuation of personnel. “Considering the very limited load carrying capability of AN 32 and helicopters, a decision was taken by the IAF to land the C130J-30 aircraft which is capable of lifting up to 20 tonnes of load. With this enhanced airlift capability the IAF will now be in a better position to meet the requirements of our land forces,” an IAF spokesperson said. At present, the military area around DBO in Eastern Ladakh is serviced by roads that become unusable in winters and air supply remains the only means of maintenance of troops located in forward areas for several months.

Source: Indian Express

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