At a time when China is expeditiously building its capability to operate fighters near eastern Ladakh, India is also considering expanding its capability to operate fixed-wing aircraft from facilities near the border with China. India has been considering multiple options of developing airfields in eastern Ladakh including Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), Fukche and Nyoma which are at a distance of few minutes from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
As the first news crew to have been allowed to cover the Indian Air Force (IAF) operations in forward areas, team ANI visited the Nyoma Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) to see operations of the Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and the Garud special forces operations from Mi-17 helicopters.
Speaking exclusively to ANI, IAF’s Group Captain Ajay Rathi explained the importance of having an advanced landing ground such as Nyoma. “Nyoma ALG has strategic importance due to its close proximity to Line of Actual Control. It bridges the critical gap between Leh airfield and the LAC enabling quick movement of men and material in eastern Ladakh, overcoming terrain friction,” Rathi said.
The Nyoma airbase Chief Operations Officer said the ALG will “further help in quicker access to the heights and sustenance operations thereafter. The air operations infrastructure at Nyoma enhances the Op capability of forces.” He said, “It also improves connectivity for the entire population in the eastern Ladakh region.”
Asked by when the fighter aircraft operations can be conducted from the ALG, he said: “The fighters have been operating regularly in this area earlier as well. The development of infrastructure for fixed-wing operations from ALG is planned in the near future.” The officer said the positioning of fighter aircraft would be governed by the operational requirements.
On how the airmen have been maintaining the airbase, the officer said, “Our air warriors take pride in operating at these altitudes. Also, the good wishes and support of our countrymen keep them motivated to face the extreme weather conditions.” The Air Force also has deployed the Igla man-portable air defence missiles to tackle any aerial incursion by any adversary aircraft.
The Indian Air Force has been regularly deploying fighter aircraft including the Rafale and MiG-29s to carry out operations in eastern Ladakh where there has been disengagement of troops at two locations including Pangong Tso and Gogra heights but both sides have not de-escalated.
The Chinese have been amassing troops since last year and carried out aggression in the garb of an exercise after which the Indian security forces retaliated in equal measure and checked the Chinese aggression there. The Indian Air Force is also continuing to maintain its assets in Leh along with a massive upgrade of capabilities in the area