In a achievement that carries strategic significance for Indian defence forces, the Indian Air Force (IAF), on Tuesday, landed a C-130J "Super Hercules" tactical airlift aircraft at the rudimentary airstrip in Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) in eastern Ladakh in the Himalayan range.
Indian troops have frequently faced-off against the much well-equipped and backed-up Chinese army, in the region. The strategic importance of the landing can be gauged from Indian media reports which termed the landing operation as the country "flexing its muscles."
Strategic Morale Booster
This landing by the IAF is definitely a strategic morale booster for Indian troops in forward positions. It comes at a time when a number of incursions by China in Ladakh have been reported. Chinese troops regularly resort to tactics like preventing Indian army personnel from patrolling posts in this sector along the border.
Daulat Beg Oldi(DBO) sector in Ladakh where the "Super Hercules" landed on Tuesday, is the place where Chinese military vehicles were spotted in April this year. It had led to a 21-day stand-off between the two countries.
World's Highest Advanced Landing Ground
Reports said that the "Super Hercules" landed at an altitude of 16,614-feet, on an "unprepared, compacted airstrip" at DBO. It is the highest such advanced landing ground (ALG) in the world. More importantly, it overlooks the strategic Karakoram Pass and is just about 7km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which is the effective border between India and China and the China-occupied Aksai Chin region beyond.
"The significant capability demonstration by the C-130J underlines that troops and supplies can be ferried to the border on the double if required," the Times of India reported quoting an officer, whose name it did not mention.
Another leading newspaper, Hindustan Times said, the landing is "expected to trigger unease in Beijing," which has been "deeply suspicious" of the re-activation of advance landing grounds (ALGs) by the IAF in the Ladakh sector in recent years. It said that the IAF has re-activated at least three ALGs during the last five years for quicker deployment of Indian troops and logistics support if hostilities were to break out.
The DBO airstrip was reactivated in May 2008, followed by the ALGs at Fukche (13,000 feet, 3 km from the LAC) in November 2008 and Nyoma (13,300 feet, 23 km from the LAC) in September 2009. The airstrips had been out of use for more than 43 years after the 1962 India-China war. China has demanded the de-activation of airstrips at DBO and Fukche.
India signed a $1.2 billion contract with the US in 2008 for buying six C-130 J planes. The IAF now plans to place a follow-on order for six additional C-130Js.
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