India to upgrade landing ground near China into full air base

Last Updated: Friday, October 1, 2010 - 19:25

New Delhi: India will upgrade IAF`s Nyoma
advanced landing ground (ALG) in Ladakh into a full-fledged
air base closer to the borders with China to deploy its
top-notch fighter jets including the Sukhois there.

The proposal for modernising the compact airstrip at
Nyoma, just 23 km from Line of Actual Control (LAC) with
China, has gone to the Defence Ministry for approval, IAF`s
Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N A K Browne told a
press conference here today.

"Nyoma ALG is to be expanded into a major base and a
proposal in this regard has been sent to the government. It is
being currently examined actively by the Defence Ministry. If
the approval comes today, it would take about four years to
get it ready as a major base," Browne said.

"When we look at developing a base, in our view we have
to be able to operate each and every platform of the Air Force
at that base. It will not be confined to one or two types of
aircraft alone," he said to a query if Sukhois could be
deployed there permanently.

"We have to be able to operate (from Nyoma) fully with
all our capabilities....so fighter aircraft is part of the air
force inventory," he said, explaining that all modern fighter
planes of the IAF fleet were capable of operating from the
13,300-feet altitude airbase.

IAF had activated Nyoma in September last year when an
AN-32 medium lift transport aircraft landed on the hitherto
unused airstrip.

Defence Minister A K Antony had this June visited Nyoma
to inspect the infrastructure development activities that are
currently going on in the ALG.

In the last two years, IAF has activated three such
airstrips. The other two ALG activated in 2008 are Daulat Beg
Oldi at 16,200-feet altitude and Fukche at 13,000 feet much
closer to the LAC.

Though the IAF had claimed that the activation of the
three airstrips was for providing transport link to remote
parts of Ladakh to promote tourism, it is a well-known fact
that the ALGs enhance the armed forces` capability to lift
troops to the LAC much faster now.

However, Browne said no other ALGs would be developed any
time soon, including Chushul in Ladakh that was being
considered earlier.

Browne said Nyoma would provide the IAF an option for
basing its potent aircraft in Ladakh region apart from Leh air
base.

Nyoma was, in fact, a better option for deployment of
fighter jets due to the weather and wind conditions there, he
noted.

Browne said the Nyoma air base, as also Daulat Beg Oldi,
would be capable of handling modern transport aircraft
including the C-130Js bought from the US for Indian special
forces and the C-17s for which orders have been placed with
the Americans.

India is getting six C-130Js beginning next year, of
which two would be based at the Hindon air base in Ghaziabad
closer to the capital where infrastructure development works
are on the verge of completion. It has also placed orders for
10 C-17 heavy transport aircraft with the US this year.

Asked if India not signing the Communications
Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA)
with the US would impact the quality of technology that would
come with the C-130Js and C-17s, Browne said the systems that
IAF would get would be the latest, even without CISMOA, for
which negotiations were going on between the two sides.

"It (not signing CISMOA) does not limit us. We can
exploit the platform in any way we want to," he asserted.

Regarding China upgrading military infrastructure in
Tibet, the Air Marshal said India kept a close watch on the
developments, be it change in platforms, radars, sensors and
missiles that were based closer to its borders, and its impact
on the nation`s security.

He said it was not just China`s, but any other
neighbour`s change of plans in terms of its military
deployments and infrastructure would be factored into India`s
security set up.

Asked if the IAF too was planning and changing its
doctrines to factor in the two-front war against China and
Pakistan as the Army was said to be doing, the Western Air
Command Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief said the Air Force
could not ignore the threats from both sides of the borders.

"We have both West and East borders. I cannot just focus
on just one side and ignore the other. We have factored in all
such scenario," he added.

Browne said IAF was also improving its air defence
measures along both the borders in Jammu and Kashmir region by
deploying more imported light-weight low-level radars.

He said a few radars were already in place in the
mountainous terrains, but three more imported radars were in
the process of being put in place in the next two to three
months.

The IAF, he said, was also buying some indigenous
light-weight radars to be deployed in the region to have a
robust air defence sensors system. "In the next two years, we
will have enough sensors in that region," he added.

-PTI



First Published: Friday, October 1, 2010 - 19:25

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