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India to activate airfield near China border

Ajit K Dubey in New Delhi | November 13, 2008 18:23 IST

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After Daulat Beg Oldi and Fuk Che airfields in Ladakh, India is aggressively pursuing plans to re-open the Nyama Advanced Landing Ground for Indian Air Force's operations close to the Line of Actual Control with China.

However, the IAF plans to reopen the Chu Shul ALG in the region have been shelved for the moment, but could be revived later.

"We are working on the Nyama ALG and hopefully it would be open for fixed wing aircraft operations soon. Work has already commenced there and we will be using it in the near future," Western Air Command (WAC) chief Air Marshal Pranab Kumar Barbora told PTI in ENw Delhi [Images] on Thursday.

"If the government wants, Nyama ALG can be developed into a proper airfield and can be used for transport aircraft operations also," he said.

When Nyama gets ready, it will be IAF's 3rd ALG in Ladakh to be reopened nearer to the Chinese and Pakistani borders in the last six months in the region of Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

The IAF has been reopening airfields to strengthen its air maintenance operations and promotion of tourism in the region, which is the gateway to the highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier.

"IAF had received a request from the government to see if it can develop airfields in the region for tourism purpose. We found that reopening these airfields was possible and could be used for air maintenance operations also," Barbora said.

The IAF is not going to reactivate the Chu Shul airfield in the near future, as was being speculated.
 
"We will not be opening the Chushul airfield now. The Army does not want air maintenance in that area, as their trucks can move up to the area for supplies," he said.

When IAF reopened Daulat Beg Oldi in May this year, Barbora had flown by an AN-32 transport aircraft to make the first touch down at the DBO.

Fuk Che was also opened for AN-32 aircraft operations late last month.

The AN-32 is the only fixed wing aircraft in the IAF inventory. This 10-tonne aircraft can operate from these airfields, as it was possible to load and unload passengers and relief material on to the cargo area without switching off its engines. Such a luxury does not exist on the IL-76 50-tonne heavy-lift aircraft with its four engines.

Aircraft operating from the region cannot afford to switch-off their engines, as restarting them would be an impossible task at such high altitudes.

IAF believes that after the arrival of C-130J 'Hercules', which will join the IAF inventory from 2011, operations from the ALGs would become more effective, as these aircraft with around 20-tonne carrying capability, can land and take-off from very short runways.

"The C-130J will be the ideal aircraft for the IAF to operate from these ALGs as they can fly with more loads," Barbora said.

Till now, IAF has transported more than eight tonnes of load to two functional ALGs and brought back six tonnes of load from there.


"We have also carried 35 passengers from these ALGs in the recent months," Barbora added.




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