Aircraft start using IAF base in Ladakh near China border (Lead, Changing Dateline)

September 18th, 2009 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Sep 18 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) Friday opened a landing ground in the cold desert area of Ladakh near the China border to fixed wing aircraft, and the first plane to land was an AN-32 carrying two senior IAF and army officers.
The Nyoma Advanced Landing Ground in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir was until now being used only by helicopters. Nyoma is 23 km from the border.

At 6.25 a.m., Group Captain S.C. Chatekar touched down on the airstrip, 13,300 feet above sea level, with Western Air Command chief Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne and Indian Army Northern Command chief Lieutenant-General P.C. Bharadwaj on board.

“Helicopters have been landing here, but this is for the first time that a fixed wing aircraft has landed,” an IAF spokesperson said.

The development coincides with reports of Chinese border intrusions. China and India have denied this.

The landing was made possible after “deliberating on all aspects and carrying out aerial and ground reccees and it was concluded that Nyoma could be developed for fixed wing operations as well”, said Col. D.K. Kachari, defence spokesperson in Udhampur, the headquarters of the Northern Command.

The task of developing the landing ground to the standards required for fixed wing aircraft was undertaken by the Engineers Regiment of 14 Corps.

Friday’s successful landing marks the culmination of joint effort by the IAF and Indian Army to enable the air force to operate in the inhospitable terrain of Leh-Ladakh region in support of the army, the IAF spokesperson added.

Nyoma has been developed to connect the remote areas of Ladakh region to the mainland.

“This (air strip) will ensure that movements in the area continue when the road traffic gets affected during the harsh winters,” he added.

It will also improve communication network in the region and facilitate the economical ferrying of supplies besides promoting tourism.

The landing comes just 15 months after an AN-32 landed at the Daulat-Beg-Oldie (DBO), the highest airfield in the world situated at an altitude of 16,200 feet, also in Ladakh region.

The IAF has been upgrading and refurbishing Advanced Landing Grounds along the border with China. India and China fought a war in 1962.

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