IAF aircraft lands at a forward base on India-China border

November 4th, 2008 - 8:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) An Indian Air Force (IAF) transport aircraft Tuesday landed at a high altitude air base on the line of actual control (LAC) that serves as the de-facto border between India and China.The AN-32 aircraft landed at the Fukche airbase in eastern Ladakh, 2.5 km from the LAC, even as IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali H. Major is on a visit to China and Chinese Navy chief Wu Sheng Li is on his maiden visit to India to give impetus to military ties between the two countries.

“We wanted to assert our capability so that we can operate at those altitudes in case a need arises during a natural calamity or otherwise,” Western Air Command Chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora told IANS.

The opening of Fukche airbase has come at a time when there has been a new found thaw in the relations between India and China, who fought a brief but bloody war in 1962.

Defence sources said that the strategic airstrip is located at 13,500 feet and would help in maintaining the supply chain for the troops posted in the area.

“The region (eastern Ladakh) lies in seismic belt prone to earthquakes. We have also learnt our lessons from China. We will need to land these aircraft at the base during natural calamities and for casualty evacuation,” Barbora said.

While landing at the Fukche airbase, the AN-32s will be pushed to their operational limits as these transport aircraft do not operate at such high altitudes.

“Also in the coming time tourism in the region will increase and we need air support for that,” Barbora added.

In May this year, the IAF landed a fixed wing aircraft at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the highest airstrip in the world at a height of 16,200 feet, after 43 years.

DBO is an important army forward area post on the ancient silk route to China. This base was built during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962.

The C119 packet aircraft of the IAF operated from DBO between 1962 and 1965. In 1966, an earthquake caused some loosening of the surface soil, making this base unfit for further fixed wing aircraft operations.

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