IAF revives world’s highest airstrip after 43 years

June 1st, 2008 - 10:37 am ICT by admin  

Leh (Jammu and Kashmir), May 31 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) Saturday achieved a major strategic feat when it landed an AN-32 aircraft at the Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip - the highest airstrip in the world. The strategic airstrip, in the inhospitable Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir, is located close to the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) with China near the Aksai Chin area.

“History repeated itself when an Indian Air Force fixed wing aircraft (AN-32) landed at DBO, the highest landing airstrip in the world at 6.30 a.m. This is a twin-engine aircraft landing at DBO after a gap of 43 years,” Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Western Air Command, announced.

Regular operations by AN-32 class of aircraft will be initiated in due course of time, Barbora said.

The crew members of the historic flight were Group Capt S.C. Chafekar, Wing Commander M. Aserkar, Wing Commander S. Verma, Wing Commander A. Ray and junior warrant officer R. Verma.

“The advanced landing ground (ALG), where the aircraft landed, has an unpaved surface and is located in the Aksai Chin area at a height of 16,200 feet (4,960 metres) near the strategic Karakoram Pass and very close to the Line of Actual Control with China,” an IAF official said.

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. 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.

The decision to re-activate the airstrip was made earlier this year during Barbora’s visit to forward bases in Ladakh. The army and the IAF got down to repairing the airstrip and completed the job within months.

Landing at DBO will not only enable India to induct troops and improve its communication network, but also help in supplying the troops positioned there.

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