New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has played a crucial role in the ongoing stand-off with China at Ladakh, deploying its fighters and attack helicopters in the area besides helping airlift thousands of additional soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to the border.
The IAF has also been showing off its night-flying capability in the high-altitude area, with fighter jets like the MiG-29 and the Sukhoi-30, and the Apache AH-64E attack helicopters carrying out round-the-clock flying. The CH-47F (I) Chinook heavy-lift, multi-role helicopters have also been part of the exercise.
Air activities in the Ladakh area and other places near the China border have gone up extensively since tensions erupted along the western sector of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) early May.
“The transport fleet of the IAF — AN32, C-130J and C-17 — have carried out numerous missions bringing in men and equipment into the region,” a source in the defence establishment said. “The Apache helicopters have also been stationed in Ladakh along with the Chinooks, which have been used for faster mobility of men and equipment in the area.”
The C-130J, sources said, has also been flown to advance landing grounds (ALGs) in Ladakh to facilitate the faster induction of men and material in forward areas.
The equipment inducted with the help of the IAF include additional T-90 tanks. While most of these tanks reached Ladakh by road, some were airlifted on an immediate basis.
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Boosting winter stocks
The IAF is also being used to bolster winter stocks for the thousands of additional personnel stationed in area — the stocks are meant to ease sustenance through the snowy winter season.
Since mid-May, India has deployed additional troops and equipment in Ladakh to counter Chinese aggression along the LAC. On 2 June, ThePrint reported that the Army had moved in about two additional division strength-level forces to the region. Sources said these numbers have now increased further.
The additional deployment includes regular combat air patrols, and a host of surveillance operations, including by intelligence agencies and the Navy’s P8I aircraft.
The Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft, which carried out the Balakot air strikes last year, have been moved to bases near the Ladakh region from their base in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. This has been done to ensure they can reach Ladakh within minutes of taking off.
News agency ANI has been given access by the IAF to its base in Ladakh and it has released videos showcasing the force’s display of night-flying capabilities.
“Night operations have an inherent element of surprise. The Indian Air Force is fully trained and ready to undertake an entire spectrum of operations in any environment with the help of modern platforms and highly motivated personnel,” Group Captain A. Rathi, posted at the base, has been quoted as saying by ANI.
The IAF has also ramped up its air defence capabilities in Ladakh with the deployment of additional indigneous and Israeli systems.
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