New Delhi, November 17
When the Indian Air Force (IAF) on November 15 was asked to ferry a specialised boring machine for the rescue of people trapped inside an under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand, it had two challenges — the unused advanced landing ground (ALG) at Dharasu needed to be cleared of shrubs and vegetation, and the landing strip was declared ‘unfeasible’ for operations in an earlier assessment.
Dharasu, at an altitude of some 3,000 feet, is 30 km from tunnel collapse site and is on an important route to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The mission needed to be swift. The IAF launched its special operation platform C-130J Super Hercules. An IAF helicopter picked up a C-130J pilot to access obstructions and runway condition. The copter pilot flew multiple approaches to arrive at what would be best path for the C-130J to take as it descended into the valley.
The entire mission hinged upon the fitness of the ALG and the successful landing of the 27-tonne equipment on the short runway in three sorties over five hours. On ground, the Border Roads Organisation and civil administration started clearing the runway of shrubs and any vegetation.
The challenge of offloading a boring machine needs a cargo unloading ramp. Since Dharasu has no landing aids or ground equipment, a mud ramp was created immediately. The pilots adopted a calculated approach on stopping the plane within the short runway. But before the daring landing was executed, the IAF took a call on operationalising the ALG keeping in mind the criticality of mission to save the lives of those trapped. Meanwhile, the IAF said today it had continued with its operations to assist the ongoing tunnel rescue at Dharasu. An IAF C-17, much bigger than the C-130J used in November 15 operations, was deployed to airlift almost 22 tonne of critical equipment from Indore to Dehradun. The equipment is en route to Dharasu.
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