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The Tribune special: Strategic Leh airbase to get second runway

The Tribune special: Strategic Leh airbase to get second runway


Tribune News Service

Vijay Mohan

Chandigarh, June 10

Boosting its operational capability in the northern sector, the IAF is constructing a second runway at the strategic Leh airbase in Ladakh to cater to increasing military and civilian air traffic as well as ensure continuity of operations in case of hostilities along the border. Work on the project is underway, according to sources.

“Military as well as civilian flights at Leh have increased significantly over the past few years, but the window of operations for aircraft remains limited to morning hours due to rarified air and climatic conditions,” an officer said.

Earlier, civilian flight were few while military operations were largely restricted to transport aircraft and helicopters. Now, with the prevailing situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), operations by fighter aircraft as well as attack helicopters have increased manifold. Different fighter aircraft, including the Rafale, MiG-29, Su-30 and Apache, from other bases regularly operate from Leh on a rotational basis.

“Air traffic to and from Leh is expected to increase further and the need for an additional runway was being felt for some time to ensure uninterrupted operations,” he said. “There was also an incident last year when a stranded C-17 blocked the runway for two days. Such a situation could be disastrous during any volatile situation along the LAC as it would hold up combat as well as logistical missions,” he added.

The Leh airbase is critical to maintaining India’s military posture along the LAC and Siachen. C-17, IL-76 and Chinook heavy lifters as well as smaller aircraft like the AN-32 maintain a constant air bridge to the 10,000-foot-high base, ferrying in troops, supplies, weapons and equipment. This assumes greater significance in the winters, when the road link to that region is cut off due to snow. The airfield to the north, with a paved runway, along with landing grounds at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fukche and the recently upgraded Nyoma airstrip complement the task.

Leh, capable of sustaining night operations by fighters and transporters, would be the first high-altitude airbase in India to have dual runways. Some IAF stations in other parts of the country like Jamnagar, Agra, Gwalior, Tambram, Bidar, Dundigal and Kochi as well as a couple of naval airbases like Kochi and Vishakapatnam have two runways.

On the other side, a few Chinese airbases located in Tibet have multiple runways. Hotan, a dual civil-military airport in northwest China, about 360 km from Leh, has two paved runways. Shigaste and Changdu Bangda in the eastern theatre have similar capabilities. According to reports, China has been upgrading its airbases in Tibet over the past few years, with satellite imagery revealing new facilities and infrastructure.

Air traffic to increase

Air traffic to and from Leh is expected to increase further and the need for an additional runway was being felt for some time to ensure uninterrupted operations. — An officer

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Indian Air Force #Ladakh #Leh


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