The operational capability and reach of the Indian Air Force got a major fillip as IAF is receiving a new airfield in Pasighat in south east Arunachal Pradesh, just 100 km from the border with China.
The refurbished advanced landing ground or ALG at Pasighat will be operational from August 19.
The new Pasighat ALG will allow landing of fighters like the Su-30MKI and heavy lift transport planes like the US-built C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.
According to Group Captain Amit Mahajan, the new ALG not only improves response time, it also increases the IAF’s air operations in the eastern frontier.
The country is also planning to modernize ten more airfields in the east.
This is the fifth forward airfield that has been refurbished and opened up for air operations in recent times.
Recently, India had operationalized one more upgraded ALG Mechuka in Arunachal. Mechuka will be capable of landing larger aircraft like C-130J aircraft. Mechuka was one of the strategic locations during the 1962 Indo-China War. It is 7,000 ft above sea level and approximately 40 km from China.
Earlier this year, the forward airfields in West Siang district and Ziro, Along and Walong were also made operational.
The ALG project at Tawang is expected to be ready by September this year. The start of ALG upgrades at Vijaynagar, meanwhile, is expected to take much longer as there is no proper road connectivity for carrying materials, machinery and manpower.
India and China fought a bitter border engagement in 1962, with Chinese troops penetrating deep into what was then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops. Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030 km unfenced border with China and this borderland is defined by the McMahon Line, a notional boundary that is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Surprisingly, China has never recognised the McMahon Line, claiming 90,000 sq km or almost all of Arunachal Pradesh. This time the Indian Air force has taken the responsibility to step the tempo and balance the theatre of international relations along the border.
In recent years, the IAF opened three ALG in Jammu & Kashmir’s Ladakh region at Daulat Beg Oldi, Fuk Che and Nyoma, close to the Line of Actual Control with China.
The Rs 720-crore project to develop ALGs got an impetus in 2013, when the State government and the forces witnessed massive construction and development on the Chinese side along the 1,080-km border.