You go from branch to branch, I will go from leaf to leaf… India will give a befitting reply to China on LAC, will keep an eye from a height of 10 thousand feet

Ananya Shroff
8 Min Read

New Delhi: The Indian Army is preparing to give a befitting reply to the cunning China on every front. A new runway is being built at Leh Air Base in Ladakh. This is the same airfield where there have been many clashes between the armies of India and China in the last few years. Now a second runway is being built here. This airfield is very important for continuing military activities on the India-China border i.e. LAC and Siachen. This airbase is suitable for fighter planes and air force planes carrying goods to fly even at night. Since the relations with China deteriorated, aircraft like Rafale, MiG-29, Sukhoi-30 and Apache are flying regularly from this airbase.

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The country's first airbase with two runways at such a height

In the harsh winter, when all the roads in the area are closed, this air base remains the only means of transporting troops and essential goods. Located at an altitude of 10 thousand feet, Leh will be the first high-altitude air base in the country to have two runways. In 2020, 68 thousand soldiers and tanks were airlifted from this air base to strengthen India's position in the eastern region, which proved to be very important for the region. A newspaper quoted an official as saying that in the last few years, the number of military and civilian flights at Leh Air Base has increased significantly, but due to the weather and environment here, the flight time is limited to a few hours in the morning.

India is developing infrastructure near LAC

Satellite images released in April 2024 showed that massive infrastructure development is being carried out at the important Chabua Air Base under the Eastern Command near the China border. Large-scale development and construction work can be seen at the air base in these pictures. Satellite images show work on the construction of additional taxiways, robust shelters for fighter jets and underground weapons depots. Additional runways and taxiways could help in smooth running of air operations in case the standoff with China turns into a war. The pictures also show an elevated taxiway that could be used for drones.

The contract for the project was awarded in 2020

The contract for the development of air base infrastructure was awarded in 2020 itself, but due to increasing tension with China, it was included in the fast-moving project. Under the Modernization of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project costing Rs 1200 crore with Tata Power SED (TPSED), 37 airfields of the Air Force, Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard will be developed.

The runway work will be completed this year

The construction of a 2.7 kilometer long runway at Nyoma Air Base in Ladakh, just 23 kilometers from the China border, will be completed in October 2024. The new 13,700 feet long runway will further strengthen the Air Force's operations in the region. The infrastructure being built at Nyoma Air Base includes aircraft parking sheds (hangars), air traffic control and paved paths (where vehicles and aircraft can park), all of which will be ready by the end of 2025.

This airbase was also useful in 2020

The Nyoma airstrip was operational in 1962, the year when a small bloody conflict took place between India and China. The airstrip fell into disuse soon after the war, but was restored after an AN-32 aircraft landed there in 2009. Since then, C-130J Super Hercules aircraft have been flying from the airstrip. At the peak of the standoff with China in 2020, the IAF had sent its medium-capacity Mi-17 helicopters, heavy-capacity CH-47F Chinook helicopters and attack AH-64E Apache helicopters to Nyoma to support troop deployment and help in surveillance and intelligence gathering.

India is ready to compete with China in infrastructure

China has been strengthening its air force near the LAC since the clash in the Galwan Valley in 2020. According to a report, satellite images have shown that at least six J-20 fighter jets have been deployed at China's Shigatse Air Force Station. This station is located just 150 kilometers from the LAC. The satellite images were taken by Planet Labs on May 27. In these pictures, apart from six J-20 aircraft, at least eight J-10 aircraft and a KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft can also be seen at the Shigatse Air Force Station. This station is located near the eastern sector of the LAC.

China has also deployed fighter jets near the border

The deployment of J-20 aircraft at Shigatse Peace Airport is significant. The airport is located less than 300 km from Hashimara Air Force Station in West Bengal, where the Indian Air Force's Rafale fighter jets are deployed. Military experts have raised concerns over the deployment of so many fighter jets near the border. Unlike China, India does not have any fifth-generation fighter aircraft yet. Shigatse airfield is located in the central part of the China-India border and is the closest airport to the disputed area of ​​the 2017 Doklam standoff. In 2017, China also built a new 3,000-meter-long auxiliary runway along the existing runway there, which also includes seven helipads. It is worth noting that the new runway is not parallel to the old runway but at a different angle.

Development is also being done at other airbases

Apart from this, China has also started a second runway at the airport located in Hotan region (Xinjiang region). Additional taxiways, sheds for aircraft parking and other infrastructure have been constructed here. A surface-to-air missile (SAM) system is being developed 5 km southeast of the main area of ​​the airport, which will further strengthen the air security of the airport and surrounding areas.

Not 1-2 but 37 airbases and helipads are being built

According to the China Power Project of the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China is developing dozens of airports and heliports in its western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China Power has identified 37 airports and heliports within Tibet and Xinjiang that have been built or developed since 2017 (when China and India were locked in a 73-day standoff on the Doklam plateau). These new airports also fill large areas along the Indian border where there were no airports before. This will give the PLAAAF new bases to project air power against India.

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