As part of efforts to build up military infrastructure along the border with China, the IAF today said it plans to develop a fighter aircraft base at Nyoma in Ladakh and is upgrading seven airfields for carrying out 24X7 operations in the northeast. The service is also considering extending the runway length and upgrading the Kargil airfield close to the Line of Control with Pakistan, its chief NAK Browne .
"Nyoma is an important location for both the Army and the IAF in the south east of Ladakh where we have good weather all round the year. The cost of developing the air base would be around Rs 2,173 crore and it will take 4-5 years to develop it," he said, addressing the 81st Air Force Day press conference here.
Browne said the proposal for developing the Nyoma air field was mooted in 2010 with the landing of an An-32 transport aircraft there. It is right now with the Finance Ministry and is expected to be taken up by the Cabinet next month, he said. "All types of aircraft including fighters, helicopters and transport aircraft would be able capable of being deployed and operated from there," he said. Browne said the airbase, located at an altitude of around 13,000 feet, is lower in height than the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Daulat Beg Oldie but was higher than the air bases in Leh and Thoise.
The IAF had recently created a record of sorts by landing its C-130J Special Operations aircraft at the DBO ALG, which is situated at an altitude of over 16,000 feet and is close to Depsang Valley where Chinese troops had infiltrated and pitched the tents for 21 days earlier this year.
On the development of the seven ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh, Browne said, "About Rs 720 crore have been released for these seven air fields and work started last week. These would be ready for operations in next two or two-and-a-half years (by 2016-17). They would be able to take (transport) aircraft such as C-130J and An-32. These airfields will have capability to operate day and night."
The IAF has been working on developing its capabilities at several places in the northeast especially Arunachal Pradesh and had identified landing grounds at places including Mechuka, Tuting, Pasighat, Along and Walong. It has been upgrading its strength in the northeastern region and has deployed frontline aircraft such as Su-30MKI in places such as Tezpur and Chhabua in Assam. The force is also upgrading the infrastructure at its air fields to enable them to operate and deploy all types of aircraft in its inventory.
To a query on China, Browne said the Prime Minister was going there in the third or fourth week of this month and the two sides are discussing the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA). He said once BDCA comes to force, it will provide much better understanding for maintaining peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Browne, without making a reference to any particular country, said his force would ensure air dominance in case of hostilities.