- India is now all set to kick off the upgrade of the critical Nyoma advance landing ground (ALG) in eastern Ladakh to ensure it can also handle fighter operations, in the backdrop of China having consolidated all its air bases and military positions during the continuing 33-month military confrontation along the frontier.
- The ₹230 crore upgrade work at Nyoma ALG, which includes extending and strengthening the existing airstrip into a 2. 7-km ‘rigid pavement’ runway for all kinds of fixed-wing aircraft for “defensive as well as offensive operations”,
- With the Nyoma ALG located at an altitude of over13,400-feet, and less than 50-km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, it will take “three working seasons” by the Border Roads Organisation to complete the entire upgrade project that also includes dispersal areas, hangars and other allied infrastructure in the forbidding terrain.
- “So, everything should be ready by mid-2025.”
- Nyoma is already “a major staging area” for the IAF and Army, bridging the crucial gap between Leh airfield around 190-km away and the LAC.
- It has been extensively used for forward deployment of troops and heavy weapon systems like tanks since the multiple Chinese incursions into eastern Ladakh in April-May 2020.
- Heavy-lift Chinook, medium-lift Mi-17 V5 and Apache attack helicopters as well as C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft, which can land at makeshift airstrips, regularly operate from the Nyoma ALG.
- The Army, too, has been practicing airdrops of paratroopers in the high altitude region.
“But there has been a long-felt operational need to make Nyoma capable of handling fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs and Rafales for both defensive and offensive options.
- “Operations from the Leh and Thoise airfields sometimes get disrupted due to bad weather.
- The weather in Nyoma is much better throughout the year.”
- The IAF also has ALGs at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) and Fukche in eastern Ladakh.
- The one at DBO, in particular, overlooks the strategic Karakoram Pass and is just a few km from the LAC and the China-occupied Aksai Chin region beyond.
- There has been a major spike in Chinese air activity all along the 3,488-km long LAC stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh in recent months, with the IAF even scrambling fighters in a precautionary air defence response.
- The upgrade includes extending the existing airstrip into a 2.7-km ‘rigid pavement’ runway for all kinds of fixed-wing aircraft for defensive and offensive operations.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB