IAF lands C-130J-30 Su­per Her­cules at Daulat Beg Oldie

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - By SP’s Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

In a sig­nif­i­cant ca­pa­bil­ity demon­stra­tion move by the In­dian Air Force (IAF), a Lock­heed Martin C-130J-30 Su­per Her­cules air­craft landed at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the high­est airstrip in the world at 0654 hours on Au­gust 20. The Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer, Group Cap­tain Te­jbir Singh and the crew of the “Veiled Vipers” along with se­nior of­fi­cers from Air Head­quar­ters touched down on the DBO airstrip lo­cated at 16,614 feet (5,065 me­tres) in the Ak­sai Chin area af­ter tak­ing off from their home base at Hin­don.

DBO is an im­por­tant Army for­ward area post which links the an­cient silk route to China. The base was built dur­ing the In­doChina con­flict in 1962 and came into promi­nence when Packet air­craft of the IAF op­er­ated from DBO be­tween 1962 and 1965. The strate­gic base in the North­ern Hi­malayas had gained im­por­tance yet again when it was res­ur­rected and re­ac­ti­vated by the IAF along with the In­dian Army and made op­er­a­tional when a twin-engine An-32 air­craft from Chandi­garh landed there af­ter a gap of 43 years.

Ac­cord­ing to the IAF, con­sid­er­ing the very limited load car­ry­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of An-32 and helicopters, a de­ci­sion was taken by it to land the C130J-30 air­craft which is ca­pa­ble of lift­ing up to 20 tonnes of load. “With this en­hanced air­lift ca­pa­bil­ity, the IAF will now be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to meet the re­quire­ments of our land forces who are heav­ily de­pen­dent on the air bridge for sus­tainence in th­ese higher and in­hos­pitable ar­eas.”

“The tac­ti­cal air­lift air­craft of the spe­cial op­er­a­tions squadron, the Veiled Vipers, which is ca­pa­ble of un­der­tak­ing quick de­ploy­ment of forces in all weather con­di­tions, in­clud­ing air­drops and land­ings on un­pre­pared or semi-pre­pared sur­faces cre­ated his­tory by land­ing at this al­ti­tude and hos­tile ter­rain con­di­tions. This achieve­ment qual­i­fies for the world record for the high­est land­ing by an air­craft of this class. In­ci­den­tally, this was the same air­craft and crew that op­er­ated at Dha­rasu dur­ing “Op­er­a­tion Ra­hat” for the Ut­tarak­hand flood re­lief.

“To­day’s achieve­ment will en­able the forces to ex­ploit the in­her­ent ad­vanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the air­craft by in­creased ca­pa­bil­ity to in­duct troops, im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work and also serve as a great morale booster for main­te­nance of troops po­si­tioned there. It is also a pro­jec­tion of the fact that the IAF is ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing in such in­hos­pitable ter­rain in sup­port of the In­dian Army,” said the IAF com­mu­niqué.

SP’s Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent com­ments: “With an IAF C-130J Su­per Her­cules from 77 Squadron ‘ Veiled Vipers’ touch­ing down at Daulat Beg Oldie ad­vance land­ing ground, the scene is set for the next phase of mod­erni­sa­tion of the vin­tage air­field, be­ing used only at a frac­tion of what it can of­fer. Top sources now say the next step could be to land the IAF’s new ‘big boy’, the C-17 Globe­mas­ter III at DBO. For that to hap­pen, the air­field will need to be ex­tended mod­er­ately. While the IAF has given up on plans to ac­ti­vate the Fukche land­ing ground in Ladakh, it in­tends to spruce both DBO and Ny­oma for full-scale op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing fight­ers and heavy trans­ports. Since 2008, the DBO air­field has been a lo­gis­tics node, re­ceiv­ing mostly helicopters from Leh on air main­te­nance duty for troops de­ployed on the line of ac­tual con­trol with China. Bei­jing had taken strong ex­cep­tion to the land­ing of an IAF An-32 at DBO in 2008, and is likely to show some con­ster­na­tion at the C-130J land­ing there as well. That be­ing said, the IAF has not re­ceived the man­date to ac­ti­vate its land­ing grounds and de­velop them into full-fledged air force sta­tions. The suc­cess­ful land­ing of a C-130J at DBO also bring in a mea­sure of con­fi­dence and re­as­sur­ance for troops de­ployed in the most hos­tile ter­rains on earth. The fact that C-130J is kit­ted out as a Spe­cial Forces ve­hi­cle is also likely to raise eye­brows across the bor­der.”

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