The Indian Air Force has intensified its Combat Air Patrols (CAP) in Ladakh in the last few days following the LAC faceoff with China that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
Residents of Leh say that these days they are waking up to the noise of IAF fighter jets flying overhead and increased sorties of transport aircraft and helicopters.
Fighter aircraft have been stationed at advance air bases in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Punjab and Haryana and the CAPs ensure that the IAF maintains a credible deterrence in the skies.
IAF sources said that the Chinese have bolstered the presence of offensive air platforms at their airfields in Tibet. “The Chinese have also brought in air defence elements at various locations where the standoff is taking place. We have our counter-measures in place and fly CAPs as per the demand of the situation,” a senior IAF official said.
People in Leh recall that May-July 1999, the months of the Kargil War, was the last time Leh’s Kushok Bakula Rimpoche airport saw such air activity.
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A retired honorary captain of Ladakh Scouts, Tashi Chhepal, a Vir Chakra awardee of Kargil War, is settled in Leh. “It was in 1999 that Leh airport saw this kind of an aerial activity since the air force it as its base during the Kargil War. Otherwise, the city of Leh is very calm and quiet. For the last couple of months, tourists were also not coming due to coronavirus. The roads are deserted, pin-drop silence prevails in the evenings,” he says.
“In 1962, our Air Force was not as strong as it is today. From the kind of fighter jet sorties, one thing is quite evident, that if need be, our Air Force will provide full support to our Army in the Galwan valley or any other place as and when required, and we shall give a befitting reply to the enemy,” he adds.
Tsering Wangchuk, a teacher at Tibetan Children’s Village in Leh, says, “The manner in which fighter jets and choppers are doing sorties every morning, people of the city are fearful. But people of Ladakh are extremely brave and patriotic. The noise of fighter jets also gives confidence that we are absolutely safe.”
He adds, “Earlier, only a few domestic flights would land at the airport. These days, the airport is almost filled with IAF jets and choppers.”
A major concern for the IAF is keeping an eye not only on the situation in eastern Ladakh but also along the Line of Control with Pakistan. The Skardu air base in Gilgit-Baltistan area, for example, is very close.
“We are seized of all these issues. And we are well prepared to deal with them. There is no cause for any alarm,” a senior officer said.
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