October 3, 2008 7:56:09 pm
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With incidents of transgressions on the unresolved Sino-Indian border on a high, India is set to reopen another strategic airfield in Eastern Ladakh that will allow rapid induction of troops to the region.
Work on reviving the Fukche Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), situated at an altitude of 4,200 m barely three kilometers away from the Line of Actual Control, is almost complete and the first fixed wing aircraft is expected to land at the airbase within a month.
The army, which is keen to reactivate the airbase that is currently only used as a helicopter landing ground, is working full steam to complete the surfacing works at Fuckhe before the snow sets in. The airfield, which was out to use during the 1962 war, will be reactivated after a gap of almost four decades.
The airbase will consist of an unpaved surface (kutcha strip) and will be able to accommodate the AN 32 medium lift aircraft of the Indian Air Force. Once reactivated, it will be the second highest landing field in the world.
“Work on the landing ground is almost complete and we hope to finish it within a few days. The strip will be prepared for landings by fixed wing transport aircrafts,” a senior Army officer said.
Air Marshal PK Barbora, Commander in Chief of the Western Air Command, confirmed to The Indian Express that the air force would start trial flights on the refurbished airbase as soon as strengthening works are complete.
The officer said that the landing ground could be used for humanitarian relief works and evacuation in case of natural calamities in the region. “The Army is working on the airfield. They should probably be ready in a month’s time. Once work is complete, the air force would perform trials on the landing ground,” the senior officer said.
The reopening of the Fuckche airbase comes months after the Daulat Beg Oldie airfield, situated in the same region near the Karakoram pass, was reactivated by the air force in May, 2008. DBO, as it is known, is the highest airbase in the world and was reactivated for maintaining supplies to troops posted on the border.
However, the third major airfield in Ladakh along the Sino-India border, the Chushul advanced landing ground, which is located at a height of over 5,000 m, will not be reactivated in the near future. A senior army officer said that reopening the Chushul airbase is yet on the MoD’s agenda.
India has been reviving a series of advanced landing grounds and helicopter bases along the Sino India border from Ladakh down to the North East. The armed forces have carried out status reports on reactivating these airbases after directive from the PMO on the feasibility of using them for prompting tourism as well as improving the army’s reach along the border.
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