Friday, October 1, 2010

Indian Air Force Plans for a New Airbase on Chinese Border

India is responding to China’s disconcerting build-up of roads and railways to the India-Tibet border by stepping up its own ability to project military power. A top Indian Air Force commander has revealed plans for a brand new airbase at Nyoma, in Ladakh, from which IAF fighters could fly missions to the nearby border, where Indian jawans were overwhelmed in 1962 without any fighter support.

This follows New Delhi’s decision in 2008 to station frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters at four IAF bases in northeast India — Tezpur, Bagdogra, Chhabua and Hashimara — close by the Sino-Indian border. A slew of ongoing equipment purchases — e.g the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft; the P8I Poseidon Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft; ultralight howitzers and light tanks for hilly terrain — also beef up India’s abilities against China. A new corps, of some 50,000 troops, the Indian Army’s first manpower increase in decades, will be stationed on the border. And several disused border airfields have been refurbished to allow operations by the IAF’s AN-32 transporters.

But Nyoma will be much more than that. According to Air Marshall N A K Browne, the chief of the IAF’s Western Air Command (WAC), “We shall be able to operate each and every aircraft of the IAF from Nyoma…. Our modern fighters, particularly the Sukhoi-30MKI, are designed to operate from such high altitude airfields. We have forwarded our plan to the MoD and… if we get the go-ahead today, (building Nyoma air base) would take 3-4 years.” 

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