Achievement qualifies for the world record for the highest landing by an aircraft of this class, it says

The Indian Air Force on Tuesday landed its C-130J Super Hercules transport plane at the world’s highest and recently-activated airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in Ladakh, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where Indian and Chinese troops had witnessed a three-week long stand-off in April.

In what appeared to be a subtle but strong message to China, the IAF demonstrated its ability to use the heavy-lift aircraft to induct troops, supplies, improve communication network and also serve as a morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned at such heights in Ladakh region.

“A C-130J Super Hercules landed at DBO, the highest airstrip in the world at 0654 hours on Tuesday. The Commanding Officer, Group Captain Tejbir Singh, and the crew of the ‘Veiled Vipers’ along with senior officer touched down on the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area,’’ the IAF said in a statement.

“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 sustenance in these higher and inhospitable areas,’’ the IAF said.

The aircraft of the special operations squadron is capable of undertaking quick deployment of forces in all weather conditions, including airdrops, besides landing on unprepared or semi-prepared surfaces.

“This achievement qualifies for the world record for the highest landing by an aircraft of this class,’’ the IAF said. Incidentally, this was the same aircraft and crew that operated at Dharasu during ‘Op Rahat’ for the Uttarakhand flood relief.

The IAF reactivated the airfield in 2008 with the landing of an Antonov-32 there from Chandigarh. The airstrip was last put to use in the 1965 war with Pakistan.

“Once again this strategic base in the Northern Himalayas gained importance 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 [in 2008],’ the IAF said.

The DBO sector saw about 50 Chinese soldiers crossing the LAC and setting up a remote camp in Depsang plains in April. The stand-off ended when both sides agreed on May 6 to pull their forces back to positions held before the confrontation in the highly strategic region that abuts the Karakoram Highway joining Pakistan to China. As LAC is not yet demarcated, both sides have differences in their perception, leading to patrols often entering into each other’s territory.

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