Nyoma advanced landing ground in eastern Ladakh being upgraded to handle fighter jets

The Indian Air Force is also tweaking the engines of fighter jets so that they can be started in high-altitude areas.

Updated - August 13, 2023 12:56 am IST

Published - August 12, 2023 10:28 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Nyoma is located at an altitude of about 13,700 feet and close to the south Bank of Pangong Tso. It is very close to the LAC in eastern Ladakh.  File image of Nyoma Advanced Landing Ground. Photo: Special Arrangement

Nyoma is located at an altitude of about 13,700 feet and close to the south Bank of Pangong Tso. It is very close to the LAC in eastern Ladakh.  File image of Nyoma Advanced Landing Ground. Photo: Special Arrangement

As part of the continuing infrastructure development along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), work on the expansion of the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Nyoma in eastern Ladakh commenced this week, defence sources confirmed. It will see the runway expanded to beyond 9,000 feet, making it capable of handling fighter jets. In addition, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is also tweaking the engines of fighter jets so that they can be started in high-altitude areas, a defence source said.

“The ground-breaking ceremony was held early this week and it is expected to take two or three years for completion due to limited working seasons,” a defence source said. The concrete runway will be extended to 9,000 feet-10,000 feet and will be able to handle all fighter aircraft

Nyoma is located at an altitude of about 13,700 feet and close to the south Bank of Pangong Tso. It is very close to the LAC in eastern Ladakh.

The IAF also has airfields in Leh and Thoise and ALGs at Daulat Beg-Oldie (DBO) and Fukche. However, the Leh and Thoise airfields are located much inside and officials with knowledge of the area said that weather at Nyoma is much more stable compared with the other two airfields, enabling seamless operations.

At the height of the stand-off in 2020, the IAF moved its Mi-17 medium lift, CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Nyoma for supporting troops deployed in forward areas as well as for surveillance and intelligence gathering.

In addition, to overcome the challenges faced by fighter jets in starting at high-altitude airfields, the engines are being tweaked to enable them to start at extremely low temperatures. The region has temperatures plummetting to -40 degrees Celsius during winter, officials said. This is being done all across as required, the source cited above said.

For instance, the Army which had deployed tanks and artillery at 15,000 feet had to come up with solutions to keep the equipment functioning in the extreme conditions. The K9 Vajra tracked self-propelled howitzers, which were mainly brought for deserts, were deployed in eastern Ladakh during the stand-off. To ensure that they performed optimally, the Army procured winterisation kits which includes nine items, including batteries, oils and lubricants which need to be insulated from extreme temperatures and don’t freeze at -20 degrees Celsius and beyond.

In the past three years, China has upgraded all its airfields in this area as well as built new ones as part of the overall construction drive being undertaken along the 3,488-km-long LAC, permanently altering the status quo. The infrastructure includes dual use airfields, roads, accommodation for troops, ammunition dumps and so.

In addition, China has also upgraded roads opposite eastern Ladakh as well as strengthened alternate approaches around its Moldo garrison opposite the south Bank of Pangong Tso as part of efforts to reduce its vulnerabilities as seen in August 2020 when the Indian Army deployed tanks and troops on mountain peaks in the Kailash range overlooking the gap.

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