Ladakh: Months after stand-off with PLA troops in Daulat Beg Oldie, India on Tuesday sent out a message to China by operating medium-lift C-130J transport plane there, marking a giant leap in capacity to ferry troops and supplies to Line of Actual Control.
The Super Hercules transport plane landed at the world's highest and recently-activated Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip in Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.
Significantly, the landing took place on a day when India and China held strategic dialogue after a gap of three years where they discussed the recent spate of incursions and ways to maintain peace along the LAC.
The achievement will enable the armed forces to use the medium-lift aircraft to induct troops and supplies in larger number, improve communication network and also serve as a morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned there.
"A C-130J Super Hercules landed at DBO, the highest airstrip in the world at 0654 hours today. The Commanding Officer and the crew of the 'Veiled Vipers' along with senior officers touched down on the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area," the IAF said in a statement.
The airfield was reactivated by the IAF in 2008 with the landing of an Antonov-32 aircraft there from Chandigarh after it was last used in the 1965 war with Pakistan.
In April, the area saw a 21-day stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops who came and pitched tents in the vicinity of the airfield and returned only after several rounds of flag meetings between both sides.
"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 decision to deploy the C-130J, which is capable of lifting up to 20 tonnes of load, was taken by the IAF considering the lower load carrying capability of AN-32s and helicopters.
IAF officials said the C-130J, which has capability to carry 20 tonnes of load, can ferry "five to six times" more load than the An-32 and increased number of troops also.
The IAF has been operating the An-32s in the area for quite some time and they landed at the base even after the stand-off with China there.
In the recent past, India has augmented its airlift capabilities along the LAC by reactivating air fields in DBO, Fuk Che in Ladakh and eight Advanced Landing Grounds in Arunachal Pradesh.