IAF Lands its Largest Transport Aircraft At Tutin Airfield for the First Time

The Indian Air Force’s landed its largest transport aircraft – the C-17 Globemaster at Arunachal Pradesh’s Tuting airfield, close to the Chinese border. This landing is seen as part of the IAF’s move to strengthen its overall operations in the strategically-key border state of India-China. The landing ground is located only 30 km from China.

The C17 Globemaster carried out a historic landing at Tuting Advanced Landing Ground. The mission was executed flawlessly owing to its superlative performance and excellent flying skills of pilots. The flight crew included Group Captain K Rama Rao, Wing Commander Amiya Kant Patnaik, Wing Commander K Trivedi and Squadron Leader L Nayak.

After the trial landing, C17 carried out an operational mission, airlifting 18 tons of load into the austere airfield. The airfield is in close proximity to the Chinese border. This mission is a strategic leap in terms of operational performance demonstration & tactical air mobility.

Key Border Area:

Though a quieter area of the contested frontier, the border around Tuting became tense in December-January near Bishing village.

Tensions near the border were high when troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed area by the Chinese Army. Indian troops confiscated two dozers before returning them days later after the Chinese withdrew. The face-off ended on August 28.

According to sources, China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the disputed area.

Tough Terrain:

The Advance Landing Ground (ALG) is located in the midst of high hills in a narrow valley that makes it challenging. The agile manoeuvrability of mammoth C17 Globemaster made it possible for the pilots to execute this mission flawlessly.

In November 2016, the Indian Air Force had successfully carried out landing of C-17 Globemaster at its strategic Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) of Mechuka in West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Menchuka being just 29 kilometres from the border with China. The Menchuka ALG, which was re-activated in May 2016, was non-functional since 2013 following its reconstruction work along with the ALGs of Aalo, Ziro, Tuting, Pasighat and Tezu.

Mechuka was one of the strategic locations during the Indo-China war in 1962. It takes two days by road to travel to the area from Dibrugarh, the nearest railhead. The IAF had started its operations with Dakota and Otter in 1962 in the area and subsequently, the An-32 was operated till October 2013 before the reconstruction work was started.

The recent landing comes after over a year when the Tuting ALG was upgraded on December 30, 2016, with a full-fledged runway along with all the associated facilities. The strategic location of Tuting ALG will make it a launching pad for IAF operations as well as a facilitator to the Administration in the management of border area. The ALG will be used to bring in vital supplies from cities in Assam via fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters besides meeting challenges during natural calamities.

Visit of Defence Minister:

This advancement does not give good vibes to India-China relations as the Defence Minister and Prime Minister is scheduled to visit China within the next 3-4 months.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to visit China in April this year. The objective is not yet clear for her visit. There are two probable scenarios for her visit – on a bilateral visit or Defence Ministers meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled to visit China in June.

Conclusion:

While India is focused on boosting its defence, China keeps on poking India either through sea or land. At a time when the issues can be solved diplomatically, do you think there is a need for military advancements for both the nations?

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