Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs)
One of the major persisting issues between India and China has been the unresolved border dispute. Of the three sectors bordering China namely Eastern, Middle and Western sectors, the Eastern sector and the western sector are highly sensitive.
China with its military reorganisation which currently underway aims to integrate its scattered airstrips in the Tibet region through its now unified Western Theatre Command. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that India ups the ante by bolstering its defensive as well as its offensive capabilities in its border regions in order to counter as well as deter any future Chinese transgression. For this, there is a need to further improve the logistic support to a large number of ground troops stationed in the region by ensuring quick deployment of troops and equipment. Thus, the establishment of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh by the Indian Air Force (IAF) is a right move towards this end.
- Daulat Beg Oldi ALG, Ladakh
- Nyoma ALG, Ladakh
- Fukche ALG, Ladakh
- Along ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Mechuka ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Pasighat ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Tuting ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Vijayanagar ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Walong ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Ziro ALG, Arunachal Pradesh
- Tawang ALG, Arunachal Pradesh (under construction)
In the Western sector, the Air Force has one operational ALG at Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO). Plans are afoot to develop one ALG at Nyoma and extend the Kargil airfield to enable fighter operations.
On August 2013, the IAF C130J Super Hercules touched down at Daulat Beg Oldie, world's highest airfield at an altitude of 16,614 feet, located within 10 km of India's de-facto border with China. Since then, there have been regular C-130J flights to DBO.
In the Eastern Sector, the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh that lies south of the McMahon line is being contested by China despite the 1914 Shimla convention signed between British India and Tibet.
While the ALG at Walong was inaugurated in October 2017 and the ALG at Ziro, Along, and Mechuka were operationalised in early 2018. The ALG at Vijaynagar has been fully reactivated since November 2011. This takes the total number of ALGs to seven in the State, with another ALG coming in Tawang (which is the westernmost district of Arunachal Pradesh). Nyoma ALG to be converted into a full-fledged air base. All these ALGs will have night flight capabilities.
Mountain passes lie close to the borders of China, they impose a certain amount of vulnerabilities for India’s eastern sector. On the Indian side, there is a massive deployment of its ground forces and this would pose a major challenge for the Chinese. Further, the various ALGs established around these vulnerable points would provide another layer of capability for the Indian defence troops, as it would ensure efficient logistic support for quick and efficient deployment of troops and equipment in case of any duel with the PLA. This would further enhance the existing operational capabilities of the Eastern Air Command by providing for rapid deployment of troops as well as airlift in case of hostilities or a standoff. The ALG at zero and along would provide for the operation of the C-130J Super Hercules due to the upgraded runway surface. The other infrastructure such as air traffic control tower has also been put in place.
The construction of the ALG in the Tawang district currently underway is to ensure that the vulnerabilities imposed by the two mountain passes (Bum La pass and Tulung La pass) are addressed and the ground troops deployed there are adequately provided for.
The establishment of ALGs in this region would also lead to a permanent settlement for IAF personnel for maintenance and repair of aircraft and also the deployment of mobile surface-to-air missiles in order to protect its assets; this would impose a major deterrence against any Chinese intent. It must also be realised that these airstrips – maintained by the Air Force – would also be used for carrying out civilian operations, thus enabling the growth of tourism and all the allied services related to the industry, unleashing a process of development of the areas in its vicinity, besides
providing deterrence against China.
Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa further confirmed, “As part of the expansion plan, seven more ALGs will be constructed for military operations in Arunachal Pradesh in addition to the existing eight ALGs in the easternmost state.”
During IAF’s GAGAN SHAKTHI Exercise held last year, it showed its might of flying both fixed and rotary wing aircraft from these ALG’s.