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Nyoma to be upgraded as major air base close to China border

October 3, 2010

Deccan Herald
October 1, 2010

New Delhi, Oct 1 (PTI) -- India will upgrade
IAF's Nyoma advanced landing ground (ALG) in
Ladakh into a full-fledged air base closer to the
borders with China to deploy its top-notch
fighter jets including the Sukhois there.

The proposal for modernising the compact airstrip
at Nyoma, just 23 km from Line of Actual Control
(LAC) with China, has gone to the Defence
Ministry for approval, IAF's Western Air Command
chief Air Marshal N A K Browne told a press conference here today.

"Nyoma ALG is to be expanded into a major base
and a proposal in this regard has been sent to
the government. It is being currently examined
actively by the Defence Ministry. If the approval
comes today, it would take about four years to
get it ready as a major base," Browne said.

"When we look at developing a base, in our view
we have to be able to operate each and every
platform of the Air Force at that base. It will
not be confined to one or two types of aircraft
alone," he said to a query if Sukhois could be deployed there permanently.

"We have to be able to operate (from Nyoma) fully
with all our capabilities....so fighter aircraft
is part of the air force inventory," he said,
explaining that all modern fighter planes of the
IAF fleet were capable of operating from the 13,300-feet altitude airbase.

IAF had activated Nyoma in September last year
when an AN-32 medium lift transport aircraft
landed on the hitherto unused airstrip.

Defence Minister A K Antony had this June visited
Nyoma to inspect the infrastructure development
activities that are currently going on in the ALG.

In the last two years, IAF has activated three
such airstrips. The other two ALG activated in
2008 are Daulat Beg Oldi at 16,200-feet altitude
and Fukche at 13,000 feet much closer to the LAC.

Though the IAF had claimed that the activation of
the three airstrips was for providing transport
link to remote parts of Ladakh to promote
tourism, it is a well-known fact that the ALGs
enhance the armed forces' capability to lift troops to the LAC much faster now.

However, Browne said no other ALGs would be
developed any time soon, including Chushul in
Ladakh that was being considered earlier.

Browne said Nyoma would provide the IAF an option
for basing its potent aircraft in Ladakh region
apart from Leh air base.Nyoma was, in fact, a
better option for deployment of fighter jets due
to the weather and wind conditions there, he noted.

Browne said the Nyoma air base, as also Daulat
Beg Oldi, would be capable of handling modern
transport aircraft including the C-130Js bought
from the US for Indian special forces and the
C-17s for which orders have been placed with the Americans.

India is getting six C-130Js beginning next year,
of which two would be based at the Hindon air
base in Ghaziabad closer to the capital where
infrastructure development works are on the verge
of completion. It has also placed orders for 10
C-17 heavy transport aircraft with the US this year.

Asked if India not signing the Communications
Interoperability and Security Memorandum of
Agreement (CISMOA) with the US would impact the
quality of technology that would come with the
C-130Js and C-17s, Browne said the systems that
IAF would get would be the latest, even without
CISMOA, for which negotiations were going on between the two sides.

"It (not signing CISMOA) does not limit us. We
can exploit the platform in any way we want to," he asserted.

Regarding China upgrading military infrastructure
in Tibet, the Air Marshal said India kept a close
watch on the developments, be it change in
platforms, radars, sensors and missiles that were
based closer to its borders, and its impact on the nation's security.

He said it was not just China's, but any other
neighbour's change of plans in terms of its
military deployments and infrastructure would be
factored into India's security set up.

Asked if the IAF too was planning and changing
its doctrines to factor in the two-front war
against China and Pakistan as the Army was said
to be doing, the Western Air Command Air Officer
Commanding-in-Chief said the Air Force could not
ignore the threats from both sides of the borders.

"We have both West and East borders. I cannot
just focus on just one side and ignore the other.
We have factored in all such scenario," he added.

Browne said IAF was also improving its air
defence measures along both the borders in Jammu
and Kashmir region by deploying more imported light-weight low-level radars.

He said a few radars were already in place in the
mountainous terrains, but three more imported
radars were in the process of being put in place
in the next two to three months.

The IAF, he said, was also buying some indigenous
light-weight radars to be deployed in the region
to have a robust air defence sensors system. "In
the next two years, we will have enough sensors in that region," he added.
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