New Delhi: In a strong message to China, the Indian Air Force today landed its C-130J Super Hercules transport plane at the world's highest and recently-activated Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) airstrip in Ladakh near the Line of Actual Control, the scene of a stand-off with Chinese troops in April.
The achievement will enable the armed forces to use the heavy-lift aircraft to induct troops, supplies, 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, Group Captain Tejbir Singh and the crew of the 'Veiled Vipers' along with senior officer touched down on the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area," the Air Force 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.
"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.
In April this year, about 50 Chinese soldiers had crossed the Line of Actual Control or the de-facto border and set up a remote camp at Daulat Beg Oldie in the Depsang Valley, 19 kilometres into Indian territory. On May 6, both sides agreed to pull forces back to positions held before the confrontation, ending the 21 day stand-off.
The Depsang Valley region is highly strategic and abuts the Karakoram Highway joining Pakistan to China, which Beijing hopes to develop into a high-traffic trade route linking it to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar.