Even as the Indian Air Force (IAF) moved its assets including fighter aircraft to forward bases and airfields in view of the ongoing dispute with China, its chief RKS Bhadauria was on a two-day hush-hush visit to the Leh and Srinagar airbases, which would be the most critical for any operations to be carried out by the force in the Eastern Ladakh area.
The visit assumes significance as it came soon after the top security brass of the country reviewed the situation and military options after the Chinese Army killed 20 Indian soldiers in a premeditated attack in the Galwan Valley area after making an attempt to unilaterally change the status of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“The Air Force chief was on a two-day visit where he checked the operational readiness of all the platforms that have been moved to the area in view of the Chinese aggression along the LAC in the Eastern Ladakh where more than 10,000 troops have been amassed by China,” government sources told ANI.
In the first leg of his visit, he was in Leh on June 17 and from there he went to the Srinagar airbase on June 18. Both these bases are closest to the Eastern Ladakh area and most suited to carry out any fighter aircraft operations in the mountainous terrain and also have a clear edge over the Chinese, the sources said.
When asked to confirm the visit by the Air Force chief to Leh and Srinagar, IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Indranil Nandy refused to say anything. “No comments,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Air Force has moved its critical frontline assets including the Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fighter aircraft fleet to advanced positions where they can fly in at a very short notice to carry out operations.
For providing air support to the Indian Army troops in the eastern Ladakh sector, the American Apache attack helicopters have been deployed in the close vicinity of the areas where operations by the ground troops are taking place at the moment.
The Chinooks helicopters have also been deployed in and around the Leh airbase to provide the capability of rapid troops transportation and inter-valley troop transfer, in case such a situation emerges there. The Mi-17V5 medium-lift choppers are also playing an active role in the area in troops and material transportation there.
With multiple bases around the Ladakh and Tibet region including Leh, Srinagar, Avantipur, Bareilly, Adampur, Halwara (Ludhiana), Ambala and Sirsa, the Indian Air Force has an edge over their Chinese counterparts, who have to start fighter aircraft operations from Hotan and Gar Gunsa near Ladakh as they are at an altitude of 14,000 feet plus. The Indian Air Force has deployed its Su-30 combat aircraft soon after the Chinese choppers tried to violate Indian air space in Eastern Ladakh around the same time when their Army started arriving in large numbers along the LAC there.