Jammu, 31 May 2008:History repeated itself when an Indian Air Force (IAF) fixed wing aircraft (AN 32) landing at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), the highest landing airstrip in the world at 6:30 AM this morning. This is a twin engined aircraft landing at DBO after a gap of 43 years. This information was given at Chandigarh today by Air Marshal PK Barbora,Air Officer Commanding – in- Chief (AOC-in-C), Western Air Command who was accompanied by Lt Gen V K Ahluwalia, Air Commodore SRK Nair, AOC,12 Wing Air Force and the crew members of the aircraft. The crew members of this historic flight were Gp Capt S C Chafekar, Wg Cdr M Aserkar, Wg Cdr S Verma, Wg Cdr A Ray and JWO R Verma.
The Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), where the aircraft landed, has an unpaved surface – kutcha strip and is located in the Aksai Chin area at a height of 16200 feet (4960) meters near the strategic Karakoram pass and very close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.DBO is an important army forward area post which links the ancient silk route to China. This base was built during the Indo-China conflict in 1962. Packet aircraft of the IAF operated from DBO between 1962 and 1965. In 1996, an earthquake caused some loosening of the surface soil making this base unfit for further fixed wing aircraft operations.
The issue of reactivation of DBO ALG was raised by the IAF during the visit of Air Marshal Barbora to the air force bases in Ladakh this year. After deliberating on all aspects and carrying out aerial and ground recce, it was concluded that DBO ALG could be made suitable for fixed wing operations after repair and compacting operations, which involve hardening of the landing surface and provisioning of support services.
The Indian army alongwith the IAF carried out the herculean task of bringing up the ALG to operational standards, in spite of extremely difficult working conditions and inclement weather. This is truly fine example of jointmanship between the two services.
Regular operations by AN 32 class of aircraft will be initiated in due course of time. Landing at DBO will not only enable India to induct army troops, improve communication network but also serve as a great morale booster for maintenance of the troops positioned there. It is also a projection of the fact that the IAF is capable of operating in such inhospitable terrain on a regular basis in support of the Indian army.