New Delhi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130 Super Hercules tactical transport aircraft along with a team of Garud special forces made a night landing at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Kargil. It was a significant achievement, as the Indian Air Force’s C-130J aircraft successfully completed its maiden night landing, marking a crucial milestone in its operational capabilities.
In a post on social media platform ‘X’, the IAF said: “In a first, an IAF C-130 J aircraft recently carried out a night landing at the Kargil airstrip. Employing terrain masking enroute, the exercise also dovetailed a training mission of the Garuds.”
Sharing details and emphasising the use of terrain masking during the exercise, which also coincided with a training mission of the Garuds, IAF complementing the announcement, also released a short video clip which offered a closer look at the challenging night landing of the C-130J aircraft on the rugged Kargil airstrip. This successful night landing at such a strategic location not only underscores the heightened capabilities of the Indian Air Force but also serves as a testament to their dedication to operational excellence and preparedness in challenging terrains.
According to an official, earlier the transport aircraft have been landing here during the day and this was the first night landing. Located at an altitude of around 10,000 feet, the ALG is a restricted airstrip with unidirectional approach surrounded by rough terrain. It also does not have night landing facilities. This demonstrates the capability to carry out specialised missions round the clock in this area, an official said.
As the only airstrip in this area, the Kargil ALG is significant and critical for any exigency. In Jammu and Kashmir, the IAF has full-fledged airfields at Srinagar, Awantipora, Udhampur and Jammu. In Ladakh, the IAF has airfields at Leh and Thoise and ALGs at Nyoma, Fukche and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO). In the last decade, the Defence Ministry has reactivated a series of ALGs close to the border, especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
Following the approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in June 2009, the IAF took up a project to upgrade eight ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh at an estimated cost of Rs 1,000 crore which have since been operationalsied. The eight ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh include Tuting, Mechuka, Along, Tawang, Ziro, Pasighat, Walong and Vijaynagar. In addition, several new emergency landing strips were developed on national highways across the country. Further, the ALG Nyoma, located at an altitude of about 13,700 feet, is now being converted into a full runway of over 9,000 feet, making it capable of handling fighter jets. Work which commenced last August is expected to be ready by 2025. The ALG at Daulat Beg Oldi at an altitude of 16,700 feet, located very close to the LAC, is very critical for aerial connectivity to the Sub-Sector North.
The IAF’s C-130J Super Hercules demonstrated its remarkable versatility in April 2023 during a daring night rescue mission in Sudan. Currently, the IAF operates 12 C-130J aircraft, stationed at the 77 Squadron at Hindan and the 87 ‘Wings of Valour’ Squadron at Panagarh. The C-130J is a highly integrated and sophisticated airlifter designed to support India’s special operations requirements. Equipped with an infrared detection set, it can perform precision low-level flying, airdrops, and landings in blackout conditions. Featuring self-protection systems and other advanced capabilities, the C-130J ensures survivability in hostile air defence environments. Additionally, the aircraft has air-to-air receiver refueling capability for extended-range operations. Beyond its role as a transport aircraft, the C-130J carries out a diverse range of missions, including special operations, aerial refueling, search and rescue, paradrop, electronic surveillance, and weather reconnaissance.