New Delhi: As the Sino-Indian border standoff enters fourth winter along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh with heavy deployment of troops on either side, the Indian Air Force (IAF) continues to play the crucial role of a “force multiplier” for the military capabilities that can be brought to bear on an aggressor. From upping the game at the LAC by way of pushing whatever was needed high up the Himalayan border by the forces, and that too at a much greater scale, the IAF’s role has proved to be indispensable.
The requirement of equipment and essential items needed by the Indian Army multiplied this time even as China amassed huge numbers of troops as well as military equipment that forced the Indian Armed Forces to be literally “war-ready”, and the challenge was to get all items up in the border areas in quick turnaround time. Hence, despite the development in infrastructure there in terms of roads and bridges, use of the air assets “augmented the mobility of the Army to a very large extent”, said highly placed sources.
When the border standoff began in April-May 2020, and particularly after the Galwan clash in June that year, around 68,000 troops and 90 tanks were taken at the LAC in a matter of days. This is one of the reasons why the Indian armed forces could take up such an offensive posture. A lot of resources had to be placed at the hands of the Army to make ‘Operation Snow Leopard’ a successful endeavour. The IAF had to deploy a fleet of aircraft to make this operation achieve its goal. It has deployed all its assets from AN-32, C-130J, C17, Chinooks as well as Mi-17s, depending on the type of roads and the platforms the Army needed, the sources said.
Additionally, the IAF helped in ensuring that critical loads could be placed in the hands of those who needed it the most and in cutting down the transportation time — essentially a role carried out by helicopters such as Chinooks and Mi-17s.
Earlier this month, the top military brass between both sides met once again to chalk out a strategy for disengagement and de-escalation of the troops but the talks did not see any headway. This was the 20th round that failed to come to any kind of viable resolution to the standoff.
The Air Force is now busy strategizing the winter deployment at the LAC as temperature there dips below 40 and maintaining high-tech and heavy weaponry becomes hugely difficult.
“All resources required to tackle any eventuality, be it aircraft, air defence networks, surface to air weapons etc. are in position and ready to tackle any eventuality,” sources said. The IAF’s preparedness can also be gauged from the fact that it is able to undertake night operations by all types of aircraft, including fighters. The IAF continues to deploy squadrons of fighter jets along the LAC and the number can increase as winter approaches, the sources underlined.