The Indian Air Force has sought the defence ministry’s approval for ramping up a strategic airbase near the Chinese border in Ladakh to support full-scale fighter operations, a reflection of India’s new assertiveness against Beijing.
Venturing into uncharted territory to fortify India’s defences in the sensitive northern sector, the operationally critical Western Air Command (WAC) is pushing for upgrading the Nyoma airstrip into a “major” base capable of launching an entire range of operations.
WAC chief Air Marshal N.A.K. Browne said on Friday, “The idea is to expand Nyoma into a major airbase from where we can operate each and every platform in the air force’s inventory, including fighters. The proposal is being examined by the ministry.”
The Nyoma airstrip, 20 km from the Line of Actual Control between India and China, was activated last September after more than four decades.
Browne said: “It will take about four years to get Nyoma ready as a major base after we get the defence ministry’s nod.” The air force’s AN-32 transport planes have undertaken training flights to newly-operationalised airbases in Ladakh, including Nyoma, to prepare its air and ground crews to operate these airstrips regularly.
The force wants to exploit airstrips at Daulet Beg Oldie and Fukche (two km from the LAC) to support troops deployed in India’s farthest frontiers, close to areas illegally occupied by China and Pakistan.
It is also laying an elaborate network of radar systems and sensors along the LAC to fortify its air defence capabilities.