An Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 fighter jet landed at an advance landing ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh on Friday, the first such military movement in the strategic border state since the 1962 Chinese aggression.
The reactivation of the ALG at Pasighat, 198 km east of capital Itanagar, comes weeks after India deployed around 100 T-72 battle tanks in Ladakh, close to the disputed border with China, drawing a sharp reaction from Beijing.
The ALG in Pasighat is 100 km from the nearest point on the 1,080-km border the state shares with China-occupied Tibet. China claims thousands of square kilometres of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Pasighat ALG is one of eight in the frontier state the IAF had taken up for upgradation in 2009 for boosting air defence preparedness in the eastern sector. The total project cost is Rs 1,000 crore.
Three Sukhoi-30s took off from IAF’s Chabua base in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district, flew part in a formation before landing at Pasighat about 10 am, officials said.
The ALG was later inaugurated by minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju in presence of Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, chief of the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command.
“The touchdown by a frontline fighter jet of the IAF at the ALF is a historic first in Arunachal Pradesh, which has several ALGs at varying altitudes,” Air Marshal Kumar was quoted as saying.
Rijiju, who arrived in a Border Security Force helicopter, said the ALGs will also help improve connectivity in the landlocked state.
The Pasighat ALG was earlier a small partly-paved and party-grassy strip reinforced with perforated steel plates. It was used in the past for air maintenance sorties and casualty evacuation by the IAF. Commercial helicopter operations were also being undertaken from the helipads that existed earlier.
The other ALGs are at Mechuka, Ziro, Along and Walong, which were inaugurated between March and May this year. Two more, at Tuting and Tawang, are expected to be ready by the year-end.
Reconstruction of the eighth, at Vijaynagar, would be undertaken as soon as the road connectivity from Miao, 160 km downhill, is restored.