Amid growing tension with China, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday successfully landed a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft at Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), just 29 km from Sino-Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh.
The 4,200-ft Mechuka runway is at an elevation of 6,200 ft above mean sea level. The trial landing by C-17 aircraft has validated its short field landing performance even at high altitude and demonstrated IAF’s capability to reach out to this remote ALG. The aircraft during the subject trial landing used much lesser strip than the full runway length to stop.
ALGs are airstrips close to the international border. They play a critical role in the defense of the border in remote areas, by enabling the armed forces to either quickly deliver troops to a particular region or supply rations to troops already stationed in remote areas.
This is a quantum jump from the existing capability of An-32 and C-130J aircraft. Such airlift capability facilitates critical requirement of transfer of men and material in this rugged terrain. In the event of a disaster in the region, C-17 operations to the remote ALG can enhance the speed and quantum of a national relief effort. Conventional military cargo aircraft operate from 9,000 ft long runways, even at sea level airfields.
The ALG at Mechuka in Yargyap River valley of West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh was upgraded recently. The road connectivity to the nearest air/ rail head at Dibrugarh, about 500 km away south in Assam, is hampered frequently by landslides, stretching the travel time to two days.
The IAF will continue to validate airlift operations to the remaining ALGs being renovated in Arunachal Pradesh. This would usher in a new dimension in enhanced disaster response.
On its maiden landing in Mechuka, the aircraft was received by the Detachment Commander Flt Lt S Dixit. The aircrew who were part of this historic landing were Gp Capt TR Ravi, Wg Cdr P Sisodia, Wg Cdr AK Patnaik, MWO Tripathi and WO Nirana Ram.
The Globemaster’s landing also paves the way for operation of civil flights operating to and from these newly upgraded ALGs. It would give a huge fillip to tourism as well as improve the connectivity to these remote locations in the North East.