Upping the ante on the China front, India on Friday landed a Su-30MKI fighter jet at the newly-upgraded Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh.
Pasighat is one of the eight ALGs being upgraded by the Indian Air Force as part of its efforts to boost faster mobilisation of troops along the China border and ability to quickly react in the eventuality of any misadventure by Chinese forces on that front.
"The ALG was inaugurated by Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju," an IAF spokesperson said.
The ALG would allow Air Force to deploy fighter aircraft closer the frontier with China in areas opposite to Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by Beijing as its territory.
"A flypast by a formation of three Sukhoi-30 MKI Air Dominance Fighter aircraft that took off from one of the forward Eastern Air Command airbases was a highlight of the event. This was followed by a Su-30MKI also landing at the ALG. The touchdown by a frontline fighter jet of the IAF at the ALG is a 'historic first' in the predominantly hilly state of Arunachal Pradesh, which has several ALGs at varying altitudes," the spokesperson stated.
The new runway surface and other infrastructure built are similar to the other upgraded ALGs that have been inaugurated in the recent months. Replete with facilities such as aprons for ground manouevering, Air Traffic Control Tower, perimetre road and a security wall, the ALG will facilitate operations of fixed wing aircraft as well as helicopters of both civil and military operators.
The government is trying to downplay the military significance of the event saying it would improve air connectivity and tourism in Arunachal Pradesh.
The ALG at Pasighat was taken over by the IAF in February 2010. Previously, it was small strip that was partly paved, partly grassy, and reinforced with perforated steel plates. It was utilized in the past for air maintenance sorties and casualty evacuation by the IAF.
In June 2009, the Ministry of Defence and the Arunachal Pradesh government had signed an MoU after which the IAF embarked on an ambitious reconstruction plan to upgrade eight ALGs, including infrastructure development at an overall outlay of nearly Rs 1,000 crore.
The ALGs already developed by the IAF—Walong, Ziro, Along, Mechuka and Pasighat—are operational now. Two ALGs at Tuting and Tawang are expected to be ready by the year end, while the ALG at Vijaynagar would be under reconstruction as soon as the road connectivity between Miao and Vijaynagar is restored.