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IAF airlifted over 68,000 Indian soldiers to eastern Ladakh following Galwan Valley clashes in 2020

With Winter Approaching, Indian Air Force Is ‘Ready For Anything’ At LAC

New Delhi: The India-China military standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh will soon enter its fourth winter, and while troops there remain heavily deployed, 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 in the India-China border clash this time. It is now preparing itself for the fourth consecutive winter, ABP LIVE has learnt.

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 Indian Army to a very large extent”, top-level defence and security sources told ABP LIVE.

When the military standoff between India and China 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 for 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-17 V5, depending on the type of roads and the platforms the Indian 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.

‘Operation Snow Leopard’ was launched by the Indian Army in August 2020 in order to increase its troops deployment and occupy the strategic heights in the South Bank of PangongTso in Ladakh along the LAC to monitor PLA’s movement from atop the mountain ridges. The Indian Army continues to launch the operation even now whenever the need comes up, the sources said.

IAF Maintaining ‘State Of Readiness’
The Air Force is now busy strategising 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,” said one of the sources quoted above.

The IAF was never needed to operate in those kinds of conditions and environment before, but the force is now carrying out all such operations without a hitch and are gearing up for the upcoming winter.

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.

Anil Khosla, Air Marshal (Retd.) and former Vice Chief of Indian Air Force, told ABP LIVE: “The defence services, the Indian Air Force included, are doing the needful jointly and synergistically. The IAF undertakes missions to accomplish its roles and tasks, like any other defence force, including political and strategic signalling not only by deploying and operating aircraft, weapons and systems at appropriate places but also by carrying out exercises in these areas in terms of rapid mobility, troop induction, and transfer. Rapid troop mobilisation undertaken by the IAF surprised everyone as well as sustenance and supply (equipment, ammunition, weapons, rations, etc.). All IAF resources including heavy-lift aircraft, medium-lift aircraft, and helicopters are used for this task.”

Khosla also said: “All the assets of IAF are always available and are used to deal with prevailing or emerging situations. IAF is always prepared for any eventuality. It is a capable, motivated and battle-hardened force. The IAF may be numerically lagging behind but is still a few points ahead in its war-waging capabilities. Moreover, IAF always works on two plans. First plan to fight immediately with whatever it has."

The second one, he added, is to enhance its potential (capability and capacity) in the short, mid and long terms. "These plans are periodically reviewed, revised and activated. This edge needs to be maintained, while war fighting capabilities have enhanced over the years it is the capacity (numerical strength) which needs enhancement on priority. Appropriate actions have been initiated and they need to be executed speedily.”
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