IAF's airlift capacity gets boost with Globemaster landing

Signalling a major boost to the country's rapid airlift capability in Arunachal Pradesh, the mighty C-17 Globemaster, the Indian Air Force's largest military transport aircraft, made its first landing at Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), just 29 km from India-China border, on Thursday.

The landing at the ALG at an elevation of 6,200 ft with a landing surface only 4,200 ft long validated the plane's short field landing performance at high altitude.

Situated along the international border, Mechuka in the Yargyap river valley of West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh was one of the strategic locations during the India-China war in 1962.

The Mechuka base was left deserted and unused after the 1962 war until 2013, when it was reconstructed by the IAF Works Department in a record time of 30 months. Tezpur-based Defence PRO Lt Col Shombit Ghosh is quoted as saying that with Mechuka upgraded, the number of upgraded ALGs in the state has increased to four.

The ALG at Mechuka had been upgraded recently. Before the upgrade work was started, the IAF had started its operations with the aircraft Dakota and Otter in 1962 in the area and subsequently the Antonov-32, popularly known as AN-32, which was operated till October 2013.

"This is a quantum jump from the existing capability of AN-32 and C-130J aircraft. Such airlift capability facilitates speedy transfer of men and material in this rugged terrain, interspersed with valleys and high mountain ranges that inhibit road connectivity," a statement by the IAF said.

The road connectivity to the nearest air/rail head at Dibrugarh, about 500 km away, is generally two days of travel, unless the roads get damaged due to frequent landslides.

In the event of a disaster in the region, C-17 operations to the remote ALG can enhance the speed and quantum of national relief effort.

The IAF has plans to validate airlift operations to and from various ALGs in the region that would usher in a new dimension in enhanced disaster response.

This trial landing is expected to pave the way for operation of civil flights, operating to and from the newly upgraded ALGs, which has an enormous potential to boost tourism by improving connectivity to remote locations in the Northeast.