In a quantum boost to its medium-lift capabilities, a newly-acquired C-130J Super Hercules of the Indian Air Force (IAF) touched down Tuesday at the highest airstrip in the world - the Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh close to the Chinese border - the region in which the two Asian giants were engaged in an impasse in April.
The airstrip, at 5,100 metres was reactivated in 2008 and is one of the most important sectors for India. Built during the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962, the IAF had conducted sorties from the airstrip during the war.
"In a significant capability demonstration move by the IAF, a C 130J Super Hercules aircraft landed at Daulat Beg Oldie today (Tuesday) located at 16,614 feet in the Aksai Chin area after taking off from its home base at Hindon," an IAF statement said of the flight commanded by Group Captain Tejbir Singh.
The tactical airlift aircraft of the special operations squadron is capable of undertaking quick deployment of forces in all weather conditions. These include airdrops and landings on unprepared or semi-prepared surfaces.
"Today's achievement will enable the forces induct troops, improve the communications network and also serve as a great morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned there," the statement said.
"With this enhanced airlift capability, the IAF will now be in a better position to meet the requirements of our land forces who are heavily dependent on the air bridge for sustenance in these higher and inhospitable areas," it added.
The decision to deploy the C-130J, which is capable of lifting upto 20 tonnes of load, was taken by the IAF considering the lower load carrying capability of its AN-32s and helicopters.