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HomeFeatured StoriesCrucial Nyoma runway along LAC set for completion in October

Crucial Nyoma runway along LAC set for completion in October

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India is set to complete by October 2024 the construction of a 2.7-km runway at the Nyoma airbase in Ladakh, a milestone in one of the most important ongoing projects near the contested border with China that will give the country’s infrastructure push along its farthest frontiers a shot in the arm, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Raghu Srinivasan said on Sunday.

Latest photographs, obtained by HT, show that work on upgrading the Nyoma airstrip to a full-fledged base for fighter operations is in full swing. The work comes in the shadow of a military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China that began almost four years ago.

“We have been working in shifts to speed up the project. Despite the difficult processes involved and the terrain, BRO has been able to mobilise its resources in time to ensure that the strategic capability is available to the Indian Air Force at the earliest. It will give the air force a basket of options,” Srinivasan said.

The ₹218-crore project, the foundation stone for which was laid by defence minister Rajnath Singh last September, is spearheaded by a crew of BRO women officers. Singh said at the time that the Nyoma airbase will be a “game-changer” for the armed forces.

Allied infrastructure at the Nyoma airbase, including hangars, the air traffic control building and hard standing (hard-surfaced areas for parking vehicles and aircraft) will be ready by the end of next year, said Srinivasan, who took over as BRO chief in September 2023.

“It is one of the most important projects being executed by BRO in the Ladakh sector,” he said. Colonel Ponung Doming, a woman combat engineer, is heading the project being executed at a height of 13,700 feet and 23km from LAC.

The Nyoma airstrip was out of use for decades after the 1962 India-China war before IAF reactivated it in September 2009 and landed an AN-32 transport aircraft there for the first time. IAF has operated its C-130J special operations aircraft, AN-32s and helicopters from Nyoma in support of the military’s forward deployments, including during the ongoing LAC row with China.

Nyoma is in a better and flatter valley than Leh and closer to LAC, and thus will prove to be a crucial airbase for the Indian Air Force, for both fighter and transport operations, said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), the former director general of Centre for Air Power Studies.

“It will allow quicker launch of interdiction strikes, and troop and equipment insertion in the forward areas if needed. The recent trend of timely completion of infrastructure projects in border areas, including the Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, reflects the government’s sharpened focus on enhancing the capabilities of the armed forces,” Chopra added.

On March 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Sela tunnel project to the country, with the infrastructure upgrade putting in the fast lane military mobility and logistics support for deployed forces in the strategic Tawang sector, where Indian soldiers hold posts close to the contested border with China.

India’s border infrastructure push has been propelled by speedy execution of strategic projects to support military operations, increased spending, and focussed adoption of technology and techniques.

BRO, which is at the centre of the India’s border infrastructure push, has completed 330 infrastructure projects at a cost of ₹8,737 crore in the last three years, and significantly improved the strategic mobility of the Indian armed forces along the contested border with China. These projects have supported the military’s pursuit of robust deterrence against the neighbour.

China itself is on an unrelenting infrastructure push in the last four years (after the LAC standoff began in May 2020), as confirmed by satellite images. These works include the construction of new airbases, missile sites, roads, bridges, reinforced bunkers, underground facilities to protect military assets from aerial strikes, accommodation for soldiers and ammunition depots.

In the latest development across LAC, China may have activated a second runway at the Hotan airbase in the Xinjiang region, reveals recent satellite imagery posted by Damien Symon, a geospatial intelligence researcher at the Intel Lab, on X.

“Almost 4 years after it began construction, the second runway at Hotan Airbase now appears operational, pivotal in supporting #China’s aerial operations near #Ladakh this site has undergone infrastructural improvements aimed at boosting operational capability & efficacy,” he wrote on April 8.

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