India activates forward airfield at Pasighat

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Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Aug 19 (IANS) India on Friday activated its forward airfield at Pasighat in southeast Arunachal Pradesh that will allow big fighter aircraft to operate in times of emergency along the Chinese border.

The upgraded Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Pasighat, barely 100 km from the India-China border, was inaugurated by Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju in the presence of Air Officer Commanding-in-chief of Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal C. Hari Kumar.

A flypast by a formation of three Sukhoi-30 MKI Air Dominance Fighter aircraft, which took off from one of the forward EAC airbases was a highlight of the event. This was followed by a Su-30MKI 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.

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“Pasighat ALG is a strategic asset, it is capable of operating all types of aircraft and helicopters. It improves our response time. Besides, it will also increase our air operations in the eastern frontier,” Group Captain Amit Mahajan said.

He said activation of this ALG will not only improve the response time for various operational situations but also the efficacy of India’s air operations in the eastern frontier.

“It will enhance our air support capability for the Army, paramilitary forces and the civil administration,” Mahajan said.

The Airports Authority of India is in the process of setting up a civil terminal, construction of which has yet to commence.

“The ALG at Pasighat will facilitate air connectivity with rest of the country and give a huge fillip to tourism in Arunachal Pradesh. The pristine and picturesque landscape of Pasighat, on the banks of river Siang, will become accessible to rest of the world. The unspoilt natural beauty of the area is sure to attract many a tourist, which in turn will usher in a new round of prosperity and happiness for the local population,” Mahajan said.

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The ALG at Pasighat was taken over by the IAF in February 2010. Previously, it was a small strip that was partly paved, partly grassy, and reinforced with perforated steel plates. It was utilised in the past for air maintenance sorties and casualty evacuation by the IAF. Commercial helicopter operations were also being undertaken from the helipads that existed earlier.

Following an MoU between the Arunachal Pradesh government and the ministry of defence in June 2009, the IAF had embarked on an ambitious reconstruction plan to upgrade eight forwards airfields, including infrastructure development at an overall outlay of nearly Rs 1,000 Crore.

The ALGs at Walong, Ziro, Along, Mechuka and Pasighat have since been upgraded and 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 reconstructed as soon as road connectivity between Miao and Vijaynagar is restored.

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