The Air-Officer-Commanding-in-Chief of the India’s Western Air Command, Air Marshal NAK Browne said on Friday that the airstrip at Nyoma in Jammu and Kashmir has been proposed to be upgraded to a full-fledged airbase. Almost exactly a year back, the Advanced Landing Ground at Nyoma had been made operational for fixed-wing aircraft with an Indian Air force (IAF) AN-32 landing there, around 23 kilometers from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and Chinese-held territory.
The air marshal, who was also on that first flight into Nyoma, said that they would like ‘each and every platform of the IAF’ to ‘operate fully’ from Nyoma, further clarifying that ‘fighter aircraft are very much part of that capability’. He also noted that the IAF’s frontline fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi-30 MKI was designed to operate from those those altitudes.
According to Browne, the proposal for the development of Nyoma into an airbase is currently being vetted by the Ministry of Defense and if cleared, it would take at least four years to construct the requisite infrastructure at Nyoma.
The IAF has other bases in the region, at Fukche and Daulat Beg Oldie. Fukche was not considered for further development, because of the short length of the strip and the water pockets that would make further development difficult. Daulat Beg Oldie, at a height of over 16,000 feet was also problematic because of the altitude, the hard strip and its loose gravel texture quality.
Air Marshal Browne pointed out that this was not without precedent, with the bases at Thoise and Leh having been mere airstrips many decades back. He also said the IAF perceived a necessity to upgrade Nyoma as it would give them ‘far more options in that area’ since the bases at Thoise and Leh were vulnerable to an operational shutdown because of inclement weather.
The IAF is also inducting Low Level Light Weight Radars (LLLWR) into the mountain regions of India’s northern and eastern frontiers, which can be carried on pack mules and assembled at key locations. Browne said three of these were expected to be inducted in the next two months, with ‘many more’ in the next two years.