In a subtle show of strength apparently aimed at China, 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 (DBO) in Ladakh close to the Chinese border - the region where the two Asian giants were engaged in an impasse in April.
The airstrip, at 5,065 metres was reactivated in 2008 and lies in 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.
The landing marks a quantum boost to IAF's medium-lift capabilities.
"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.
"This achievement qualifies for the world record for the highest landing by an aircraft of this class," the statement said
"This was the same aircraft and crew that operated at Dharasu during `Op Rahat' for the Uttarakhand flood relief," the statement said.
Chinese troops had pitched tents near Daulat Beg Oldie area in April and remained there for 21 days before the issue was resolved through flag meetings and talks between officials of two countries.
The Super Hercules landed at DBO on a day India and China discussed the recent incursions and ways to maintain peace and tranquility along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The two sides discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest including ways to reduce trade deficit and trans-border rivers during the 5th round of India-China Strategic Dialogue.