India has commenced work on the upgradation of the Nyoma Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), which is situated just 50 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Nyoma ALG, along with Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), Fukche, and Chushul ALG, constitutes the four forward airfields in eastern Ladakh situated very close to the LAC.
“The ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony was held earlier this week, and it is expected to take two or three years for completion due to limited working seasons,” confirmed some officials.
Earlier in December 2022, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) invited bids for the upgradation of the ALG to a fully-fledged forward airbase capable of accommodating larger and more capable transport aircraft and fighter jets.
Until now, the Nyoma ALG had a dirt runway, which allowed operations of only specialised platforms like the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and helicopters from the ALG.
After the upgrade, which will involve constructing a 2.7 km long concrete runway and other supporting infrastructure, larger and more capable transport aircraft like C-17 Globemaster-III and IL-76 MD, as well as fighter jets like Su-30 MKI, Rafale, MiG 29, and Tejas, will be able to operate from the airfield.
With the upgradation, the Nyoma ALG, at an altitude of 13,700 feet, will become the world’s highest airfield.
The upgradation work is expected to be completed in 20 months’ time.
The Nyoma ALG played a crucial role in supporting the massive troop buildup in eastern Ladakh following the deadly clashes in the Galwan Valley in June 2020.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) also deployed strike helicopters like the AH-64E Apache and the indigenously built light combat helicopter (LCH) at Nyoma ALG to support army troops stationed in forward positions.
The decision to upgrade only the Nyoma ALG was taken by the government owing to favourable conditions at the ALG.
The other two ALGs, DBO and Chushul, were ruled out due to their proximity to Chinese forward positions and their high-altitude location.
The limited potential for runway expansion and the establishment of additional infrastructure at Fukche, combined with the extreme weather conditions went against it.
The other two bases with the ability to handle large transport aircraft and fighter jets in Ladakh are the Thoise and Leh airbases.
In addition to Nyoma, the IAF is also considering the construction of another airfield at Rangrik in Himachal Pradesh’s Spiti Valley.
This proposed airfield at Rangrik, akin to the Nyoma ALG, is also situated approximately 50 km away from the LAC.
A report by Hindustan Times reveals that the Himachal Pradesh government has long been advocating for the establishment of this airfield.
This airfield will not only serve as an alternate route of connectivity to the Spiti Valley, which is dependent on National Highway (NH-505) as its sole access route but also help increase tourist footfalls in the valley.
These two forward airfields, located in Himachal and eastern Ladakh, will enable Indian forces to quickly deploy in frontline areas should any untoward actions be undertaken by the Chinese.