The Pangong Lake in Leh district of Ladakh bordering India and China. (File)
The Indian Air Force is not only monitoring Chinese air activity over Tibet, it has also flown combat air patrols following reports of Chinese incursions at multiple sites in Ladakh. Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria however made it clear that there has been no airspace incursion by Chinese fighter aircraft over the last few months. "We fly whatever is required and respond to any situation - it includes combat air patrols when it is required," he said.
Combat Air Patrols can involve scrambling fully armed interceptors from air bases once Chinese air activity is detected over the Tibetan plateau where China operates several high altitude air bases.
"It should be very clear that we are well prepared and suitably deployed to respond to any contingency," said the Air Chief. "I assure the nation that we are determined to deliver and will never let the sacrifice of the braves of Galwan go in vain," he added. Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was speaking at the Combined Graduation Parade at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal near Hyderabad.
The Air Chief's remarks come a day after photos emerged of Indian Air Force Apache attack helicopters and upgraded MiG-29s over the skies of Leh in Ladakh. The newly acquired Apache, widely considered the most advanced attack helicopter in the world, is a tank killer and its induction comes amidst reports that China had deployed tanks in the Ladakh region close to the Line of Actual Control.
All Indian Air Force MiG-29s have now been upgraded with a new radar and avionics and are among the most sophisticated variants of the Russian fighter in service anywhere in the world. The IAF has also deployed its new Chinook transport helicopters in Ladakh. The Chinook is designed to carry M-777 artillery guns underslung beneath its fuselage, a key capability to quickly induct the weapons in far-flung areas in Ladakh.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria completed a two-day tour of IAF facilities in Kashmir and Ladakh before travelling to Dundigal where he said that the IAF was keeping a close track of Chinese air activity in the region which has been stepped up over the last few months. "China deploys aircraft for training during the summer but this year, the number of deployments have increased," said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria. "Beyond May, it has been increased further."
NDTV has also reported how China has been rapidly building up its air infrastructure in the region including at the Ngari base in Tibet near the Pangong Lake where there have been reports of Chinese military incursions. Satellite images have shown the construction of new tracks parallel to the existing runway and major earth works between the months of April and May.