NEW DELHI: India has moved its fighter jets to forward airbases facing China, even as additional warships have now been deployed in the extended Bay of Bengal region, in a clear signal to Beijing that New Delhi is prepared for escalation in the ongoing troop confrontation on the unresolved border.
The fresh build-up includes the new Apache attack helicopters, which are “tank killers” with their Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and rockets, and Chinook heavy-lift choppers, capable of transporting howitzers and troops to forward high-altitude areas, being deployed in Ladakh.
“China has crossed our red-lines by brutally killing 20 of our soldiers in a premeditated attack (in Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh on June 15). We are fully prepared for any spiraling of the escalation matrix. All necessary steps have been taken,” said a top military officer.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is clearly in no mood for disengagement, also continues to build-up its forces all along the 3,488-km long LAC. This is especially true at the ongoing troop confrontation sites in Galwan Valley region, Pangong Tso(Tso means lake), and Gogra-Hot Springs area as well other areas like Depsang and Chushul in eastern Ladakh.
PLA troops, for instance, have built dozens of new fortifications from “Finger-4 to 8”(mountainous spurs separated by a distance of 8-km) on the north bank of Pangong Tso. Since early-May, they have been blocking all Indian patrols going west to east in the area, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Similar is the situation in Galwan and Hot Springs areas, with China also augmenting the number of its J-11 and J-8 fighters as well as long-range bombers at its Hotan and Kashgar airbases in Tibet, said sources.
India, on its part, has inducted frontline Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29 and Jaguar fighters into forward airbases, with IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria quietly visiting Leh and Srinagar on Wednesday and Thursday to review the operational preparedness in the region.
IAF has fully activated all its airbases facing the northern borders with China, ranging from Leh, Srinagar, Awantipur and Bareilly to Tezpur, Chanuba and Hasimara in the north-east, to further strengthen its military posture.
Though China can deploy over 20 fighter squadrons from its eight main airbases in Tibet and other airfields to their north during a conflict, it suffers from a terrain constraint because the weapon and fuel-carrying capacity of its jets is limited due to the high-altitude and rarefied air in the region.
While Indian fighters are undertaking stepped-up `combat air patrols’ due to the “heightened state of alert” in the region, C-17 Globemaster-III, C-130J `Super Hercules’ and AN-32 transport aircraft have formed “an air bridge” from Chandigarh to Ladakh to transport soldiers and weapon systems to forward areas in regular sorties.
In a decisive shift from its earlier policy, India is now determined to impose costs on China for its salami-slicing or cartographic aggression tactics to gran territory, as was first reported by TOI.