Arunachal villagers volunteer to repair aircraft landing strip for the Indian Air Force

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Published: January 22, 2019 9:26:07 PM

For the first time, people from 11 nearby villages from the local area of Vijayanagar came forward voluntarily help Air Force authorities to undertake this task by carrying out shramdaan.

Arunachal villagers volunteer to repair aircraft landing strip for the Indian Air Force

The Indian Air Force (IAF) takes up the repairs of the Vijayanagar Advance Landing Ground (ALG) situated in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh on the border of Myanmar. This ALG is very critical to the people of the area in the absence of any motorable roads. This ALG has been closed to the fixed wing aircraft since 2016.

After getting approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in June 2009, the IAF embarked on an ambitious reconstruction plan to upgrade the existing eight ALGs, including infrastructure development at certain air-bases in Eastern Air Command’s (EAC) area of responsibility.

The ALGs for upgradation include Tuting, Mechuka, Along, Tawang, Ziro, Pasighat, Walong and Vijaynagar in Arunachal Pradesh. The outlay plan for the upgradation of ALGs alone is nearly Rs. 1,000 Crore.

Since it takes around 10 days to reach isolated Vijaynagar on foot through dense jungles, both the labour and the material will be airlifted. According to the IAF the place is not connected with any motorable road, and the ALG has not been fit for operations by fixed-wing aircraft since 2016.

“All the material and labourers have to be airlifted to Vijayanagar. The repair work involves cleaning of runway surface on which grass and moss had accumulated due to non-utilisation of the surface over a long duration. This task required a large number of people as it is manpower oriented.”

For the first time, people from 11 nearby villages from the local area of Vijayanagar came forward voluntarily help Air Force authorities to undertake this task by carrying out shramdaan.

The repair work by the specialised team has already commenced and the material is being transported to the ALG in phases.

Since 2016, the operational capability of the IAF has got a major fillip with the re-launching of two upgraded ALG at Ziro and Along in Arunachal Pradesh.

This capacity building has helped the IAF operations in the region by some of the new inductions including the C-130J Super Hercules. This has also helped in air maintenance as well helped in civil air connectivity.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2016, Vayudoot Airlines once operated from Ziro airfield in the mid-eighties. And the IAF has always operated a flying detachment from the ALG at Ziro for air maintenance purposes.

“The runway surface at Ziro saw a steady deterioration over a period of time due to lack of maintenance and other issues. Encroachment due to the absence of a security wall further added to the declining status of the airfield. There was, however, always a need to connect the beautiful valley of Ziro with rest of the country by air, for tourism as well as other purposes.”

The IAF took over the Ziro airfield from AAI in August 2010.

The ALG, at Along, prior to the upgradation was partly paved, partly grassy, and duly reinforced with perforated steel plates. Besides IAF, which operates all year round, Pawan Hans also operates helicopters from here during non-monsoon periods.

Since 2016, including ALGs at Ziro and Along, Mechuka, Pasighat, Tuting, and Tawang have since got upgraded with paved runway surfaces and other facilities such as aprons for ground manoeuvering, Air Traffic Control tower with associated infrastructure including perimeter road and a security wall.

The new runway surfaces and other infrastructures are being built to the exacting standards for any other modern airfield in the country. Runway length and width, wherever feasible, has been extended and will enable ATR class of fixed-wing operations in most of the ALGs.

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