The Indian Air Force (IAF) landed one of the largest transport aircraft in the world, the C-17 Globemaster, weighing over 128 tonnes and having a wingspan of 52 m at the Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh.
According to senior officers, this was a trial landing that validated the aircraft's short field landing performance at high altitude, the Times of India reported.
"ALG Mechuka is at an elevation of 6,200 feet above mean sea level and the landing surface is a mere 4,200 feet long. The operation demonstrated the IAF's capability to reach out to this remote ALG, barely 29 km from the Sino-Indian border.
"The ALG at Mechuka in the Yargyap river valley of West Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh was upgraded recently. The road connectivity to the nearest air/rail head at Dibrugarh, nearly 500 km away, is generally a two day travel, provided the roads are undamaged due to frequent landslides," said Wg Cdr S S Birdi, CPRO, ministry of defence, Kolkata.
"IAF has plans to validate airlift operations to and from various ALGs in the region that would usher in a new dimension in enhanced disaster response. This trial landing is expected to pave the way for operation of civil flights operating to and from the newly upgraded ALGs, which has an enormous potential to boost tourism by improving connectivity to remote locations in the North East.
"The aircraft was received by the Flt Lt S Dixit, Detachment Commander, on its maiden landing in Mechuka. The aircrew involved in this historic landing were Gp Capt T R Ravi, Wg Cdr P Sisodia, Wg Cdr A K Patnaik, MWO Tripathi and WO Nirana Ram," Birdi added.
Analysts see this as a major development at a time when China is rapidly developing infrastructure, military or otherwise, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The 55 m long aircraft can carry equipment weighing 80 tonnes and 150 fully-armed soldiers, according to the ToI report.