Eastern Ladakh situation required stretching of equipment to limits: IAF chief
New Delhi: The situation that developed in eastern Ladakh last year required acclimatisation of a large number of IAF personnel and stretching of equipment to limits, but the force is “much better prepared” now in case there is a “long haul”, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari said on Thursday.
In an interaction at a defence conclave here, he also said that in the last one year, due to the challenges faced in the harsh atmosphere of the region, “we have realised, where we fell short” whether it was in terms of adequate clothing, shelters for people to live there. “The situation that developed in eastern Ladakh last year was something that we were not very familiar with, particularly in the kind of environment that we needed to operate. It required acclimatisation of a large number of personnel at short notice, required stretching our equipment to limits, which some of it were not cleared for,” he said.
The IAF chief said, “we have moved equipment to altitude, well above the altitudes they were tried and tested for, when we acquired those systems.” Following the escalation in tension in eastern Ladakh in mid-June last year, the IAF deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft as well as its attack helicopters in the key air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual Control.
At the conclave held at the Constitution Club of India, the IAF chief, in response to a question, also shared other challenges faced by the air force in the region.
There was also the challenge of continuously rotating the manpower, to take care of their health, he said.
“As a result, over the last one year, we have realised, where we fell short, whether it was in terms of adequate clothing, shelters for people to live there. So, we have overcome all those shortages now, and I think, we are better prepared, in case there is a long haul, we are prepared this winter, much better than what we were last year,” he said.
During the 89th IAF Day speech at Hindon Airbase on October 8, Chaudhari had asserted that the IAF’s prompt actions in response to developments in eastern Ladakh last year were a testament to its combat readiness.
The year gone by was “quite challenging yet extremely rewarding”, he had said. In response to another question on threats faced by India, he said, “I can assure you that we are fully aware of the threats that we face, and our acquisitions, training, and tactics developed to counter such a threat”.
The IAF chief also said that the ability to “seamlessly integrate” new weapons, new data, into the network and train its personnel to operate them, and keep them “future-ready” was the way forward.