In a significant capability demonstration by IAF, a C 130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft landed at the world’s highest airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), at 0654 hours on 20 August 2013. The Commanding Officer, Group Captain Tejbir Singh and the crew along with senior officers of Air Headquarters touched down on the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area after taking off from their home base at Hindon. DBO,an important Army forward area post, linking the ancient silk route to China, was built during the India-China conflict in 1962 and came into prominence when Packet aircraft of the IAF operated from DBO between 1962 and 1965. Once again, this strategic base in the Northern Himalayas gained importance when it was resurrected and reactivated by the IAF with the Indian Army and made operational when a twin engine AN 32 aircraft from Chandigarh landed there after a gap of 43 years.
Considering the very limited load carrying capability of AN 32 and helicopters, a decision was taken by the IAF to land the C130J-30 aircraft which is capable of lifting up to 20 tonnes of load. The tactical airlift aircraft of the special operations squadron, the “Veiled Vipers”, which is capable of undertaking quick deployment of forces in all weather conditions, including airdrops and landings on unprepared or semi prepared surfaces created history today by landing at this altitude and hostile terrain conditions.
This achievement qualifies for the world record for the highest landing by an aircraft of this class. Incidentally, this was the same aircraft and crew that operated at Dharasu during “Op Rahat”, undertaken for the Uttarakhand flood relief. This achievement will enable the forces to exploit the inherent advanced capabilities of the aircraft by increased capability to induct troops, improve communication network and also serve as a great morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned there. It is also a projection of the fact that the IAF is capable of operating in such inhospitable terrain in support of the Indian Army.