Western Air Command
Permanent airfields assigned to the Command are Adampur, Ambala, Avantipur, Chandigarh, Halwara, Hindan, Leh, Palam, Pathankhot, and Srinagar, with forward airbases at Amristsar, Bhatinda, Sirsa and Udhampur.
Squadrons within the Command are equipped with the MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-27, MiG-29 and Jaguar S(I) aircraft.
There is reportedly an Air Operations Group located at Udhampur which is principally tasked with the defence of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. Western Air Command also reportedly has a forward headquarters located at Chandigarh near the Army's Western Command.
The Siachen Glacier is a cold, bleak, uninhabited region where, the day-to-day existence is a relentless battle against the fury of nature. Bone chilling cold and sudden blizzards are just part of the hazards that Indian troops have to face as they patrol the icy wastes and preserve the integrity of the nation. In fact, this area has aptly been tenned as the "worlds highest battlefield' where Indian troops have to face a challenge from Pakistan as well as from other elements. Because of the nature of the environment and lack of any regular means of conveyance, the troops in this region are supported by air. The IAF is engaged in air logistics operations to ensure that our troops are adequately supplied to meet all contingencies.
Perhaps the only air force in the world engaged in such a protracted air logistics operations is the Indian Air Force. To carry out this task the IAF uses aircraft ranging from IL- 76 heavy transport jet, which incidentally operates to one of the world's highest airfields at Leh, to the light weight Cheetah helicopter renowned for its ability to operate at very high altitudes. IAF bases at Leh, the capital of Ladakh and Thoise form the hub of air logistics operations in this area. IL- 76 and AN- 32 aircraft fly men and material on a daily basis and these in turn are airlifted by Mi-17 and Cheetah helicopters to the forward posts. Preparations for such missions begin well before dawn with the maintenance crew preparing the aircraft for the day while the aircrew study the weather and determine the best routes to fly so that a maximum of mission success rate is achieved.
During the year 1999-2000, the IAF was engaged in the daunting task of air logistics support in this sector when the Kargil operations commenced, and the IAF had to continue its routine air logistics task whilst being engaged in other operations. Post-Kargil operations necessitated the increase in the number of troops deployed in the sector which in turn required an additional air effort. Rising to the challenge, the IAF ensured that troops were adequately supplied despite constraints of time and weather. It was indeed a remarkable year of achievement of the IAF in air logistics operations as never before had it been faced with such enormous challenges.
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