With border tensions escalating between India and China along the Line of Actual control in Ladakh, IAF chief RKS Bhadauria has said that the forces are deployed and prepared for any contingency.
Speaking at the Combined Passing Out Ceremony in Hyderabad on Saturday, he said, "We are well prepared and suitably deployed to respond to any contingency. I assure the nation we are determined to deliver and will not let the sacrifices of jawans go in vain."
Air Chief Bhadauria had made a quiet trip to forward bases in Ladakh and Kashmir on Wednesday and Thursday to review operational preparedness.
The Air Force has moved its frontline fighters and helicopters to forward bases facing China. Among them are the Sukhoi-30MKI, MIG-29 and Jaguar.
The IAF’s two new acquisitions -- the Apache and Chinook helicopters – have also been spotted over the skies of Ladakh.
The Apache is an attack helicopter equipped with Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and rockets. It's often called the tank killer. The Chinooks are heavy-lift choppers that can transport troops and howitzers to high-altitude areas.
Air Chief RKS Bhadauria also spoke about increased air activity on the Chinese side.
"During this period, China deploys a lot of aircraft for training, but this time the deployment has been higher. Whenever we see unusual movement, we deploy our assets to check what is going on. We are aware of the situation, be it at LAC or beyond. Be it their air deployment or their posture,” he said.
Twenty Indian Army personnel, including a colonel, were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh on Monday night, the biggest military confrontation in over five decades that has significantly escalated the already volatile border standoff in the region.
While India has activated all its airbases in the northern border all the way from Leh to Hashimara, they are also keeping an eye on eight Chinese airbases and airfields in Tibet.
Group Captain MJ Augustine, who has wide flying experience in Ladakh, says India has an advantage over China when it comes to launching airstrikes.
"In Tibet, other than Hotan, there are no airbases that can launch fighter planes. It is wide open for destruction by surface-to-surface missiles and airstrikes because it is devoid of any blast pens. The nearest support base is 400 km away in Kasghar. "
An aerial view of the Hotan airbase.