Increasing Chinese military activities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) has set alarm bells in India. While its air presence has been a matter of concern over past several years, latest reports suggest construction of underground bomb-proof shelters to house fighter jets at Lhasa Gonggar airport.
So far intelligence report and images available through satellites suggested that airfields in Tibet were not optimised for offensive operations. But a recent report has suggested that the airports were being converted into military airbase. There are also reports of constructions of bomb-proof hangers dug deep inside the mountains nearby to hold around three squadrons of fighters or about 36 aircraft.
Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Air Force) has such facilities along its border with Russia. The underground bomb-proof facilities along the India-China border in the TAR region is a “new development”, defence sources admitted.
In addition, Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) bases near some of the airfields is also being augmented and expanded along with helicopter bases. The SAM base near Shigatse airfield situated across Sikkim in Tsang province of Tibet has also been augmented.
The new helicopter bases allow helicopters to take off and land with full payload. India has also been upgrading Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) along its northern borders. These temporary airfields located in Walong, Mechuka, Tuting, Pasighat and Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh were built during the Second World War and have now been refurbished.
There are also reports of deployment of its Sukhoi-27 and J-10 fighter aircraft fleets for continuous operations during winter months in TAR that gives Chinese a “year round capability”. This is an important development because in the past China would only occupy forward airfields during the summers.
China PLA Air Force is also on a modernisation spree to ensure that more than 50 per cent of its fleet comprise advanced multi-role combat aircraft. “It has a credible mix of multi-role fighter and strike aircraft. They have got adequate reserve to replenish after attrition. They have multi-layered air defence systems and rocket forces that allow them (read China) to fight a ground campaign even without a decisive air victory,” sources added.
News To Worry
Chinese Air Force is on a modernisation spree to ensure more than 50 per cent of its fleet comprise advanced multi-role combat aircraft to enable them in fighting ground campaign as well.
Source: DNA with inputs from agencies