Ghaziabad: Flying continuously for over 40 days to bring in oxygen from within and abroad, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday said it was ensuring that there was no let-up in its missions to support the troops deployed along the border with China and Pakistan.
Indian Army has been deployed in heavy numbers along the border with China since last year’s April-May timeframe to check the Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh and other locations.
“The C-17 is capable of airlifting tanks right up to Leh. We are ensuring that we undertake 24/7 COVID-related operations and at the same time, not dent or minimise operational capabilities of supporting our troops in forward areas in case of any flare-up,” Group Captain Manish Kumar told ANI while displaying operations of the C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
The officer is part of the operational planning for the operations of the 81 squadron, which operates the C-17s in the IAF at the Air Headquarters.
81 Squadron’s commanding officer Group Captain P Sisodia said the aircraft is highly capable and has proved its worth in all types of missions and tasks assigned to it which may be to ferry tanks to a particular place or ferrying oxygen tankers to fight against the “invisible enemy” in form of COVID.
Asked how the squadron was ensuring the safety and protection of its men from the COVID-19 virus for the multiple tasks given to it at the moment, he said the crews have been made to operate in an air bubble and they have been segregated.
Three different sets of pilots are working at the moment as separate teams. They have been formed to work for COVID relief, cyclone relief, and the last one for air maintenance tasking in the northern areas with China and Pakistan.
Kumar said the surge in flying for getting oxygen tankers was like the flying operations one sees during wartime.
“The scale of operations this time is unprecedented. We’ve flown almost 1,600 sorties amounting to almost 3,200 hrs of flying. We have airlifted almost 14,000 tons of load and about 800 odd liquid medical oxygen containers,” he said.
The C-17 heavy-lift aircraft were acquired from the US around 10 years ago and have been extensively engaged in operations all around the world for the country.
The C-17 planes were used last year to extensively provide tanks and infantry combat vehicles to the Indian Army at more than 10,000 feet altitude in Ladakh and other areas.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria has also given instructions to maintain a high level of readiness to undertake any operation.