To protect Beijing’s assets like fighter jets and ground equipment from aerial attacks and enable sustained military operations, China has been upgrading its air bases closer to Indian border with speed.
The Indian government has been informed by the Indian security agencies about the seriousness of the upgrading of the air bases. They notified how major work was started at Hotan airfield in Xinjiang, north of Jammu and Kashmir, at Lhasa and at the base at Heping-Shigatse too, both in Tibet.
Before this, the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, Heping-Shigaste which is at 220 km north of Dokalam got an upgrading with a second runaway.
Indian security agencies have informed that a hanger (concrete structures to house planes) was built at Lhasa, only 330 north-east of Sikkim. The hanger is inside a mountain and a new taxiway had also come up with this. Also, several large hangars have been built at Hotan. At Heping-Shigatse, China is building permanent hangars.
On January 25 this year, the US-based think-tank, Stratfor released satellite pictures of air bases which were the first tip-off about a military upgrade at Lhasa and Shigaste. The report of Stratfor stated, ‘Preparing for a rematch at the top of the world’, that China and India build-up a claim even after the military stand-off at Dokalam.
China has many airfields in Tibet which includes Ngari Gunsa, just 200 km east of Ladakh, or Nyingchi, just 100 km north of Arunachal Pradesh and others. Also, at Xinjiang in Kashgar, it has another airfield other than Hotan.
On the other hand, India has the same number of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG). It has ALG in Arunachal Pradesh, Tuting, Waliong, Along, Passighat and Mechuka. While in Ladakh, India has DBO, Nyoma and Fukche as ALGs and full-fledged airfields at Leh, Kargil and Thoise.
As India lately held air exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’ and Indian Security agencies have informed that China monitored the exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’. It was one of the biggest exercises in recent years which simulated fighting Pakistan and China simultaneously.
China’s surveillance aircraft TU 154 MD was put up to collect intelligence and normal flying activity which was observed in airfields of Lhasa, Chengdu, and Hotan.