Major work on at Hotan airfield north of J&K and Heping-Shigatse in Tibet; agencies alert Centre

China has been swiftly upgrading its air bases closer to Indian border, a development that not only could facilitate sustained military operations but also protect Beijing’s assets such as fighter jets and ground equipment from aerial attacks.

Indian security agencies have apprised the government how major work was on at Hotan airfield in Xinjiang, just north of Jammu and Kashmir; at Lhasa and also at the base at Heping-Shigatse, both in Tibet. Already last year, Heping-Shigaste, located 220 km north of Doklam, the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction, had been upgraded to have a second runaway.

At Hotan, several large hangars (concrete structures to house planes) have been built. Permanent hangars are also being built at Heping-Shigatse. At Lhasa, aerially just 330 north-east of Sikkim, a hangar built inside a mountain was almost ready and a new taxiway had also come up, Indian security agencies have said.

The first tip-off about military upgrade at Lhasa had come on January 25 this year when a US-based think-tank, Stratfor, released satellite images of air bases at Lhasa and Shigaste. Stratfor’s report, ‘Preparing for a rematch at the top of the world’, claimed build-up by China and India despite the end of the 73-day military stand-off at Doklam.

Besides Hotan, China has another airfield at Xinjiang in Kashgar. In all, it has a dozen airfields in Tibet, including the Ngari Gunsa, just 200 km east of Ladakh, or Nyingchi, just 100 km north of Arunachal Pradesh.

In response, India also has same number of Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG). In Arunachal Pradesh, Tuting, Waliong, Along, Passighat and Mechuka exist while in Ladakh, India has DBO, Nyoma and Fukche as ALGs and full-fledged airfields at Leh, Kargil and Thoise. 

‘Gagan Shakti’ drill was on dragon radar

Security agencies have told South Block that China monitored the recently concluded air exercise ‘Gagan Shakti’

The exercise, one of the biggest in recent years, simulated fighting Pakistan and China almost simultaneously

China put up its surveillance aircraft TU 154 MD; Beijing collected intelligence and more than normal flying activity was observed in Lhasa, Chengdu and Hotan airfields.