An IAF Sukhoi Su-30 air superiority fighter seen flying a sortie over Ladakh airspace

Leh: With India and China engaged in a military standoff for more than a year now, the Chinese Air Force recently carried out a big aerial exercise from its airbases opposite Eastern Ladakh which was watched closely by the Indian side.

"Around 21-22 of Chinese fighter aircraft mainly including the J-11s which are the Chinese copy of the Su-27 fighters and a few J-16 fighters held an exercise opposite the Indian territory in Eastern Ladakh," defence sources told ANI.

The exercise, which was held recently, was watched closely by the Indian side, they said.

The Chinese fighter aircraft activities took place from its bases including the Hotan, Gar Gunsa and Kashgar airfields which have been upgraded recently to enable operations by all types of fighters along with concrete structures to hide away the presence of the number of fighters present at its different airbases, the sources said.

The sources said the Chinese aircraft remained well within their territory during the aerial drills.

The Indian fighter aircraft activity in the Ladakh area has gone up significantly since last year.

"After the summer deployments of the Chinese troops and Air Force this year, the Indian Air Force has also been regularly deploying detachments of its fighters including the MiG-29s in Ladakh," sources said.

The Indian Air Force also regularly flies its most capable Rafale fighters over the Ladakh skies which have boosted the Indian capability all along the Line of Actual Control as 24 of these planes are already in the Indian inventory now.

Sources said that even though the Chinese have withdrawn troops from the Pangong lake area, they have not moved their air defence systems including the HQ-9 and HQ-16 which can target aircraft at long ranges.

India closely watched the activities of the Chinese Air Force including the airfields in Hotan, Gar Gunsa, Kashghar, Hopping, Dkonka Dzong, Linzhi and Pangat airbases in the Xinjiang and Tibet region.

In the initial phase of the tension with China in the April-May timeframe, the Indian forces had seen the deployment of Su-30s and MiG-29s in the forward air bases and they had played an important role in thwarting an airspace violation bid by the Chinese aircraft in the Eastern Ladakh sector.

The Indian Air Force has an edge over the Chinese in the Ladakh region as their fighters have to fly and take off from very high altitude bases while the Indian fleet can take off from plains and reach the mountainous region in almost no time.

The Indian Air Force due to the speed of its assets can deploy aircraft squadrons at rapid speeds all across the country and despite limited resources, can use them very effectively.