IAF is planning to set up a full-fledged airstrip at Niyoma near the district capital Leh to strengthen air maintenance for far-flung posts as well as to give a boost to tourism in the picturesque area, often referred to as 'Moonland'.
The Airforce, as part of its forward policy, has already recommissioned two airstrips at Daulat Begh Oldi near the Karakoram pass and at Fukche in central Ladakh and Niyoma would be the third airbase to come up, according to Air Officer Commanding, Jammu and Kashmir, Air Marshal J Chouhan told PTI in Drass.
"After Daulat Begh Oldi airbase, another one is coming up in Indus valley in Niyoma where we are developing an airstrip," he said.
"We will carry out trial landings probably later this year. Building an airfield is a massive job. To make it operational, it will take some more time," the officer said. The project also aims at boosting tourism sector. "This air strip could be used both for tourism and for our own purpose," Chouhan said.
Referring to the need of this airstrip, he said, "It is a central place for security set up and also for tourist sector. Besides, Niyoma is well connected with roads from all sides via Manali and Leh."
"Since a large number of tourists come here, it could be developed as a big airport in future. At present, people can land only at Leh," he said.
"Opening up of land strips and helipads along Sino-India border is a normal build up and an exercise to ensure that land is available for the army operations," Chouhan said.
"These (army operations) are priorities so whatever is on priority we will start working on those aspects," he said.
The IAF has already made operational an old Daulat Begh Oldi airbase along the Sino-India border in mountainous Ladakh region last year on May 31. The base was revived after 44 years.
On that day, an AN-32 transporter plane, carrying Air Officer Commanding-In-Chief (Western Air Command) P K Barbora, landed at the Daulat Begh Oldi airstrip around 0850 hours after flying from Chandigarh. The airbase was set up in 1962 during the India-China war and closed in 1965.