Weeks after the India-China stand-off began in Ladakh last year, soldiers on the two sides faced off in the Galwan Valley as a disengagement attempt was derailed by the refusal of the Chinese to keep up their end of the deal. Twenty Indian soldiers, including Commanding Officer Col. B. Santosh Babu, were killed in action.
This was the first time since 1975 that Indian soldiers had died in a clash on the India-China border, and the episode marked a shift in the nature of the stand-off. That is when the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has a considerable advantage along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), was brought in for active combat deployment in the area.
In the weeks before, the IAF had been helping deploy Army personnel and equipment, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, besides bringing in winter stocks for the additional soldiers posted in Ladakh.
A year on, the IAF remains operationally deployed against China, with fighter aircraft continuing with forward deployment along with new radars and surface-to-air missile sites close to the LAC.
“The IAF, which was deployed fully after the Galwan clash, continues to remain operationally deployed,” a senior government source told ThePrint.
As its role in Ladakh underwent a shift last year, the IAF put in place a full offensive and defensive deployment to counter China’s strategy of “Anti Access Area Denial (A2AD)”, sources in the defence establishment said.
This strategy involves restricting the enemy’s freedom of movement in the battlefield, and saw China deploy a wide range of surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites and long-range radars, apart from a large number of soldiers, artillery, rocket forces and armoured elements, the sources said.
The IAF, in turn, deployed assets of multiple commands against China. Unlike the Army and the Navy, the deployment of assets in the IAF is centrally controlled. In times of need, the IAF headquarters decides where the assets are to be deployed.