Indian Air Force’s enduring role in Operation Meghdoot


Operation Meghdoot and Indian Air Force: Operation Meghdoot, launched in 1984, stands as a testament to the remarkable collaboration between the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) in securing the strategically vital Siachen Glacier. This unforgiving terrain, known as the world’s highest battlefield, has witnessed decades of unwavering commitment from the IAF in ensuring India’s dominance in the region.

From Early Support to Unprecedented Operations

The IAF’s involvement in Siachen began well before the official launch of Operation Meghdoot. As early as 1978, Chetak helicopters, the first of their kind to land on the glacier, were providing crucial support. By 1984, with intelligence suggesting impending Pakistani military action, India took decisive steps.

Operation Meghdoot saw the IAF play a multi-faceted role. An-12s, An-32s, and IL-76s, the workhorses of the IAF’s transport fleet, airlifted troops and supplies to high-altitude airfields. From there, Mi-17s, Mi-8s, Chetaks, and Cheetahs, defying limitations set by their manufacturers, ferried men and materiel to dizzying heights on the glacier. This incredible feat of airmanship delivered over 300 troops to strategically important peaks and passes, giving India a crucial tactical advantage.

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Indian Air Force Operation Meghdoot Siachen Glacier.

IAF plane at Siachen Glacier.

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Beyond Transport: Fighter Jets Take Flight

The IAF’s contribution extended far beyond transportation. In September 1984, Hunter aircraft from No. 27 Squadron commenced operations from the high-altitude airfield at Leh. These jets flew over 700 sorties in the next few years, conducting fighter sweeps and simulated strikes. This not only boosted the morale of Indian troops on the glacier but also served as a powerful deterrent to any Pakistani misadventures. The operations later expanded to include live armament sorties and the deployment of MiG-23s and MiG-29s from Leh and Thoise airfields.

The IAF’s commitment to innovation continued. In 2009, the Cheetal helicopter, a re-engineered Cheetah with enhanced capabilities for high-altitude operations, joined the Siachen fleet. Further solidifying its presence, the IAF, in 2013, landed a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, the world’s most advanced transport aircraft, at Daulat Beg Oldie, the world’s highest airstrip.

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LCH Prachand at Siachen Glacier.

LCH Prachand at Siachen Glacier.

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A Lifeline in the Sky

Today, the IAF’s presence in Siachen is all-encompassing. From the latest Rafale and Su-30MKI fighter jets to Chinook and Apache attack helicopters, and from the indigenously developed Advanced Light Helicopters and Light Combat Helicopters to the reliable workhorses like C-17s and IL-76s, the IAF maintains a robust aerial ecosystem.

These helicopters serve as the lifeline for Indian troops stationed on the glacier. They provide critical support in responding to emergencies, delivering essential supplies, and evacuating the sick and wounded. Operating in such a harsh environment pushes the boundaries of human endurance, flying skill, and technical expertise. The IAF’s personnel continue to set new records every day in their unwavering commitment to safeguarding this crucial territory.

Operation Meghdoot stands as a saga of courage, innovation, and unwavering resolve. The IAF’s role in securing and maintaining India’s dominance over Siachen is a remarkable feat that continues to inspire awe and gratitude.

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