The Indian Air Force (IAF) appears to have deployed Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in Ladakh as tensions between two Asian powers- China and India- escalate, images from ANI show.
IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria is said to have visited Leh (largest town in Ladakh) and Srinagar on June 17-18 to review preparedness at the bases there.
The IAF has also reportedly deployed fighters- Su-30MKI, MiG-29UPG, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar jets, besides Mi-17V5 medium-lift and CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters in the region.
On June 10, Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) conducted what it calls an “actual combat flight training exercise” involving WZ-10 rotorcraft in east China’s Shandong Province. The gunship is considered a competitor to the US-built Apache.
The IAF inducted 17 new AH-64E Apache choppers in 2019. They are part of 22 helicopters on order- under a $2 billion (INR 13,952 crore) deal signed with Boeing in 2015. The company is scheduled to deliver the remaining helicopters in this year. The Indian defense ministry is in the process of evaluating the acquisition of an additional six Apaches for the Indian Army.
Chinese state media on Thursday reported that the Army intensified military exercises including high-altitude tank drills and night-time parachute infiltration in Tibet bordering India’s Ladakh region. This followed the fatal clash between Chinese and Indian military in the Galwan Valley on Monday night in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed. Although China did agree there were casualties, the number of Chinese soldiers killed in the incident has not been revealed by the ministry.
The two sides allegedly fought with nail-studded batons and hurled rocks at each other in the disputed Galwan Valley - the deadliest such clash in 45 years.
While Indian media today claimed Beijing released 10 soldiers it had detained during the fall-out, Chinese spokesperson slammed the reports. "China hasn't seized any Indian personnel,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday.
Even the Indian Army said there were “No Indian troops missing in action.”
Satellite images show extensive military equipment build-up on the Chinese side in the last few days. China recently concluded a comprehensive live-fire drill involving Type 15 lightweight tanks and HJ-10 anti-tank missile systems in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an elevation of more than 4,700 meters.
The country even held a ‘troop transport exercise’ near the border and has reportedly deployed towed artillery, at least 16 camouflaged military tanks, gun emplacements and other equipment near Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de-facto border between the two countries.
“The main threat China faces on its border with India comes from Indian tanks and armored vehicles, but the Type 15 tanks and HJ-10 anti-tank missiles are very strong counters,” Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.