Uttarakhand Rescue: When IAF C-130Js Landed On Short Airstrip In Mountains

Uttarakhand Rescue
Uttarakhand Rescue

Due to the short length of the advanced landing ground (ALG) in Uttarakhand’s Dharasu, and the heavy landing weight of the aircraft, the “non-routine critical operation” had little room for error.

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Under extremely challenging conditions, the Indian Air Force (IAF) airlifted 27,500 kilograms of critical rescue equipment to a gravel airstrip high in the mountains of Uttarakhand, where 40 workers have been trapped for over 120 hours.

Because the advanced landing ground (ALG) in Uttarakhand’s Dharasu is so short, the “non-routine critical operation” was quite complex, with little room for error, and the IAF aircraft was arriving with a high landing weight due to its heavy equipment, which weighed about the same as a fully loaded big truck, people with direct knowledge said.

During a helicopter flight over the ALG, the pilots of the US-originated C-130J Super Hercules assessed obstructions and runway conditions before the mission was approved. The helicopter took multiple approaches to ensure the most suitable call is made before clearing the ALG for such critical operations, sources said.

In spite of its relatively short and narrow 3,600 foot (1.1 km) airstrip at an elevation of 3,000 feet above mean sea level, Dharasu ALG was the nearest landing site to the tunnel rescue site.

As soon as the ALG is confirmed safe for landing, two C-130Js flew to Agra and Palam to check the heavy equipment they would carry. The C-130Js rendered the Dharasu ALG unsuitable for routine operations during an earlier feasibility test.

Two critical aspects of the mission were the fitness of the ALG and the success of the operation. According to sources, the mission was conducted amid reduced visibility conditions during departure, heavyweight landing on a short, narrow airstrip, and cargo offloading in constrained spaces.

Offloading the C-130J from the Dharasu ALG was not possible due to a lack of specialized equipment. To avoid delays in subsequent rescue operations, a mud ramp was created locally during one of the cargo offloadings.

According to a source, the C-130J crews performed the entire operation within less than five hours, demonstrating their professionalism.

According to Lockheed Martin, the C-130J is a workhorse that supports any mission, whenever and wherever it is needed, as it is operated by 25 operators in 21 countries.

Rescue teams from Thailand and Norway are helping Indian rescuers in the ongoing operation, including those that successfully rescued trapped children from a cave in Thailand last year.

By using air compressed pipes, oxygen, medicines, food, and water are being provided to trapped workers.

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