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Three units of IAF get chief's citation for role in eastern Ladakh

HINDON, UTTAR PRADESH (PTI): Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary on Friday awarded 'unit citation' to three squadrons of the Indian Air Force for their role in boosting India's military presence in eastern Ladakh last year following the military standoff with China in the region.

The units presented with the 'Chief of Air Staff's citation' are No. 47 Squadron equipped with MiG-29 fighter aircraft, the 116 Helicopter Unit and 2255 Squadron that operates the OSA-AK-M surface-to-air guided weapons, officials said.

The units were awarded during the 89th Air Force Day celebrations at the Hindon airbase on the outskirts of the national capital.

Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a border standoff in several areas in eastern Ladakh for nearly 17 months though the two sides carried out disengagement in a number of friction points.

The No. 47 Squadron, formed in 1959, is presently equipped with the upgraded MiG-29 aircraft. After the Balakot airstrikes in February, 2019, the squadron was deployed for the air defence role.

"The squadron flew extensively and maintained a constant vigil to ensure that there were no misadventures by our adversaries...In May 2020, the squadron was deployed for air defence as well as air-to-ground operations in the Northern sector, and carried out extensive operations at high altitude," said an official.

The 116 Helicopter Unit, formed in August 1967, is equipped with the Advanced Light Helicopter (Mark IV) Rudra.

The officials said the unit was deployed for offensive operations at a high-altitude airfield in the Ladakh area after the Galwan Valley clashes between Indian and Chinese troops.

"The unit quickly established the first-ever high-altitude attack helicopter detachment in the region and executed day and night operations, including air-to-ground weapons delivery at high altitudes," said the official.

The 2255 Squadron Det is a frontline OSA-AK-M, surface-to-air guided weapon unit.

The Squadron was mobilised for air defence in Ladakh in response to the Galwan Valley standoff.

"Since then, the squadron has undertaken various innovations to sustain serviceability and reliability of its equipment. This has enabled it to maintain its operational readiness in harsh climatic conditions, even through the harsh winter of Ladakh," said the official.

The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake area and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.

The border row escalated after the Galwan Valley clashes on June 15 last year.

Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in the clashes that marked the most serious military conflicts between the two sides in decades.

In February, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.

Following the escalation in tension in eastern Ladakh in mid-June last year, the IAF deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft as well as its attack helicopters in the key air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in Gogra as well as in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake.

Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector.

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