Dehradun: In a major breakthrough in the rescue of the workers trapped in the tunnel collapse in Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand, the Indian Air Force on Friday delivered the American drilling machine and other equipment near the rescue site in a swiftly operated mission, an IAF spokesperson said. On 15 Nov 23, Indian Air Force (IAF) was pressed into action to assist in rescue operations undergoing near Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand after the routine drilling procedure failed to rescue the trapped workers.
The rescue operations were halted due to failure of the equipment which was earlier utilised to create a passage. The IAF spokesperson said that the time critical mission demanded a swift action to deliver the equipment as close as possible to the rescue location. IAF took a prompt decision to launch its special operation platform C-130J (Super Hercules) to deliver the task, the spokesperson said.
As the IAF took over the rescue operation, Dharasu Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), located at Chinyalisaur, was identified as the nearest possible location for expeditious operation, the IAF spokesperson said. The ALG is located at approximately 30 km from the rescue site. Dharasu ALG is a short and narrow airstrip of 3600 feet situated at an elevation of 3000 ft AMSL.
The IAF spokesperson said that the IAF utilised an integrated approach handshake with civil administration and BRO. Before launching the actual mission, a helicopter was launched to ascertain the feasibility of operations. Simultaneously, two C-130J aircraft were launched to Agra and Palam to assess the equipment meant to be carried to the rescue site.
Although both the aircraft were ready for quick launch as soon as the ALG was declared fit for ops, the rescue operation hit a roadblock as during earlier feasibility trial, Dharasu ALG was made unfit for routine operations by C-130J aircraft, the IAF spokesperson said. “Therefore, a fine professional call was required to operationalise the ALG for this operation keeping in mind the criticality of mission,” the IAF said.
It said that the helicopter operation was planned with C-130J pilot onboard to assess obstructions and runway condition and multiple approaches were flown by the helicopter to ensure that the most suitable call is taken before clearing the ALG for such critical operations. “The entire mission hinged upon two critical aspects viz ALG fitness and success of operation.
The ALG was cleared in a short period catering for operation of a large platform. Initial operationalisation involved a quick vegetation clearance which could have been detrimental for the aircraft operations,” said the IAF spokesperson. It is learnt that the IAF undertook three missions and airlifted 27.5 Tonnes of critical rescue equipment into this short airstrip.
The mission was undertaken amidst the challenges of reduced visibility conditions during departure, heavy weight landing at short and narrow airstrip and offloading in constricted space. “The offloading of critical material at such remote places was itself a huge challenge for operations,” the IAF said adding the Dharasu ALG did not have specialised equipment required for offloading from C130J aircraft.
The IAF spokesperson said that in one of the cargo offloading, a mud ramp was created locally to avoid delay in subsequent rescue operations. “The success of the operation was a result of pin point execution. The thorough professionalism of IAF aircrew flying C-130J was evident wherein the whole operation was executed within less than five hours.
The flying operations needed calculated approach and adequate risk mitigation to undertake this non routine critical ops.” added the IAF spokesperson.