IAF’s role in ‘Op Meghdoot’: 40 years of flying in ruthless terrain of Siachen

The IAF on Saturday recalled its contribution in ‘Operation Meghdoot’ 40 years ago when its tactical and strategic airlifters and key helicopters had ferried men and material to “dizzying heights” in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.

The Indian Army marked four decades of its presence on the strategically-significant Siachen glacier.


Operation Meghdoot was launched on April 13, 1984, when the Indian Army and Indian Air Force had advanced to the Siachen glacier to secure the heights dominating the northern Ladakh region, officials said.

Playing an “irreplaceable role” in this effort, IAF’s tactical and strategic airlifters, AN-12s, AN-32s and IL-76s transported stores and troops and air-dropped supplies to high altitude airfields, from where Mi-17, Mi-8, Chetak and Cheetah helicopters “ferried men and material to dizzying heights on the glacier, far above the limits set by the helicopter manufacturers,” a senior official said.

While the initial operations involved only the use of transport and helicopter aircraft transporting men and material, the IAF gradually expanded its role and presence in the region with the deployment of fighter aircraft as well.

The official acknowledging the role of the IAF in Siachen in the past few decades, said, “flying in such ruthless terrain, records of human endurance, flying and technical proficiency” are being set by it nearly every day.

‘Operation Meghdoot’ involved the airlifting of Indian Army soldiers by the IAF and dropping them on the glacial peaks.

“Although the operation began in 1984, IAF helicopters were already operating in the Siachen glacier since 1978, flying the Chetak helicopters which was the first IAF helicopter to land in the glacier in October 1978,” the senior official said.

By 1984, Pakistan’s “cartographic aggression in the uncharted territory of Ladakh”, allowing foreign mountaineering expeditions in Siachen, was becoming a “cause of concern”, the officials said.

Having received intelligence inputs about an impending Pakistani military action in the area, India decided to “thwart Pakistan’s efforts to legitimise its claim on Siachen,” they said.

The Indian Army launched ‘Operation Meghdoot’ to secure strategic heights in Siachen with the deployment of troops.

Soon, about 300-odd troops were positioned on the strategically important peaks and passes of the glacier.

By the time the Pakistan army reacted by advancing its own troops, the Indian Army was occupying strategically crucial mountain peaks and passes, thereby gaining a tactical advantage, the officials said. 

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