By Tenzin Dharpo
New UAV hangers at the Lhasa Gonggar airport in TAR. photo- Col. Vinayak Bhat (retd.)
DHARAMSHALA, Aug. 29: The Lhasa Gonggar Airport in occupied Tibet’s Tibetan Autonomous Region has been undergoing expansion and strengthening to host multi-role military capability as part of China’s attempt to boost its aerial offensive against India in the aftermath of the Doklam standoff in 2017.
Satellite images procured by The Print
dating back to late 2018 shows the airport in Lhasa being expanded with aprons or ramps where planes are parked. The new parking apron has been created very close to the mountain south of the airport, which is connected with a taxiway of 18m width, and can cater for 36 fighter aircraft at a time.
New hangars for Air Force of the PLA’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have also been added at its south-eastern end. Satellite images from November 2017 show that a blue-topped hangar of 22mx17m was created to host BZK-005, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) UAV which has a wingspan of 18m, a ceiling limit of 8km and a range of 2,400km, The Print
Also, the new Terminal 3 at Gonggar airport, covering close to 3 acres, can host 5.5 million passengers by 2020 and about 9 million passengers by 2025. The new terminal measuring 750m can project out 20 aerobridges, four times more than its earlier capability to provide all-weather dry access to aircraft.
China’s aggressive military infrastructure around its neighbour India has been reported to be growing by the day with permanent military barracks near Doklam, metalled roads near Arunachal Pradesh border and troop concentration.
Currently occupied Tibet has five airports scattered in 5 of the 7 prefectures of Tibet, i.e. Lhasa Gonggar Airport (3600m), Nyingchi Mainling Airport (2949m), Chamdo Bangda Airport (4334m), and Shigatse Peach Airport(3782m) and Ngari Gunsa Airport(4274m). Normally, tourists will enter Tibet via Lhasa Gonggar Airport and Nyingchi Mainling Airport. Experts say China also has plans to built three more airports in TAR near the border region neighbouring India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2021.
All the airports in Tibet are dual-use , for both civilian and military purposes.