The People’s Liberation Army Air Force deployed two Xian Aircraft Corporation H-6 bomber to Xigatse airbase in the Tibet Autonomous Region, reviewed data has confirmed. Xigatse is the nearest airbase to the previous Doklam crisis and India’s strategic Siliguri corridor.
The H-6 arrived at the airbase between 02 and 03 March as tensions between India and Pakistan increased over the Balakot strikes. The aircraft were observed on the eastern alert ramp along with a new rotation of possible CASC CH-5 UAV. The strike capable UAV arrived as workers erected two hangars on the alert apron.
The CH-5 replaced the deployment of CAIG Xianglong which had been at the airbase since the Doklam crisis reached its height in August 2017. At the time, the Chinese press suggested that the PLA could remove Indian troops from its territory through force.
The H-6 remained approximately a week before departing the airbase between 10 and 12 March. This is the first time the H-6 have been recorded at the airbase in open sources.
On the other side of the border, renovations to infrastructure continue at India’s Hasimara. New weapons handling areas and a new aircraft hangar are underway. Although no deployed units have been noted, the Indian Air Force keeps several “decommissioned” MIG-27 near operational areas of the airbase. Older derelict MIG-27 have been moved south of the runway for storage.
Hasimara is the closest airbase to Doklam, an area where China still maintains a substantial ground presence. Two Akash groups composed of four batteries each remain on-site north of the runway for air defense. The airbase will reportedly support a squadron of Dassault Rafale after deliveries commence in September 2019.
The deployment of H-6 during a crisis period with Pakistan likely heightens Indian policy maker fears of fighting a two front war.