Indian Air Force (IAF) has agreed to vacate a portion of the strategic Leh airbase for the expansion of the civilian airport in the cold desert of Ladakh.The IAF will be vacating around 14 acres of land which will be used for the expansion of the existing civilian airport area. In lieu, the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Leh (LAHDC) will give 20 acres of land to the IAF at an alternative site.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We have decided to give 20 acres of land to IAF on the condition that 14 acres of land at the airport shall be handed over to the Airports Authority of India. Negotiations are on,” Dr Sonam Dawa Lonpo, chief executive councillor, LAHDC-Leh, told dna.Situated at an altitude of 3,256 metres, Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport in Leh is on the highest air terminals in the country. One of the strategically located airports, it is used by the IAF as well as the civilian authorities for flight operations.Currently, the airport can accommodate four aircraft at a time and the authorities want to extend the bay area and build infrastructure to handle more flight operations.”We want to extend the bay area and build other infrastructure. We negotiated with the IAF for handing over 14 acres of land occupied by them so that we can expand the airport area. IAF will continue to operate from this airport but they will only spare 14 acre of land for expansion”, said Dr Lonpo.However, an official spokesman of the Jammu and Kashmir government said the Indian Air Force has agreed to vacate the airbase at Leh district in the arid Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir which will be used for expansion of the civilian airport by the J&K government.This was revealed during a meeting held by the divisional commissioner Kashmir Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, with the officials of IAF, Airports Authority of India and civil administration at his office here on Friday.”Dr Samoon was informed that the state government has identified land in lieu of the existing IAF airbase in Leh which will pave way for expansion of the airport for civilian use”, an official spokesman said.According to the spokesman, the IAF officials, who attended the meeting, said the alternate site offered by the state government in Leh has been examined by experts and they are ready to take over if the state government finalises the deal.The divisional commissioner was also informed that the modalities are being worked out to shift the existing airbase in Leh to Airports Authority of India which will develop/expand it for civilian purposes.Dr Samoon said the paperwork to finalise the deals should be taken up on priority so that it is transferred to the civil government by the end of February. The divisional commissioner said the administration will transfer the airbases to the Airports Authority of India for development.

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IAF to vacate strategic Leh airbase for civil airport expansion