Leh: Impressed by Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots who rescued an American mountaineer stranded at a height of 23,000 feet near Siachen recently, the US is planning to honour the helicopter unit for its feat.

"The US Defence Attache in New Delhi has sought permission to come to Leh to present a plaque to the 114 Helicopter Unit as its pilots saved one of their mountaineers in the region next to Siachen," senior IAF sources said here.

The Unit, also known as the Siachen Pioneers, is stationed at the Leh Air base and has been involved in several such operations.

The Unit had deployed two Cheetah helicopters on August 26 to evacuate American national Steven John Swenson from one of the most difficult glaciers, 'Shupka Kunzang', located at the base of Saser Kangri-II peak in the East Karakoram range of Ladakh region.

Swenson was part of an Indo-American mountaineering team which was attempting to summit the Saser Kangri-II peak, when he was taken seriously ill due to extremely high altitude.

The team requested for immediate air rescue through their organising agency and the US embassy.

Soon after receiving the request, the IAF dispatched a two-helicopter rescue team of the Siachen Pioneers led by Wg Cdr S Srinivasan along with the rescue team Wg Cdr D C Tiwari, Flt Lts A Agrawal and A K Bharmoria. The mission involved flying into unknown territory and landing at a density altitude of approximately 23000 ft over an inhospitable glacier, IAF officials said.

After assessing the landing site which was covered with snow and wide crevasses of the glacier, Wg Cdr Srinivasan manoeuvred his helicopter to land in the restricted area with negligible reserve of power and without wasting any time the American was taken onboard while the second helicopter maintained a close vigil from the top.

The Unit, which is frequently involved in such operations, has the motto 'We do the difficult as routine, the impossible may take a bit longer'.

(Agencies)