India will soon get another air base capable of operating all aircraft in the inventory of the Indian Air Force (IAF) at West Bengal’s Panagarh.
The World War II era airbase has a refurbished runway and is set to become a second hub for IAF’s C-130J Super Hercules aircraft fleet.
“Once the acquisition process is complete, IAF will have larger aircraft — refueller ones — based at Panagarh in Burdwan district of West Bengal. It can also be used for fighter planes later on,” Economic times news daily quoted Air Marshal S B Deo, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command as saying.
“Availability of Panagarh airfield will definitely enhance strategic capability of IAF in the Eastern Area of Responsibility (AOR) and will also augment mobility of Mountain Strike Corps which will be stationed at Panagarh in near future,” Air Marshal Deo said.
"In 2016, a squadron of six more Super Hercules will be stationed at Panagarh for operations in the Eastern and North Eastern region,” a senior IAF officer said.
Facilities such as hangers and maintenance units have been developed at Panagarh by Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the Super Hercules.
Availability of this airfield will also enhance the mobility of Indian Army’s Mountain Strike Corps, which will also be stationed at Panagarh in the near future.
Deo said this base can become a center not only for operational reasons but also during disaster, rescue and relief missions.
“This is one base which is not too close to the border nor too far away. It is an ideal base and then air strip is available which is a major contributing factor for selecting Panagarh. An army base is also coming up here so it is the best choice,” he said.
The aircraft operating surface at Panagarh was constructed from 1942-44 during the Second World War by the US Allied forces as part of CBI (China-Burma-India) Campaign.
During 1971 war the airbase was activated and two Fighter Squadrons (Sukhoi-7 & MiG-21) were deployed here for operations.
The Indian Air Force is in the process of inducting additional Su-30 MKI and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) which would augment the operational strength of the IAF. Further, the delivery of the 36 Dassault Rafale which are under negotiations with France, would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told the Indian parliament yesterday
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