India has planned to base its first squadron of Rafale fighter jets in the eastern sector as part of policy to eventually build nuclear and conventional deterrence against China.
The IAF has now already confirmed its plans for the first 18 Rafales to be stationed at the Hasimara airbase in Bengal from late-2019, Times Of India reported today.
Under the Rs 59,000 crore (7.87 billion euro) deal signed with France in September 2016, the Indian Air force will be receiving 36 Rafales in batches by mid-2022.
The fighter, with 14 India-specific requirements, is capable of "cold start" from high-altitude regions. Moreover, the Rafale can carry 9.3-tonne of weapons and simultaneously can perform both air defence and ground attack missions.
The Hasimara airbase currently has MiG-27s that will be retired over the next two-three years. They will be replaced by Rafales. A team from Dassault Aviation has already visited Hasimara to review the maintenance and other infrastructure required there," said an official.
"The Sarsawa base (Uttar Pradesh), among other places, is being considered for the second Rafale squadron.
Under the contract, Dassault has to ensure minimum 75% availability for the jets at all times under the performance-based logistics support for the first seven years, which can be extended by another five," he added.
About 10 days ago, the air force has also activated the advance landing ground (ALG) at Tuting, in Arunachal's Upper Siang district. It is the sixth such ALG to be made operational in Arunachal apart from the ones in eastern Ladakh.
Furthermore, the Panagarh base in Bengal is also set to get its six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. Panagarh is set to become the headquarter of the Army's new 17 Mountain Strike Corps being raised with two high-altitude infantry divisions, apart from other armoured, artillery, air defence and engineer brigades spread from Ladakh to Arunachal.