IAF to focus on building capabilities in Punjab

The IAF's sword-arm Western Air Command (WAC) is preparing to host two squadrons with 4.5-generation Sukhois at the Halwara fighter base near Ludhiana within two years from now. It will also base all three squadrons flying the fourth generation MiG-29 air superiority fighters in Punjab to improve its air strike capabilities.

In addition to these fighter jets, the IAF will deploy indigenously developed and manufactured Rohini Radars from the DRDO and BEL in Punjab, apart from three Active Phased Array Radars there to make the air defence surveillance robust. "We will get the first of the Su-30 squadrons to be based under the WAC by 2011 at the Halwara air base," a senior IAF officer said.

The IAF has already started the work to develop the infrastructure for deploying the squadrons with the most potent fighter aircraft in its fleet at the air base, which hosted the MiG-23BN squadrons till March this year. "We have started developing infrastructure for the Su-30 MKIs' deployment there. Work on the runway and other facilities has started and its going to be fully prepared for the aircraft in the next two years," the officer said.

The two Su-30 MKI squadrons would be deployed at Halwara simultaneously and these would be the first Sukhoi fighter squadrons under the WAC, the largest of IAF's five operational commands. At the same time, the IAF will move one of its MiG-29 squadrons from Jamnagar in Gujarat to Adampur airbase in Punjab, which already hosts two MiG-29 squadrons, another IAF officer said.

The 28 'First Supersonics' Squadron will move from Jamnagar to join 47 'Black Archers' Squadron and 223 'Tridents' Squadron to provide more teeth to the air defence of Punjab. Adampur airbase is incidentally just about 100 km away from the Indo-Pak border and it takes fighter jets just six minutes to reach the borders.

To reduce the reaction time to any enemy aircraft or missile threat, the IAF, which is responsible for the air space security of the Punjab skies, is deployed hi-tech radars along the Indo-Pak borders in the state. "The IAF is getting the Rohini radars for deployment in Punjab soon. Apart from the indigenous radars, we will get three Active Phased Array radars for deployment in the state soon," the officer said.

The radars are expected to help IAF pick up in-coming aircraft and missile even as these take off from enemy bases and provide input for the Air Force personnel to deploy counter measures to the threats.

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