IAF lands Sukhois in civil airports in eastern sector

IAF sources said this would help the pilots to enhance their operational capabilities and prepare better to face any threat in the eastern sector from China.

Indian Air Force landed a Sukhoi fighter jet in Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport airport at Borjhar as part of its decision to use the civilian airports for landing fighter jets during emergency situations, in Guwahati, Assam, on Thursday. (PTI Photo)

China’s reported move to augment its air strike capabilities has prompted Indian Air Force (IAF) to enhance its preparedness in the eastern sector by using civilian airports for the first time.

As part of the move, two SU-30 MKI fighter jets took off from LGBI airport here at Borjhar and four more from Kolkata airport on Thursday morning. IAF officials said similar familiarisation exercises would be conducted in Durgapur (Bengal), Aizawl (Mizoram) and Bhubaneswar (Odisha) airports soon to enhance the wartime preparedness.

"This is for the first time that Sukhoi Su30 class aircraft conducted drills from a civilian airport in the Northeast (Guwahati). Our focus was more on the western front earlier, but since our eastern neighbour (China) is enhancing its capabilities, now we have also started increasing our preparedness in the eastern sector. We need to have a serious deterrent in order to emulate any threat that may emerge in the future," Air Commodore Shashank Mishra told reporters at LGBI airport at Borjhar.

The Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft, the most advanced fighter jets India possess at present are now deployed in Tezpur and Chabua airbases in Assam. The IAF has also refurbished six advance landing grounds (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh that shares border with China and the state claimed by China as its own. The ALGs, which are again ready for use for defence purposes, remained abandoned since the Sino-Indian war in 1962.

The Hawk trainer jets were, however, landed in the LGBI airport in April 2018, during the Gaganshakti exercise.

“This drill is aimed at training our pilots to coordinate and operate from major civilian airports. The idea is to build synergy between civilian Air Traffic Control and IAF pilots so that they can use civil airfields if the main base of the IAF is attacked. This is also being done to be fully prepared to for an eventuality where the IAF may need to shift operating bases at a moments notice from a military airfield to a civilian airport," Mishra said.

IAF sources said this would help the pilots to enhance their operational capabilities and prepare better to face any threat in the eastern sector from China.

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