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    Thursday, 12 July 2018

    India building new airbase near Pak border

    Indian Air Force has begun constructing a ‘forward’ airbase in the western Indian state of Gujarat to counter a similar facility located across the border in Pakistan’s Sindh province, reported IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly on Wednesday. Official sources told Jane’s that India’s Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “quietly” approved the construction of the base at Deesa in March for an estimated $581 million. The move followed the inauguration in December 2017 of Pakistan Air Force’s  main operating base at Bholari, which is located some 420 km northwest of Deesa and about 145 km northeast of Karachi.

    Western Air Command and South Western control air operations in proximity to Pakistan. Western Command is headquartered in New Delhi, the Command also has a forward headquarters located near the Army's Western Command at Chandigarh. Airfields at Adampur, Ambala, Chandigarh, Halwara, Hindan, Jaiselmer, Jamnagar, Jodhpur and Pathankot are located within 300 km of the Pakistan border. Other more distant Western Air Command main operating airbases include Avantipur, Leh, Palam, and Srinagar, with forward airbases at Amritsar, Bhatinda, Sirsa and Udhampur. Other South Western Air Command main operating bases are at Barmer, Bhuj, Nalia, and Poona with forward airbases at Ahmadabad, Nal, Suratgarh and Uttarlai.
    In 2009, India selected eight sites as part of a project to modernize or upgrade Advanced Landing Grounds [ALG] in the northeast. They included Ziro, Passighat, Mechuka, Walong, Along, Tuting, Tawang and Vijaynagar. The ALGs of Tawang and Walong were already under the control of the Indian Army, while the others were inoperative. The new landing grounds will enhance the air maintenance capability of the Indian Air Force in the northeastern region.
    In March 2016, India reactivated two upgraded Advanced Landing Grounds at Ziro and Along in Arunachal Pradesh. The ALG project at Tawang was expected to be ready by September 2016. The start of ALG upgrades at Vijaynagar, meanwhile, was expected to take much longer as there is no proper road connectivity for carrying materials, machinery and manpower.
    For the development of defense infrastructure in the northeast, the Indian Air Force allocated $54 million from April 2016 to March 2017. India was also modernizing 10 airfields in the eastern part of India, which would augment the capabilities of the Indian Air Force in the event of a stand-off with other countries.
    India announced 29 May 2017 a major overhauling of highways that can be used as airstrips for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Nitin Gadkari, India's Minister of Road and Transport, said 17 highways along border areas will be developed to double up as airstrips which will have immense strategic value. The IAF asked the country's national highway authority to build highways in definitive locations in such a way that it can land its combat jets for "operational contingencies" and disaster relief operations. These highways will be located in some 10 states, including Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Assam which is close to the border with China.
    Notwithstanding China’s objection to the Indian stance on Arunachal Pradesh (recognized as South Tibet by China), Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced on 19 April 2018 that an additional seven advanced landing grounds will be built in the region. N: Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who witnessed the air capabilities as part of the Gaganshakti exercise in Pasighat and Dollungmukh, said that apart from modernizing the eight existing advanced landing grounds, the ministry will soon build seven additional airfields in areas bordering China. "The Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) of the IAF in Arunachal Pradesh will be further built as part of the modernization. We will develop all of them and even expand some in the frontier areas, that's certain," Sitharaman said during a media briefing.
    The process of reconstructing eight ALGs along the border with China was started by India in 2009. Of the eight ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh which are being upgraded, works and services on six ALGs had been completed, while one at Tawang was nearly complete and work will soon start at Vijaynagar. The IAF has already landed the Sukhoi and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft at most of the ALGs.

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