IAF inducts second SU-30 squadron in northeast

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CHABUA - The Indian Air Force Tuesday inducted a second squadron of its frontline Sukhoi-SU30 combat jets in the northeast as part of a strategic deployment of advanced assets close to the Chinese border, an officer said.

A single Su-30 has presently been stationed at the Chabua air base, about 450 km east of Assams main city of Guwahati, with the strength of the squadron gradually being raised to 18 aircraft.

The idea is to ensure that the skies and the borders in the east are well protected and secured. The Sukhois can be used for both offensive as well as defensive purposes, Air Marshal K.K. Nohwar, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Air Command, told reporters after the formal induction ceremony.

As part of the formal induction, the fighter jet staged an impressive flypast.

The IAF had inducted its first SU-30 squadron at Tezpur in northern Assam in June 2009.

The decision to deploy the Su-30s, the most potent fighter in the IAF inventory, follows repeated instances of Chinese incursions in Arunachal Pradesh in the last few years.

The Tezpur and the Chabua air bases are within striking distance of the India-China border along the mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh.

According to the defence ministry, there have been about 350 violations by Chinese soldiers in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border since 2008.

Beijing had in 2003 given up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim but still maintains that vast stretches of Arunachal Pradesh belong to China.

Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. This frontier is defined by the McMahon Line, a notional boundary that is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China has never recognised the McMahon Line, and claims 90,000 sq km or almost all of Arunachal Pradesh. India also accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km in Kashmir.

India and China fought a bitter border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into what was then called the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops.

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and tailor-made for Indian specifications, the Russian designed Su-30 is being manufactured under license by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The aircraft was inducted into the IAF in 1997.

“Forty-four Sukhois are being inducted into the IAF, taking the number of the jets to 270,” Nohwar said.

The IAF currently operates six squadrons of the Su-30s, with three stationed at Lohegaon in Pune, two at Bareilly, and one Tezpur. Chabua is the seventh squadron. Each squadron generally comprises 18-20 aircraft.

The Chabua air base was built in 1939 and during World War II was a major supply point for ferrying supplies to allied forces in and around Kunming in China to fight the Japanese. This was known as “Flying the Hump”.

The Tezpur airfield was constructed in 1942, during the Second World War. It lies between Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Ever since its inception, it has been one of the most active bases in the northeast from where a variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft have been operating.

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