Within two months in office India’s new Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is planning a new fighter aircraft base for the IAF.
The likely location for the base in Gujarat is sufficiently close to neighbour Pakistan to allow an efficient and effective response.
The facility at Deesa, which is located in Banaskantha district, is near the border and is expected to bridge the aerial gaps in the state that already has major fighter bases in Jamnagar in Saurashtra region as well as Bhuj and Naliya in Kutch.
‘The IAF has been planning to set up a new airbase in Deesa in Gujarat which has been in the files for the last many years.
‘Due to the new defence minister’s push, the plan is now moving fast towards reality,’ senior sources in the Air Force told Mail Today.
The officials said the plan to develop the base was discussed with Sitharaman during one of her first visits to Jamnagar after she took charge of the ministry in September.
In the last few weeks, the proposal has moved swiftly and is expected to reach the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister in the near future, the sources said.
The development comes less than a month after Air Chief BS Dhanoa declared that the IAF is prepared to fight a ‘short and swift war’ at a short notice and that the force has the capability of striking across the border if the government decides.
Sources said the new team in the defence ministry follows up all the long-pending proposals and suggestions that are brought to their notice during field visits.
The project to set up the base in Deesa, which has a civilian airfield, has been held back for a long time due to ‘procedural issues’ and has been discussed many times at the ministry-level in the past.
The need for creating a stronger presence of forces has been felt in view of the increasing economic activities on the Gujarat coastline including petroleum refineries and new ports being built.
This airbase would address the huge distance between the Barmer Air Force Station in Rajasthan and air force stations in Gujarat.
Officials say the facility would give the Air Force the capability to launch counter air campaign, counter surface force campaign and strategic air campaign in case of a war with Pakistan.
The IAF also has plans of using the airbase as a training centre for its rookie pilots and for operating its remotely piloted vehicles.
The Air Force has been working to plug gaps in the western sector with Pakistan in the last few years as it started operations from the Phalodi airbase under the south western air command a few years ago.
Recently assets including the SU-30MKI combat aircraft have been deployed under the command at the Jodhpur air force station along with new ground-based air defence systems on the western front.
Slowly but steadily, the Indian Air Force is preparing itself for a two-front war with both Pakistan and China as it has been developing airfields on both sides.
On the Chinese side, the IAF has developed the Daulat Beg Oldie airfield in the eastern Ladakh sector while it is in the process of developing old advanced landing grounds in Arunachal Pradesh.
Some of the airfields have already been readied while some of them would be ready for use in the near future.
The force is also in the process of finding and developing more airbases in eastern Ladakh area to be able to airlift troops swiftly in case of a Chinese misadventure in border areas.
Daily Mail UK