First IAF fighter base in TN
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon have its first fighter air base and a squadron of combat jets in the peninsular region at Sulur in Tamil Nadu. The base will protect strategic installations and maintain Indian air superiority over the Indian Ocean. Work is apace at Sulur on an extended runway, test bays for the flight control system, avionics, radar, special hangars and modern radio and navigation aids. These facilities are being built for fighter jets which will embark on patrol missions over the peninsular region and the Indian Ocean.
Such a full-fledged fighter air base and the decision to position a squadron of combat jets has been prompted by “enhanced capabilities of adversaries” in recent days, top sources in IAF told this newspaper. “There is definitely a need to protect strategic assets in the south given the fact that our adversaries have long range missiles and ship-launched cruise missiles,” the sources said. Besides, a combat squadron would help maintain superiority over the Indian Ocean and protect sea routes in that region. “From Sulur it will be easy to do the aerial equivalent of a flag march over Sri Lanka and the Maldives, should the need arise,” the sources added.
The IAF has chosen indigenous Tejas fighters to be positioned at Sulur. These fighter jets are due for induction into the air strike wing in December 2010 and have a flying range of 500 km.“With mid-air refuelling, the range can be stretched up to 1,000 km for enhanced security cover over the region,” sources said. With the airspace south of Sulur being relatively free and far from the prying eyes of neighbours, the squadron of Tejas fighters will be able to work up to operational readiness in peace.
These fighters will also be close to the manufacturing facility, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), here, as well as Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which co-ordinated the indigenous programme, to help tackle maintenance problems. The IAF has ordered 20 Tejas fighters.