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West Bengal's Hasimara Airbase to house IAF Rafale squadron

16 March, 2021 14:49:03
West Bengal's Hasimara Airbase to house IAF Rafale squadron

Hasimara Air Force Station in Alipurduar, North Bengal is all set to house Rafale fighter jets which are expected to arrive here by mid-April. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will raise its second squadron of the ‘game changing’ Rafale combat aircraft in Hasimara air base. This is a big feat for The first squadron of Rafale jets is stationed at Ambala Air Force station. Hasimara is located strategically near the Indo-Bhutan border.

The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia. The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets. Hammer (High-ly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defense major, Safran.

The second squadron of Rafale is being raised at the next main operating base (MOB) at Hasimara. The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop the required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases. India is expected to get more Rafale jets from France in the next couple of months. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft.

Hasimara Airbase

The hangars are so built that it can accommodate both the Rafales and Sukhoi MKIs. Sukhois and Rafales are jets that tend to pick up any particles on the runway. Hence, resurfacing is important for smooth landings and takeoffs. Work on resurfacing the runway has begun already. The runway will be ready in a year.

The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia. The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets. Hammer (High-ly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defense major, Safran. The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.

The second squadron of Rafale is being raised at the next main operating base (MOB) at Hasimara. The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop the required infrastructure like shelters, hang-ars and maintenance facilities at the two bases.

In September 2016, India inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafael fighter jets in a 7.87 billion Euro (Rs 59,000 crore). Out of the 36 jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The Rafale is a French twin-engine jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The fully versatile Rafale is able to carry out all combat aviation missions: air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

Nearly four years after the inter-governmental agreement with France, the first batch of five Ra-fale jets arrived in India on July 29 last year amid much fanfare. Seven Indian pilots left the Mer-ignac airbase in the French port city of Bordeaux on the five jets on July 27 and steered 7,000 kilometers to land at Ambala air base on July 29. On their way to India from France, the jets were refuelled mid-air from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet. The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft were officially inducted into the IAF on Septem-ber 10 last year as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the 'Golden Arrows'. A second batch of three Rafale jets arrived in India on November 3, while a third batch of three more jets joined the IAF on January 27 this year.

Meanwhile, batches of competent IAF pilots are being trained in France. It is expected that Ra-fale will serve the Indian Air Force for the next 40-50 years. Engineers and staff of the technical teams of Dassault Aviation from France are working at the Air Force Station on a war footing. Hasimara airbase came up after the 1962 Sino-India War. Earlier it had a MiG-27 squadron and has housed several squadrons of the fighter jets like the – Gnats, Ajeets, Hunters, MiG-21Bis and the Mig-27 ML fighter jets.  Now it is being replaced by Rafales and enters a new phase in the history of Indian Air Force. 

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