‘Eastern Air Command fully equipped to meet threats’

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed between government of India and Russia to jointly manufacture 150 fifth generation modern aircraft to be included in Indian Airforce. Out of these 150 aircraft, 75 will be manufactured in Russia and the rest 75 in India by transfer of latest technology," disclosed Air Commander P K Barbora, Air officer commanding, 11 wing airforce station, Tezpur, while addressing the media from Shillong, Guwahati and Tezpur at a press conference held at the airforce station here this afternoon on the occasion of 70th Airforce Anniversary, being celebrated from 1st to 6th October.

Air commander Barbora further informed that the IAF has already inducted 50 Sukhoi-30 aircraft to strengthen its fleet and might also introduce the advanced version of mirage-2000 aircraft. He said emphasis would be given more on providing proper training to the pilots to operate the high technology aircraft.

When asked about the increase in the number of accidents of MIG-21 fighter aircraft, he downplayed it by saying that some of these fighter planes, mostly used to impart training to young pilots, had overgrown their technology life of 37 years. He clarified that since more than half of the fighter planes in India airforce were Mig-21 category and having maximum plying operations, the accidents did occur sometimes. But, he said, most of the MIG-21 fighter plans had already been modified with the latest technological upgradation. He informed that Sukhoi-30 fighter planes cost about Rs. 40 to Rs. 45 crores whereas the cost of Mirage-2000 was still higher.

He mentioned that eastern air command (EAC), set up in 1958 as No.1 operational group and which is one of the five operational commands of the Indian Air Force, was responsible for security of the air space of the eastern and north eastern regions of India.

Air commander Barbora disclosed that the period between December, ‘59 and October, ‘62 had been the period of steady growth for EAC. However, the overall security situation of the country deteriorated when India’s border with China flared up due to concentration of Chinese forces. Thus, in order to strengthen the Indian defence, especially to increase airlift capability of the IAF in North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), the No. 1 operational group was reorganised at Tezpur in

1962, with AVM Shivadeo Singh, PVSM, taking over as the AOC. The group immediately increased its war potential, incorporating some more operational units, viz, Airforce stations at Jorhat,Tezpur, Chabua, Guwahati, Bagdogra and Kumrrigram, tactical air centres at Sukena and Tezpur and care and maintenance party and air defence area headquarter.

Barbora mentioned that, in order to meet the increasing transport support requirement in the east, it was decided to shift HQ. EAC from Calcutta to Shillong.

He said the main threat to India’s national security at present was from Pakistan and the ISI sponsored terrorist activities, especially in J &K, though the threat to the northern and eastern borders was no less. Even the proliferation of various militant groups in the North-east and their capacity to disrupt development activities could not be discounted, he added. Saying that the threats emanating from gunrunning, smuggling and extortion also called for caution, Borbora said that the problem compounded when these activities were initiated outside India’s territorial borders.

He said the recent spate of terrorist violence in Nepal was a worrisome development for India, even though there is no short term threat as long as the country’s borders on all sides were fully equipped to meet any emergency. Borbora pointed out that the Eastern Air Command, as the guardian of the skies in this sector, was fully committed and prepared to thwart any threat in this region.

NM Tibrewala