New Delhi: Defence Ministry has selected Hasimara Air Force Station to stationed Rafael in north Bengal for strategic build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Hasimara Air Force Station in Alipurduar district, about 128km from Siliguri, is of strategic importance for its proximity to the India-Bhutan border. Also, the base is in the Siliguri corridor, to the north of which is China, the officer said.
South Block will upgrade infrastructure at the base to host Rafale fighter jets and increase funds for radar-based intelligence on Chinese airports in Lhasa and Shigatse on the other side of the border, air force officers in the know said.
Officers of the Indian Air Force in Hasimara have written to the defence ministry seeking clearance to relay the runway and build a hanger to accommodate Sukhoi and Rafale fighter jets.
Once done, the Hasimara air base will have the second squadron of the Rafale jets. The first one is likely to be raised at Ambala Air Force Station in Haryana. China, according to air force officers, built a runway at the Shigatse airport immediately after the Doklam standoff in August 2017.
The distance between Hasimara and Tibet is around 384km and the airport at Shigatse, Tibet’s second largest city, is a military-cum-civilian one. The Lhasa airport in Tibet’s capital is about 364km from the Hasimara air base.
“The runway at Hasimara was last relaid in 1993. We now want to rebuild it. The Rafale fighter jets can pick up even a pebble from the runway. That would be a disaster. We don’t want to take chances,” an air force officer said. Hasimara used to house the MiG-27 ML till the aircraft were phased out towards the end of 2017. Now, there are the Sukhois — Su-30MKI — one of India’s top-of-the line fighter jets.