Eastern Air Command
Eastern Air Command is headquartered at Shillong in the state of Meghalaya. The Command's Area of Responsibility covers the eastern states that border the countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Permanent airbases assigned to the Command are Bagdogra, Barrackpore, Chabua, Gauhati, Hashimara, Jorhat, Kalaikunda and Tezpur. The Command also has forward airbases at Agartala, Calcutta, Panagarh and Shillong.
The Eastern Air Command is one of the five operational commands of the IAF. Formed first on May 27, 1958 at Ranikutir in Calcutta, the command HQs later moved to its present location in Shillong, the picturesque capital of Meghalaya. The area of responsibility of the command covers over 3 lakh kms. It covers 11 states, and is bound by the international boundaries of Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh with 6300 kms of common border.
Incidentally, the formation of the Command coincided with the IAF switching over from piston engines to the powerful jets. With the motto Samareshu Parakramaha meaning bravery and valour in the face of the enemy, the command has since grown in size and capacity. Well equipped, always on the alert and with smart and efficient personnel groomed through rigorous professional training, the Eastern Air Command has a specific mandate both during peace and war.
In war, the command is tasked for counter air operations and provides offensive air support to Army and Para-Military Forces. In peace, the command swings into action whenever there is a natural calamity. The recent examples being the relief operations in the aftermath of the supercyclone in Orissa and during floods in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The command meets more than the challenging and demanding situations.
The command has three broad spheres of activity - operations, maintenance and administration. The fighter squadrons in the Command are equipped with MiG variants, which continuously train pilots for operational flying.
At Tezpur, located on the northern bank of the Bramaputra in Upper Assam, newly commissioned ab-initio fighter pilots undergo fighter pilot training and on successful completion get inducted into various fighter squadrons in IAF. It is time tested MiG-21 which constitutes the bulk of the Command's fighter fleet besides the powerful MiG-27 equipped with sophisticated sensors and having excellent manoeuvrability.
The transport aircraft and helicopters in the North-East have a very important role. The topography in the hill regions restrict the construction of a standard runway and instead, the pilots operate from the tricky advance landing grounds (ALG's) with only one third of the length of a regular runway, having unique and uni-directional approach and take off requirements. This coupled with the vagaries of weather expects superior skills from the pilots and their navigators. Both man and machine are stretched to the limits of their capabilities.
Tribal settlements in places like Menchuha, Vijaynagar and Tuting in remote and inaccessible areas of Arunachal Pradesh totally depend on the aerial supply by Air Force. They also depend on these aircraft to airlift their sick and ailing.
Helicopters routinely take off from their bases in Eastern Air Command and fly to all the corners of North-East. For the pilots who negotiate this remote and inaccessible terrain, the experience gained over the last five decades has been well assimilated. It may be mentioned, that the district headquarters at Anini, a conglomeration of about ten tribal settlements with a population of a couple of thousand in Arunachal Pradesh is the only one of its kind in the world which is totally air-maintained. The contribution of Eastern Air Command in bringing relief and in aiding civilian population in times of calamity and strife, is an unsung saga of commitment, daring and dedication.
While air operations form the core of flying activities, these operations are ably supported by the engineering staff through the maintenance branch. The maintenance of the aircraft fleet of the command are done on a regular cycle. Maintenance includes engineering, systems and logistics management.
Eastern Air Command (EAC) is one of the five operational commands of the Indian Air Force. EAC, the "Sword Arm" of IAF in the eastern sector and the 'Guardian Angel' of the country's eastern skies, has an illustrious service to the nation. The command played a key role in many operations post Independence.
Eastern Air Command had its beginning as No 1 Operational Group on May 27, 1958 at Calcutta. The importance of defending the eastern borders was felt by the then government and this led to the Operational Group getting upgraded as Command on December 1, 1959 with headquarters at Fort William, Calcutta. Air Vice Marshal KL Sondhi was the first AOC-in-C of the Eastern Command. After the 1962 Indo-Chinese War, it was decided to raise a full-fledged command at Shillong.
The command headquarters from Fort William was shifted to Allahabad and redesignated as the Central Air Command. No 1 Operational Group was relocated from Tezpur to Shillong and was christened as the Eastern Air Command. The new headquarters started its operations from old Army barracks at Nonglyer, Upper Shillong on June 10, 1963. The present command headquarters building was inaugurated on January 16, 1991. It is an elegant piece of architecture. Surrounded by picturesque lush green lawns, the HQ presents a pleasing view to any first time visitor.The EAC has been a major participant in 1962 War and the Indo-Pak war or 1971. During 1962 war, EAC conducted a number of transport support missions with Dakota and Caribou aircraft and reconnaissance and casualty evacuation sorties by Bell and Sikorsky helicopters.
Indian Air Force gained total air supremacy over erstwhile East Pakistan during 1971 war due to gallant efforts of the air warriors of the EAC. Shooting down of three Sabre jets of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) over Boyra by Gnats of IAF speaks volumes about professionalism and valour of the command personnel. The first ever large-scale para drop of Army troops was conducted in the eastern sector. The Packet aircraft operating from air base under EAC carried out the famous Tangail Drop. This bold action had precipitated early fall of Dhaka and surrender by the Pakistan army in the east. Even helicopters played an offensive role during the 1971 war. Operating from helibases in Tripura, the Mi-4 helicopters were utilized to carry out special heliborne operations behind the enemy lines.
The EAC, over the years, has grown manifold in size and strength by raising new formations and inducting sophisticated technologies in consonance with its area of responsibility. The area of responsibility of EAC covers over three lakh square kilometres encompassing 11 states and has 6300-km-long international boundary with Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Nepal.
The major task of this command during peacetime is training the air warriors on MiG-21 aircraft and air maintenance by fixed wing transport aircraft and Mi-17 helicopters in the remote regions of the North-East. During 2003-04, 5300 tons of load in more than 5200 sorties was airlifted bringing much-needed soccour to the local public. Extending help to civil administration during natural calamities like floods in the Brahmaputra valley and other parts of the East is a daunting task. This is always undertaken on war-footing with scant regard to own comfort by the helicopter and transport aircrew of the EAC. Flood relief operations are also undertaken in the friendly foreign countries whenever requested. This year, when there was unprecedented floods in Assam, EAC aircraft had rescued 1963 people. In July 2003, in a single day EAC helicopters rescued more than 200 students of a school near Rangia.
Eastern Air Command is committed to the nation's security. Its personnel train hard during peace so as to be ever ready to accept any task during war. Its motto Samareshu Parakram propels them to accept challenges on its way to victory.
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