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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IAF's initiative to safeguard Northeast skies and borders

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Guwahati, India, March 1, IRNA -- A front-line Sukhoi combat jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was formally inducted in the sensitive northeastern region Tuesday as part of a strategic deployment of advanced assets close to the Chinese border, defence officials said.

The multi-role strike Su-30MKI fighter is stationed at the Chabua air base, about 450 km east of Assam’s main city of uwahati, with the strength of the squadron gradually being raised to 18 aircraft.

“The idea is to ensure that the skies and the borders in the east are well protected and secured and the Sukhois can be used for both offensive as well as defensive purpose,” Air Marshall K.K. Nohwar, officer commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Air Command, told journalists after the formal induction ceremony.

As part of the formal induction, the fighter jet made an impressive flypast.

In June 2009, the IAF had set up a squadron of the Sukhoi combat jet at Tezpur in northern Assam.

The decision to deploy the Su-30MKIs, the most potent fighter in the IAF inventory, follows repeated instances of Chinese incursions in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in the last few years.

The Tezpur and the Chabua bases are within striking distance of the India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh.

“Forty four Sukhois are being inducted into the IAF taking the number of the combat jets to 270,” Nohwar said.

According to the defence ministry, there have been about 350 violations by Chinese soldiers in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border since 2008.

Beijing had in 2003 given up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim but still maintains that vast stretches of Arunachal Pradesh belong to China.

The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km (650-mile) unfenced border with China. This frontier is defined by the McMahon Line, a notional boundary that is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). China has never recognised the McMahon Line, and claims 90,000 sq km or almost all of Arunachal Pradesh. India also accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km (14,670 square miles) in Kashmir.

India and China fought a bitter border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into what was then called the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian troops.

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and tailor-made for Indian specifications, the Russian designed Su-30MKI being manufactured under license by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The aircraft was inducted into the IAF in 1997.

The IAF currently operates six squadrons of the Su-30s, with three stationed at Lohegaon in Pune, two at Bareilly, and one Tezpur. Chabua is the seventh squadron. Each squadron generally comprises 18-20 aircraft.

The Chabua air base was built in 1939 and during World War II it was a major supply point for the ferrying of supplies to Allied Forces in and around Kunming in China to fight the Japanese. This was known as 'Flying the Hump'.

The Tezpur airfield was constructed in 1942, during the Second World War. It lies between Bhutan, Tibet, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Ever since its inception, it has been one of the most active bases in northeast from where a variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft have been operating.

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