Every passing train a security threat to Agra air base

September 28th, 2008 - 3:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Sep 28 (IANS) A railway line uncomfortably close to the runway of the Agra air force base, one of the largest in India, sends the authorities into a tizzy every time a train passes by. “Anybody can attack the air base from the train with the help of a shoulder mounted weapon. Even though the attack will not cause much damage it will send all the wrong signals,” a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Even though the assets of the air force base, covering an area of 3,400 acres, are away from the line of fire, the authorities feel that the terror threat is “real”.

The Agra air base, which celebrated its diamond jubilee last year, is instrumental in providing transport support, bombing and airborne assault support, paratrooper training and photo-reconnaissance support. Being of both strategic and tactical importance for the IAF, the base was twice attacked during the India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971.

The authorities have urged the realignment of the railway track, which is just 400 metres away from the runway, but this is not likely to happen anytime soon. The Air Officer Commanding of the base, Air Commodore Shouvik Roy, confirmed to IANS that a request has been sent to the concerned authorities to take action.

“We have initiated a process to shift the track since it is a security threat. The railway authorities may take time to realign it,” Roy said.

“Till then, we will have to be vigilant,” he added.

A squadron of IL-78 midair refueller aircraft, which has provided the IAF with a global reach, is stationed at the air base besides IL-76, AN-32 and Avro transport aircraft, a squadron of surface-to-air missiles, a radar squadron and a signals unit.

The air base is now set to receive the first of three Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) that are currently being mounted in Israel on IL-78 platforms.

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