Sukhoi squadron in northeast formally inducted

June 15th, 2009 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Tezpur (Assam), June 15 (IANS) Four frontline combat aircraft Sukhoi-30MKI were formally inducted in India’s sensitive northeastern region Monday, a strategic decision to move advanced assets close to the Chinese border, defence officials said.
A defence spokesperson said four multi-role strike fighter jets at the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Tezpur, about 185 km north of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, would soon be part of a Sukhoi-30MKI squadron comprising of 18 aircrafts.

“Due to bad weather there was no fly past of the Sukhois although there was a small symbolic ceremony to welcome the fighter jets and officials to the Tezpur base,” an IAF official said.

Air Marshal S.K. Bhan, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Air Command, graced the function at the IAF base, although the media was kept out of bounds.

Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and tailor-made for Indian specifications, the Su-30 MKI is a variant of the Sukhoi Su-30 and is jointly-developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Corporation and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the IAF.

Tezpur has become the third dedicated Sukhoi-30MKI airbase in the country after Pune and Bareilly.

Currently, India operates five squadrons of this Russian-built fighter aircraft with three squadrons stationed at Lohegaon in Pune and two in Bareilly. Each squadron operates 18-20 aircraft.

The IAF plans to increase the strength of its Sukhoi fleet to nearly 200 over the next five years.

As of now five bases in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country, including Tezpur, Chabua, Jorhat (Assam), Panagarh (West Bengal) and Purnea (Bihar), are due for upgrades.

The decision to set up a squadron of the most potent fighter jet in service with the IAF follows repeated allegations of Chinese incursions in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in the last few years.

The IAF base at Tezpur is within striking distance from the Chinese border along Arunachal Pradesh.

According to union home ministry reports, there were about 270 ‘violations’ by China on India’s western, middle and eastern sectors in 2008, while there were 60 such incidents reported so far this year.

Beijing had in 2003 given up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim but was still holding on to its age old stand that a vast stretch of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to them.

The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030 km (650 mile) unfenced border with China.

The India-China border along Arunachal Pradesh is separated by the McMahon Line, an imaginary border that is now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

India and China fought a bitter border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on federal troops.

The border dispute with China was inherited by India from British colonial rulers, who hosted a 1914 conference with the Tibetan and Chinese governments that set the border in what is now Arunachal Pradesh.

China has never recognised the 1914 boundary, the McMahon Line, and claims 90,000 sq km (34,750 square miles) - nearly all - of Arunachal Pradesh. India also accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km (14,670 square miles) in Kashmir.

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