GUWAHATI, May 1 - As part of its wartime preparedness, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has commenced a drill to operate fighter aircraft from civilian airports in the eastern sector.
Initially, the IAF has identified Guwahati, Aizawl, Kolkata and Durgapur civilian airports for operating and validating fighter aircraft operations in the eastern sector, defence sources told The Assam Tribune.
Currently, the eastern sector has Su30 fighter jets which operate from the military airfields at Tezpur and Chabua and Hawk trainer jets which are based at Kalaikunda air base. With the IAF planning to induct Rafales, some of the new combat aircraft are likely to be based at Hasimara which used to house the phased out MiG-27s.
�The SU-30s are operating from Guwahati, Kolkata and Durgapur from today for two days. The drill will be conducted both during daytime and night. The first drill in Guwahati was conducted at 9:30 pm on Wednesday,� the sources said, adding that the drills will be held as and when validation is required.
�The process of training of pilots and crew to operate from major civilian airfields other than the planned fighter bases has begun. The exercise is being initiated so that in case of any eventuality, they are trained to shift the operating base quickly and carry out the operations,� the sources added.
�The drill will give the IAF more flexibility. The crew and other men would be able to formulate procedures and coordinate with the civil air traffic. The pilots will get familiarized with the operating procedure at the civilian airfields and get exposure to a different environment besides adapting to other factors which come into play,� a defence official said.
Eastern Air Command of the IAF oversees bases in Kolkata, Kalaikunda, Panagarh, Purnea, Bagdogra and Hasimara in West Bengal and Guwahati, Tezpur, Mohanbari, Jorhat, Chabua and Kumbhigram in Assam apart from a number of ALGs (advanced landing grounds), mostly in Arunachal Pradesh.