Indian Air Force to have fighter base near Thanjavur
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon have a full-fledged fighter base
near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. It will be utilised to keep an eye on the
major sea-lanes of communication which carry over 60 per cent of the
world trade, including oil, to energy starved countries in east Asia and
India, said a senior official here.
The move is part of the plans to maintain the southern components of
the armed forces in fighting fit condition.
The IAF refers to south India as the “cradle of training” as most
round-the-year fighter bases are located in the east, north and south.
The base would also be useful in combating threats of terrorism from the
However, the official discounted the notion that it was being set up
to take on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He said the IAF
concurred with the observation of Chief of the Naval Staff Sureesh Mehta
that the LTTE was an irritant and not a threat.
The thinking to set up a fighter base near the cone of the Indian
peninsula to keep an eye on sea lanes on both sides of the coastal flank
is the beginning of the end to the “sea blindness” of policy makers to
the opportunities and threats from the oceans.
The Indian Navy too is being furnished with equipment that will
enable it to maintain surveillance over the huge shipping traffic in the
oceans as well as intervene if there is a threat to the orderly movement
of commercial cargo by sea.
In an indication of the growing importance of the region in the
country’s calculus, the IAF held a week-long exercise “Dakshin Prahar”
earlier this month. The exercise, conducted in two phases at
Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad, reinforced the need for an active
fighter base at an appropriate place from where both flanks can easily
be covered by fighters.
The IAF now has 60 air bases of which only nine are in the southern
Of these bases in the south, most are training, logistics and
maintenance centres. Only Thiruvananthapuram, Arakkonam and Dindigul
host some fighters such as Mirage-2000 and Jaguars. It is expected that
the Thanjavur base will host state-of-the-art Sukhoi fighters.
The top military brass here feels the need to be prepared to
adequately defend south India in a coordinated manner. The IAF is now
planning to regularly hold exercises in the region along with the Navy,
the Army and the coast guard.The Hindu