The Hasimara Air Force Station (AFS) in North Bengal is expected to be ready in the next two years to welcome the Rafale fighter aircraft which will have its second squadron there.
According to sources, the multi-role combat aircraft are likely to be arriving by the end of 2020 for the raise of its squadron. But the number of aircraft in the first batch of arrival is not clear yet.
The first squadron of Rafale fighter jets is likely to be raised at Ambala AFS in Punjab in March next year, sources told this newspaper.
Located in Alipurduar district, Hasimara has however no squadron based there now.
It has been undergoing upgradation in some key areas since the Indian Air Force (IAF) decided to raise a Rafale squadron there to face the Chinese threat. One of them is the runway which was last resurfaced way back in 1993.
“If the runway is not smooth, a fighter aircraft can face challenges in taking off and landing. Therefore the work of resurfacing the runway has been started. It is expected to be completed in next six months. A runway of 8,500-9,000 ft in length is the standard. Initially there was a thought to extend the runway’s length in Hasimara airbase,” a senior IAF official said on condition of anonymity.
He however added that the idea was later dropped given the available length there already.
Sources indicated that the renovation work of the hangers at the airbase is focussed on the dual use which would allow the IAF not only to accommodate Rafale aircraft but also fighter aircraft like Su-30s alternatively.
Besides, pens will be built to keep Rafale aircraft combat ready. Among other infrastructure build-up is the performance-based logistics catering to the stores of key parts of the Rafale aircraft, sources added.