Hasimara to be 2nd home for Rafale fighters
|Source: The Hitavada Date: 07 Jan 2017 09:51:56|
By Mukesh Kaushik
AIR Force Station, Hasimara, a premiere Indian Air Force (IAF) airbase under Eastern Air Command (EAC), established in the sub-Himalayan region of West Bengal after the Sino-India War of 1962, is likely to host the second squadron of Rafale fighter jets.
As reported by UNI earlier, the first squadron of the most modern combat aircraft is tipped to be set up at the Sarsawa airbase in UP. The location of the second squadron has been identified keeping in view the possible threat from the eastern neighbour China, sources in the IAF indicated. A team of Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Rafale recently visited the airbase to carry out feasibility study and improvements needed for making it a second home for the Combat jet.
The second squadron is also likely to have 12 fighters, said the sources. India sealed a Government-to-Government deal with France last September for purchasing 36 aircraft. The Euro 7.89 billion (about Rs 59000 crore) also included a component of Euro 1.8 billion for support and infrastructure supplies, which the Original Equipment Manufacturer is to create. “French experts visited Hasimara and conducted a preliminary survey of the base to make it suitable for Rafale operations,” sources in
the IAF said.
Hasimara airbase was activated on April 7, 1963, in the aftermath of 1962 war with China. The airbase was initially home to IAF Toofani squadrons. Over the years, various IAF fighter units operated from here flying the Gnats, Ajeets, Hunters, MiG-21Bis and the Mig-27 ML fighter jets. The IAF’s first aerobatics team, famously called “The Thunderbolts” was formed here at this base.
The airbase will be improved according to the special needs of the French fighters, said the sources. Under the contract, a nine-member team, including three pilots would be trained in France to take possession of the aircraft. They, in turn, will train rest of the crew after their return. The IAF managed to get an additional guarantee for an additional 60 hours for the trainer Rafale jets with a concession to keep the weapons storage in France for an additional period six months.
The French firm will supply spares for a period of seven years at initial cost, instead of five years, with an option that a new deal will be negotiated for the next five years. Of the total amount of contract, Euro 3.42 billion is for the cost of the platform; another Euro1.7 billion for India-specific 14 changes on the aircraft; Euro 710 million for weapons package; and Euro 353 million is the cost of logistics support.
The first of the jets from France is to be delivered in 36 months, by September 2019, and the entire lot in the following 30 months.