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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2734

Indian Air Force to Set Up base Near Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

New Delhi, 23 December, (India Defence): The Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon have a full-fledged fighter base near Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu. It will be utilized 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 new air force base is also expected to be useful in combating threats of terrorism from the sea.

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 move is said to be a 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” s most round-the-year fighter bases are located in the east, north and south.

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” f policy makers to the opportunities and threats from the oceans. The 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 “œDakshin 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 command. 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.

- Asian Tribune -

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