IAF set to turn Deesa airport into airbase

The Defence Ministry has approved a proposal to develop Deesa Airport in north Gujarat as a full-fledged airbase, said A K Gogoi, Commanding in Chief, South Western Air Command (SWAC), who was talking to reporters after the induction of 25 squadron at the IAF station here.

The 25 squadron, popularly known as Himalayan Eagle, has been relocated from Chandigarh to Vadodara.

"We had mooted this proposal (to turn Deesa Airport into an IAF airbase) to the Defence Ministry, which has granted the approval. The first phase of the project will cost over Rs 3,000 crore and it will go towards strengthening infrastructure at the airport," said Air Marshal Gogoi, adding it will add to the IAF's strategic edge since Deesa is close to the Pakistani border.

Gogoi said MiG-21 would be phased out by 2015 as it has completed its technical life, though other technologically superior variants of MiG would continue their services.

"As far as MiGs are concerned, they have given good services since early 1960s, but no doubt they have a second-generation technology. We have reduced the number of squadrons and slowly we will phase out MiG-21s by 2015. The other variants, including MiG-27 and MiG-29 have been given the technological up-gradation," Gogoi said.

He also admitted that the Indian Air Force is facing acute shortage of fighter planes. "It is true we are at the rock-bottom as far as the number of fighter planes is concerned. While we are authorised by the government to have 39 squadrons, we have 32 or 33 squadrons at the moment and that portrays the picture," the air marshal said.

Gogoi also said the Gujarat government has given green signal to acquire the 88 acres of land at Chiloda near Gandhinagar for an Air Force Complex. "The sprawling 260-acre complex would be ready by 2012 and we will shift our headquarters to Chiloda."

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