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Renewed threat to Delhi forces
rethink on Hindon air base
Josy Joseph in New Delhi |
April 16, 2003 22:27 IST
Taking a serious view of the warning about a potential aerial attack on the capital, the Indian Air Force has decided to reactivate the Hindon air base, which is closest to New Delhi.
It is located on the outskirts of the capital, in Ghaziabad district in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
The base used to be home to a squadron each of MIG-23s and Mig-27s, both single-engine fighters with high accident rates even otherwise.
Hindon was among the 10 air bases identified by renowned ornithologist Dr Salim Ali in the mid-80s as those prone to bird hits.
It was abandoned as a fighter base in 1997 after bird hits led to several plane crashes. In fact, the final straw was three crashes in a matter of days.
What attracted the birds were the several slaughterhouses and dumping grounds in the vicinity.
Since 1997, Hindon is home to Avros and Mi-17 helicopters and transport aircraft. The IAF Aircrew Examination Board also uses the premises.
Hindon-based fighters can reach the skies over New Delhi within five minutes as compared to the 15-plus that those from the other bases closest to the capital -- Sirsa, Ambala and Chandigarh -- would take.
In case of an emergency, the air cover provided to Delhi may prove ineffective, and hence the need to reactivate Hindon.
"We have managed to clean up the area surrounding Hindon," said an IAF officer, thanking the Ghaziabad district administration for its cooperation.
The IAF is yet to decide on the aircraft it wants to station in Hindon. It is not keen on the MIG-21s, 23s and 27s because of their high accident rates.
That leaves the IAF with the Sukhoi-30s, Mirage-2000s and Jaguars.
Another point is that relocation of assets should not create gaps in its frontline bases.
Hindon would host only those aircraft that would be best suited to defend Delhi, sources in the IAF said.