IAF to surrender 15 disused airfields; convert 24 more such airfields into weapon storage areas

Indian Air Force has identified 15 disused airfields, including one in Karnataka, which would be handed over to other government agencies for use.

These are among the 39 old airfields that the IAF has in its possession for decades, but didn't use. With space at a premium, the defence ministry has opened up to the idea of handing some of these defunct stations to others for their use.

Out of the 15, as many as four including Raichur in Karnataka are still managed by the IAF. Other three are Sarbhog in Assam; Pandaveshvar in West Bengal and Diu.

One of them (Pallel in Manipur) is under the Army and Akbarpur in Uttar Pradesh is being managed by the state government.

The remaining 9 airfields are being looked after by the Defence Estate Organisation. They are at Salboni and Andal (West Bengal); Sookerating in Assam; Hathwa in Bihar, Iradatganj and Shahbazquli in Uttar Pradesh; Mohanbatta in Chhattisgarh; Bobbili in Andhra Pradesh and Chettinad in Tamil Nadu.

Out of 39 disused airfields, 15 airfields will be surrendered. "The remaining 24 disused airfields are planned to be utilised for creating IAF infrastructure like weapons storage areas, radars and missile operation locations, helipads and communication hubs," IAF informed a panel of lawmakers.

"Case has been taken up with the Director General Defence Estate to suggest modalities for utilisation of these airfields by sister services," it said.

In order to improve its operational efficiency, IAF is also activating civilian airfields near the border. Last month two Su-30 MKI operated from Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun for two days for area familiarisation before returning to their parent base.

In addition, the service has shortlisted as many as 22 stretches of National Highways where the fighter jets can touch down and take-off in case of an emergency. Such highways operations were practised on the Delhi-Agra and Agra-Lucknow expressways.

Plans are afoot to undertake more such landing and take-off exercises in other highways, mostly in central and eastern India.

The identified road segments include Jamshedpur-Balasore highway and Chattarpur-Digha highway both touching Odisha; Kishanganj-Islampur highway in Bihar, Delhi-Moradabad highway; Bijbehara-Chinar Bagh highway in Jammu and Kashmir, Rampur-Kathgodam highway in Uttarakhand, Lucknow-Varanasi highway in Uttar Pradesh, Dwarka-Maliya highway in Gujarat, Kharagpur-Keonjhar highway in West Bengal; Mohanbari-Tinsukia highway in Assam; Vijayawada-Rajahmundry highway in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai-Puducherry highway in Tamil Nadu and Phalodi-Jaisalmer highway in Rajasthan.

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