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India boosting air force at China border

August 18, 2008

The Morung Express (India)
August 15, 2008

Hong Kong, August 15 (Agencies) -- Within the next four months, a
first batch of eight Su-30MKI multi-role fighters will be positioned
at the Tezpur Airp Base in the Indian state of Assam, near the border
with China, an Indian Navy source has revealed. This is almost six
months ahead of the timeline reported some time ago in the Indian media.

This will be the first time for Su-30MKI fighters to be deployed so
close to the China-India border. The deployment of two squadrons of
Su-30MKI fighters at the Tezpur Air Base in the eastern part of the
country will greatly enhance India's capability to launch aerial
precision attacks on China.

Not taking into consideration the aerial refueling capability of the
fighters, the Su-30MKI's 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) combat radius is
enough to cover all the major cities in southwest China, including
Kunming, Chengdu and Chongqing. India plans to outfit the fighters
with the latest BrahMos air-to-ground supersonic missiles, which have
a 290-kilometer (180-mile) range.

Along the India-China border air power has been shifting in favor of
India. First of all, India has quite a number of airports in Assam
and the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh, making troop
maneuvers easier. In the Tibet region, China has only the Kang-ko
Airport in eastern Tibet, the Gongka Airport in Lhasa and one more
known as the Hidden Airport. Fighter aircraft are not normally
stationed at any of these airports.

China has sent Su-27SK fighters to this area for airport transfer
training on the plateau. Troops that took part in this training
reportedly faced difficulties in logistic support and supply. In the
nearby Chengdu Military Region, the only air force units with decent
combat strength are one J-10A regiment under the PLA Air Force's No.
44 Division and one Su-27 regiment under the No. 33 Division. The
Diqing and Zhongdian airports in Yunnan province could be used for
operations against India, but these are small civilian airports.

India has built a number of airports in the state of Arunachal
Pradesh, including seven military airports. The small Teju New
Airport located close to the border with China has only one runway
and is mainly used for rapid transport by helicopter. It could be
used as a runway for MiG-21 fighters to take off and land. There is
another similar airport in Machuka, again close to the border. A
small airport at Sookerating has one runway, while the Along Airport
is also available for fast landing and takeoff of helicopters,
indicating that the Indian Air Force attaches great importance to
fast reaction capability.

Other small frontline airport facilities include the Jorhat Airport
and Lilabari Airport. The Chabua Airport can field not only An-32
light transport aircraft but also Mi-8/17 helicopters, and is the
pivotal airport for the Indian Air Force to quickly deliver troops in
the region. Two runways have been built at this airport.

To the south of Arunachal Pradesh is Assam, where Tezpur is the
largest military airport. Tezpur Airport, now preparing to receive
the Su-30MKI fighters, is no more than 500 kilometers (310 miles)
from the practical line of control at the China-India border. The
Indian Air Defense Force No. 30 Squadron is stationed there, armed
with 16 MiG-21FL fighters, all of which are now anchored in
mound-structured hangars.

Two other small airports have been built in Assam, the Dimapir and
Kumbhirgram dual-use airports. The Indian Air Force also has the
Lengpui, Barapani and Guwahati airports in the area.

In the strategic direction of Bhutan and central Nepal, the Indian
Air Force has built three major military airports, sufficient to
provide deterrence over the central part of Tibet. These airports
include the Baghdogra (Avantipur) Air Base, where at least 16
MiG-21FL fighters and An-32 transport aircraft are based. The airport
is equipped with mound-structured hangars, each accommodating two
MiG-21 fighters. The Baghdogra Airport is also only 500 kilometers
(310 miles) from the border with China, and is the home base of the
Indian Air Force No. 8 Squadron.

In this region, the Hashimara Air Base is one of the better-equipped
military airports with large, full-fledged facilities. There are 18
MiG-27ML attackers based here, and during a confrontation with China,
these could hit targets deep in Tibet through the Bhutan-Nepal
corridor. The No. 22 Squadron of the Indian Air Force Is stationed at
this airport. In addition, a simple runway has also been built at Cooch Behar.

India and China have been following very similar paths in the
construction of airport facilities and SAM-2 ground-to-air missile
positions, as they are the students of the same Soviet Union
professor. Nonetheless, the Chinese Air Force is ahead of the Indian
Air Force in the construction of underground airport facilities.
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