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No land to station Rafale fighters in UP, Air force explores other options

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New Delhi | Updated: February 27, 2017 12:54:35 PM

Even though the talks for land acquisitions were going on with the landowners, it was taking longer than expected and the infrastructure facilities had to start at the earliest.

rafale fighters, iaf, indian air force, india rafale deal, 36 Rafale fighters, land acquisition at Sarsawa, Uttar pradesh land problem, rafale base, india news, latest newsIAF is set to shelve plans to base the under-procurement 36 Rafale fighters at Sarsawa, near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. (Source: PTI)

After a facing problem in acquiring the land near the airbase, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to shelve plans to base the under-procurement 36 Rafale fighters at Sarsawa, near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. The news was confirmed by a top military official who said IAF is not being able to get extra space around the camp and has started to scout other alternate options for two squadrons of its most modern fighter aircraft. “Yes, there is a problem with land acquisition at Sarsawa. We need some additional space which we are unable to get there. Other airbases are being considered by us,” a top military officer confirmed.

Even though the talks for land acquisitions were going on with the landowners, it was taking longer than expected and the infrastructure facilities had to start at the earliest. As per the planning, first Rafale fighter should be in service by September 2019 but the delay in negotiations left IAF with no other option but to look for alternate options. The IAF believes that the full complement of 36 Rafale fighters will be in service by April 2022.

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However, it currently has a fight squadron of only 33 despite getting the authorisation of 42, and two squadrons of Rafale are critical to managing the shortfall. “No country places its top strategic assets close to the border. We are also looking at suitable options,” said the official when asked about the possible locations for the new base. He said Suratgarh, Bihta and Ambala are currently being considered as alternative airbases for the French fighters.

Out of the frontline bases in India, one in Rajasthan’s Suratgarh is very close to the Pakistan border while Bihta airbase is near Patna in Bihar. The third airbase in Ambala which is currently the home of Jaguars and MiGs hence emerges as the perfect option with adequate availability of land. A deal of Rs 59,000-crore was signed by India with France last September, to build an airbase for 36 fighters. This makes it incumbent upon the IAF to finalise the airbase at the earliest.

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