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Wednesday, 22 July 2020

For strategic location, Ambala chosen to induct Rafale, says ex-Vice Air Chief

Bhartesh Singh Thakur

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 21

As the Air Force will induct Rafale aircraft at Ambala in the 'Golden Arrows' squadron on July 29, former Vice-Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal PK Barbora (retd), who once served at the airbase and witnessed the induction of first Jaguar aircraft in 1979, said that it is due to its strategic location that the Air Force station has been chosen.

Golden past of Golden Arrows

  • After MIG-21 aircraft were phased out, Golden Arrows was 'number plated' on December 31, 2011. It was resurrected on September 10, 2019 when Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa was Chief of Air Staff. It was formed on October 1, 1951 at Ambala. The squadron participated in the Goa Liberation Campaign in December 1961 and in the 1965 operations as a reserve force. It took part in the Indo-Pak war of 1971.

Talking to The Tribune, he said, "Ambala was the first Air Force base post-Independence that the country had. The location is very strategic. It is equidistant from the east and west." He added, "In case of raid at Ambala, enemy raiders have to go through many layers of air defence before reaching the air base. It gives us adequate warning to be able to take all precautionary measures. We can activate all ground and air-based defence systems to take care of any threat.

"We also got the first Jaguar aircraft at Ambala which is a Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA). It implies we have a long range which we can cover, do the job and come back at our base or land at a secondary base. So, it suited the Jaguar aircraft and two squadrons were formed at Ambala.

"Over a period of more than 50 years, the infrastructure at Ambala has been developed enough to induct any new aircraft without pumping in a lot of money. The air defence systems around Ambala are also developed," he said.

"Rafale gives us a longer range than Jaguar. Ambala gives us adequate depth when the range required is more, both towards the east and west. We have adequate area for air-to-air re-fuelling which is not possible at forward bases," he said.

At present, Ambala has two squadrons of Jaguar and one of MIG-21 Bison.

"The second base for Rafale has been planned at Hashimara (West Bengal). Pakistan is not the real enemy as far air power is concerned, but our eastern neighbour China is. When we didn't have Rafale, we had moved three squadrons of Sukhoi to the east. With Rafale, we will have adequate number of airborne fighters and fighter bombers to look after the China threat," he said.

He added that bases near Hashimara had also been beefed up.

Barbora had also served as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command and then Western Air Command.

from The Tribune

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