The Eastern Air Command (EAC) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) today conducted fighter jet operations at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport in a bid to prepare its air warriors for hostile situations where the IAF pilots might need to land and take off from civilian airports.

At about 9:15 am, with a roaring engine sound, three Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft of the IAF took off from the Kolkata airport, one after the other, and whizzed past the city sky at a supersonic speed. These aircraft can reportedly achieve a top speed of Mach 2. It was learnt that the fighter jets flew till IAF’s Kalaikunda (KKD) Air Base. The Su-30MKIs, NATO codenamed ‘Flankers’, once again returned at around 10:15 am to NSCBI airport in a formation and conducted a ‘flypast’. Thereafter, all the three aircraft dispersed in three different directions and performed a tactical manoeuvre in the air. While landing on the runway 19L, the fighter jets swooped down in an orderly and meticulously calculated sequence, maintaining a considerable safe distance from each other. It was learnt from an IAF official that the Su-30MKIs flew at an approximate height of 300 feet above ground level, during the flypast. Asked why only Su-30s were used for the exercise rather than the other fighter jets of the IAF, the official told The Statesman that the Su30MKI aircraft have a massive endurance and is perfect for this kind of exercises, in comparison to the other fighter jets. It was also pointed out that this is the second time the Su30MKI fighter jets operated in Kolkata airport. Previously, they carried out an operation in the end of May, this year.

As per IAF sources, the fighter squadron flew down with the supersonic machines from the Tezpur Air Force Station for today’s operation and will conduct a similar drill tomorrow before flying back to their base. The operation will also be conducted from five other civilian airportsAndal, Dimapur, Imphal, Guwahati and Pasighat. The exercise is being conducted in two phases- 16 to 19 October and 29 October to 01 November.

Concerning challenges, involved in fighter jet operations from civilian airports, it was pointed out that it is extremely vital to maintain constant coordination with the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) and other civil aviation authorities concerned, since the whole operation needs to be conducted with utmost attention to obliterate any chances of encounter, that may lead to a collision, between fighter jets and civilian aircraft. The fighter jets need to perform without affecting the civil aviation services.

It was highlighted that the IAF fighter pilots, through this exercise, are being familiarized with the procedure of flying at these busy airfields and coordinate with their civilian counterparts, who in turn are gaining a thorough training experience in such military operations.