By end of 2020, Hasimara Air Force Station in West Bengal’s Alipurduar district is expected to be ready to house Rafale fighter jets, which are expected to arrive here by end of mid-2021. While the first squadron will be based out of Ambala Air Force Station in Punjab, the second such squadron will be located at the Hasimara Air Force Station in North Bengal, said Grp Captain (rtd) R K Das.

Earlier, it was planned that one squadron of the Rafale would be based out of the Sarsawa Air Force Station in Uttar Pradesh. However, issues relating to land acquisition eventually led to the selection of the Ambala Air Force Station to prepare itself for a two-front war in the northern side from Pakistan and China, Grp Captain said.  On the eastern frontier, Hasimara was selected as the base to house the second squadron. “We have some porous border in the Eastern sector, so Hasimara Air Force base being fortified,” he said.

Hasimara earlier had a MiG-27 squadron which is being replaced by Rafales.

The Hasimara Air Force Station has no squadron presently. The jets have started arriving from France on 29 July 2020 and a budget of Rs 400 crores has been allocated for these two Air Force Stations Ambala and Hasimara to build facilities, develop shelters, hangers and maintenance facilities at the two bases.

The hangars are so built that it can accommodate both the Rafales and Sukhoi MKIs.

It is expected that Rafale will serve the Indian Air Force for the next 40-50 years. Engineers and staff of the technical teams of Dassault Aviation from France are working at the Air Force Station on a war footing, Grp Captain said

This apart, work on building a new facility in the Air Force Station and resurfacing of the runway has begun. Sukhois and Rafales are jets that tend to pick up any particles on the runway. Hence, resurfacing is important for smooth landings and takeoffs. Work on resurfacing the runway has begun already. The runway will be ready in a year.

The last time the 8,500-9,000 ft in length runway was resurfaced was way back in 1993. While there were plans extending the runway, it was dropped later. Hasimara airbase came up post the 1962 Sino-India War. This airbase has housed several squadrons of the fighter jets like the – Gnats, Ajeets, Hunters, MiG-21Bis and the Mig-27 ML fighter jets.