The 59th Republic Day parade will perhaps have the most elaborate security blanket ever, with the Indian Air Force (IAF) ready to scramble combat-ready fighters to respond to any potential threat from the skies.
Top IAF sources said keeping in view the fragility of Indo-Pak ties, the IAF does not want to take any chances and is beefing up its assets at the Hindon air base on the outskirts of Delhi. The reinforcement will be in addition to three MiG-29 fighters already deployed at Hindon around mid-December. The base has been reactivated for fighter operations after 10 years. The pilots have been tasked to intercept and shoot down any rogue aircraft that may slip past conventional defences.
A senior IAF officer said: "Some measures have been in place for a while. Additional steps are being taken specifically for the parade. The air force is in the highest state of alert to deal with any state or non-state actors."
The positioning of the MiGs at Hindon will cut the IAF's response time in an emergency by at least 10 minutes. If these had not been deployed at Hindon, they may have had to be scrambled from Ambala and Bareilly.
All fighter bases from Jammu and Kashmir to the Thar desert, are capable of launching a fighter jet in two minutes. The jets at Hindon form the last line of defence to protect the capital. Post-26/11, the government has not ruled out the possibility of a 9/11 type aerial attack.
Another IAF official said, "The RD parade sees VVIPs and foreign dignitaries at one place. We are leaving nothing to chance."
Defence ministry sources said the duration of the parade might be pruned a bit to make it more fast-paced and spectator friendly.