In order to take on the Chinese dragon, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is strengthening its might in the eastern region by making Panagarh in Burdwan the base for its C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.
The heavy-lift Super Hercules cargo aircraft can carry about 20 tonnes of load at one go. This move will also help the Indian army, which has its newlyformed Mountain Strike Corps headquartered in the town.
Often used to move troops, equipment and other supply, these aircraft can land on a very small air strip and even on unpaved surfaces.
Initially, it was decided that the C-130J would be stationed at Charbatia in Odisha. But with Panagarh being chosen as the headquarters of the Mountain Strike Corps, the decision of setting up the C-130J base at Panagarh air field under the Eastern Air Command was taken.
“With its ability to land almost anywhere, the C-130J will be give the Mountain Strike Corps the support required to rush troops and reinforcements at a very short notice,” said an official of IAF.
India has been consistently focusing on its defence preparedness to counter threats from China in the north-eastern border. “It is a strategic decision of the Indian government and the primary role for the C-130J will be to work as special operations aircraft,” the official explained.
The C-130J Super Hercules aircraft were used extensively by the IAF for carrying out the relief and rescue operations during the Uttarakhand flood and earthquake in 2013 and 2014 and during the earthquake in Sikkim in 2011. India had recently deployed this aircraft in the search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysian MH370 flight and for the relief and rescue operation after the earthquake in Nepal.
“India already has six Super Hercules aircraft and has ordered six more. As and when these newly procured aircraft arrive, they will be stationed in Panagarh,” said an IAF official.
The first batch of six Super Hercules aircraft bought from the US government at the cost of $ 1 billion is stationed at Hindon air base near Delhi. India is currently in the process of procuring the second batch of six C-130J from the US.
The Panagarh base would also take care of the North-Eastern region of the country as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The runway of the Panagarh airbase has recently been resurfaced and a C-130J will be landing on August 4, to mark the inauguration of the runway.