The Hasimara Air Base is set to have the second squadron of 18 Rafale jets from 2020. With this, India will be countering China’s new runway at the Shigatse airport, which was built after the August 2017 Doklam standoff. Hasimara is located strategically located near the Indo-Bhutan border and is the closest Indian air base to the Chumbi Valley.
According to the Telegraph Indian Air Force officers in Hasimara have written to the defence ministry seeking clearance to relay the runway and build a hangar to accommodate Sukhoi and Rafale fighter jets. The airbase is located in northeastern India, close to the border with China. Jane 360highlighted “the service will also build specialized revetments to protect the Rafales and construct facilities to house a training simulator as well as several maintenance bays to service the platforms’ engines, weapons and avionics.”
The Hasimara runway was last relaid in 1993. An air force officer said they want to rebuild it. “The Rafale jets can pick up even a pebble from the runway. That would be a disaster, we don’t want to take chances.” He said Dassault Aviation has already laid down certain specifications for its Performance Based Logistics centre that would double as the store for keeping Rafale spares. “We have written to the Defence estates for necessary permission to make some constructions and chop down a few trees.”
A Strategy Against Beijing
According to air force officers, the build-up at Ambala (Haryana) and Hasimara is part of the South Block’s strategy against Beijing. The Telegraph revealed an air commodore saying “We have mounted high-altitude radar to keep a count on their number of sorties towards Indian airspace. Officers are being stationed for three to six months in phases with advanced training for plotting the movements of Chinese jets.”
In September, Air Chief Marshall B.S. Dhanoa had said Rafale jets will power the Indian Air Force (IAF) to fight grave threats India faces from Pakistan and China. “We have to match neighbours Pakistan and China to tackle a two-front war. Intentions of our adversaries can change overnight. We need to match the force level of our adversaries.” He said few countries were facing challenges like India which is surrounded by ‘two nuclear-armed neighbors’. Over the years, India has come up with a string of bases to counter China.