NEW DELHI (INP): After basing its most potent Sukhoi-30MKI fighters at Tezpur and Chabua, India has now begun deploying six Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) squadrons in the northeast to deter Chinese jets, helicopters and drones against any misadventure in the region, Times of India reported on Friday.
Defence ministry sources said IAF has started getting deliveries of the six Akash missile squadrons, which can “neutralize” multiple targets at 25-km interception range in all-weather conditions, earmarked for the eastern theatre.
“IAF has deployed the first two Akash squadrons at the Mirage-2000 base in Gwalior and Sukhoi base in Pune. The next six squadrons, as approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, are to guard against any threat from the northern borders,” said a source.
This long-delayed but finally successful induction of the Akash systems, developed by DRDO and manufactured by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics, has also led to scrapping of the protracted discussions to develop the ‘Maitri’ short-range SAMs with France at a cost of around Rs 30,000 crore.
The Akash deployment in the northeast is in tune with the overall plan to progressively achieve “meaningful and credible deterrence” against China along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).
While the Indian Navy is currently better placed to take on Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, the stark military asymmetry with the People’s Liberation Army along the LAC, both in firepower as well as infrastructure, has long worried the Indian security establishment.
The steps being taken now to “deter” China range from development of the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile to raising of the new Army XVII Mountain Strike Corps with over 90,000 soldiers at a cost of Rs 64,678 crore. Then, there is also the border military infrastructure development plan for another Rs 26,155 crore, as reported by TOI earlier.
IAF, on its part, has deployed Sukhoi squadrons at Tezpur and Chabua in the eastern sector as well as Bareilly in the middle sector of the LAC. Both Tezpur and Chabua are also getting their second Sukhoi squadrons, with IAF having inducted over 200 of these 272 fighters contracted from Russia for over $12 billion.
The force has also re-activated advanced landing grounds (ALGs) at Nyoma and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh as well as Vijayanagar situated at the tri-junction of India, China and Myanmar in the Changlang district of Arunachal. Similar work is underway at other eastern sector ALGs like Pasighat, Mechuka, Walong, Tuting and Ziro.
The new XVII Corps, which will fully be in place by 2018-2019, will give India much-required “quick-reaction ground offensive punch” for the first time against China.
All this is considered crucial since China can rapidly deploy 21 fighter squadrons against India with its eight operational airbases in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and some others just north of it. Moreover, the extensive road and rail links created in TAR ensure Chinese soldiers enjoy numerical superiority against Indian forces in a 3:1 ratio, according to the newspaper.
China, incidentally, has been conducting major exercises with its J-10, Sukhoi-27UBK and Sukhoi-30MKK fighters in the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet plateau in recent times.