IL-76s may leave Nagpur airbase

TNN

The fleet of IL-76 aircraft, popularly known as Gajraj, may be moved out of the airbase at Sonegaon and stationed in the northern sector. These massive transport aircraft, procured from the erstwhile USSR, are presently placed under the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) 44 Squadron stationed here.

The IAF station at Nagpur is also affected by some local problems, due to the Mihan project. A land deal on which the Mihan project hinges is pending between the IAF and Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC). IAF land is needed to build the project, in lieu of which MADC proposes to compensate IAF with a bigger tract of land elsewhere. The delay in this deal is reported to have held up the growth of both Mihan as well as the airbase.

However, this stalemate is not the reason for the translocation of the IL-76s, say sources. The move is being contemplated for operational convenience of the IAF. Keeping aircraft of a single make at one place is a typical strategy when force is low on fleet. Presently, India has fewer than 20 IL-76s.

This also leads to better asset management, especially maintenance, say sources. The new base where the Gajrajs will be shifted to already has IL-76s and the fleet strength will increase to a sizeable level after the 44 squadron reaches there.

If squadrons of same aircraft are spread across the country it becomes difficult to maintain an inventory of spares. In case of need, it can also get difficult to source spares not present at a particular base, leading to a delay in operations. Though modern systems have reduced the time lag, yet the delay aspect persists, said a source. Even fighters like Mirages are kept at a single base.

However, the sources added that nothing has been decided yet and a final decision is expected after the commander’s conference scheduled to be held next month. The shifting might also be a temporary move.

All of this also does not mean that the IAF station at Nagpur will be wound up entirely, as some other squadron will replace the IL-76s. It would be a transport aircraft again, since the Nagpur station has been designed for such aircraft and Nagpur’s central location also suits such a base, say sources.

“With the country set to buy the C-17 Globemaster from the US, it may happen that the Russian fleet is replaced by the American transport plane,” said a source. There has also been a long standing plan to set up a helicopter base in this part of the country. It is needed in this region to ensure quick reaction to a crisis. The decision on the new fleet at Nagpur is also likely to be taken during the commander’s conference, sources said.

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Posted by pilotpaul on Jun 23 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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