The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Wave from sky heads to Carnic

Calcutta, March 12: The fighters will be soaring over the Emeral Isle once again.

More than two months after the tsunami devastated the Car Nicobar Airbase, Jaguars and Sukhoi-30s will be back in the airbase in one of the biggest exercises undertaken by the Indian Air Force in recent times.

'In a month's time, I will be there at Carnic airbase with the IAF fleet in a novel exercise to tell the world that the airbase is fully operational now despite the fact that the tsunami had a telling effect on the entire island,' the chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, told The Telegraph today.

Defence sources say the exercise, the first after the tsunami hit the Andaman islands, is part of a long-drawn plan to set up a permanent base of the fighters at Carnic due to its strategic location.

However, for the moment, the focus will be on developing Carnic as a landing and maintenance base for the IAF.

Over 107 air personnel lost their lives when the waves engulfed the Carnic airbase, the symbol of the country's 'sovereignty' over the Andamans.

Only 6,000 feet of the 9,000-foot-long airstrip was usable, and the air traffic control room, the inspection bungalow and several rows of staff quarters were razed.

'The whole island has sunk, but the runway is intact and has been repaired. We will, however, have to move out the officers from the existing quarters because during high tide, the water sweeps into the houses. They will be built on higher ground,' Tyagi said.

The air force is also persuading the government to create a special aerospace command to ensure that defence and strategic equipment in space (satellites) can be protected from enemy threats.

'This will take some time, but an aerospace command will help us pinpoint the exact contours and perimeter areas of our air space,' Tyagi said.

The air force is now in expansion mode. 'We will induct 126 MRCA (multi-role combat aircraft) fighters into our force in the near future. Once these aircraft come to us, we will be in a better position to take on all adversaries,' Tyagi said.

The Kalaikunda airbase in Bengal, which was undergoing runaway realignment, is ready for operation.

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