Indian Air Force Plans To Make Andhra Pradesh 'Strategic Base' To Keep Eye On China

| September 17 , 2018 , 08:04 IST

The Indian Air Force is planning to make Andhra Pradesh a 'strategic base' to keep an eye on neighbouring China, with which India's relations became strained during the Doklam standoff last year.

The plans include setting up a major helicopter training facility at Donakonda in Prakasam district, a drone manufacturing facility in Anantapur district and a cyber security centre in Amaravati top bureaucratic sources were quoted by PTI as saying on Sunday.

Initially, the Andhra Pradesh government had offered 2,700 acres of land at Donakonda along an abandoned World War II airstrip for the helicopter training facility, to which the IAF said that it required less land and accordingly 1,200 acres has been identified for the project.

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"About 300 acre of this parcel of land will be given to Airports Authority of India for civilian aircraft operations and the rest to the IAF for the helicopter training facility," a senior bureaucrat in the revenue department said to PTI.

The IAF is planning the drone manufacturing facility in Anantapur district since it is close to the Yelahanka Air Base near Bengaluru.

The IAF has also proposed the use of existing civilian airports at Rajahmundry and Vijayawada for positioning of its assets, including fighter and other aircraft, as a part of its strategy to strengthen vigil along the east coast of the country.

"On our part, we have constituted a task team to coordinate with the IAF on these projects. A preliminary ground survey has also been done to identify suitable locations and we have asked the IAF to submit detailed project reports," a top bureaucrat said.

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"In view of the growing strategic importance of the east coast and China moving fast, the IAF intends to strengthen its presence in the region. Setting up asset positioning bases in Andhra Pradesh is part of the strategy," the bureaucrat said anonymously.

The IAF helicopters and other aircraft would also be useful for rescue and relief operations in case of natural calamities in the region. Currently, the IAF has a base at Arakkonam near Chennai, while the Navy has INS Dega in Visakhapatnam.

According to reports, the IAF top brass have already conducted at least 3 rounds of talks with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and discussed the projects. During a meeting last week between IAF Southern Command Chief Air Marshal B Suresh, his team and CM Naidu, a fresh proposal was presented to develop Air Force Enclaves at different locations.