Friday, September 11, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: A&N Command Recommends Sukhoi-30MKI Sqn At Car Nicobar

The photo on the left shows a pair of Su-30s at Air Force Station Car Nicobar, on India's Bay of Bengal island territories of Andaman & Nicobar. I took this photo in April 2005 during a visit to the islands with India's then Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi and then Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh. It was just three months after the tsunami, and the island was still largely ravaged. Still, in a rare spasm of unabashed power projection, the government ordered a deployment of three Su-30s and six Jaguar IMs to the island for what it said was an exercise, but what was, quite obviously, a show of strength, and a very effective one at that. A message that things were back in business even though the IAF had tragically lost 128 personnel on the island, and that its guard was not down. It was also a splendid signal of deployed strength (even if it was just a few aircraft), a crashing of cymbals over the remarkable international military-humanitarian relief operation that the Indian forces embarked upon almost just minutes after the waves did their terrible work.

Flash forward four years and the Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC), India's only theatre command, is learnt to have officially recommended that a fleet of Su-30MKIs be deployed permanently at AFS Car Nic, with a mainland support structure in Tamil Nadu. The recommendation is part of a whole host of items that were placed on the table during a seminar at Port Blair last week attended by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister's special envoy on nuclear issues and climate change Shyam Saran and Deputy National Security Advisor (and former Defence Secretary) Shekhar Dutt.

A while before the recommendation to base Su-30s at Car Nic was firmed up, the station already began a comprehensive upgrade programme under the IAF's ambitious Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project.

In that phase immediately after the tsunami, the government had already begun toying with the idea of permanently basing fighters at Car Nicobar, though the IAF leadership at the time said depleting squadron strength meant that they could not spare fighters for a fresh squadron on the island at that juncture. The IAF therefore settled for periodic detachments of two Su-30s and six Jaguars (see photo) to the island. But with forty more Sukhois than initially contracted, plus a definitive process on to counter depleting squadron strength, it was decided that the idea of permanently basing fighters at Car Nic needed to be revisited. In January 2006, when I visited the islands for a week again to cover the Milan 05 exercise, the Sukhois were back, and performed aerobatic displays over Port Blair's magnificent marine esplanade, as well as over Car Nicobar in front of large delagations of military officers and diplomats from the participating countries, including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia among others, and for the first time with a ship (the UMS Anawrahta frigate), the Myanmar Navy.

Like much else in India's establishment structure, the proposal to base Su-30s at Car Nicobar is currently just that -- a proposal. But the A&N Command has, in a short span of time, earned for itself a great deal of credibility with the government, and as the only real joint services theater command, the government takes it very seriously. If you think I'm being flippant by insinuating that the government doesn't take proposals for additional commands seriously, consider the sad tale of the defence forces' languishing proposals for an Aerospace Command and a Special Forces Command. Recently retired Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, as a parting shot, even stressed to Defence Minister AK Antony during a personal farewell chat the country needed to move fully into the domain of functional commands, since geographical commands were pushing true tri-service jointness farther and farther away from the realm of possibility.

The recommendation for Su-30s at Car Nic comes endorsed by the Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar (CINCAN). That he's a Vice Admiral says a lot.

Photos Copyright Shiv Aroor / LiveFist

15 comments :

Anonymous said...

this is a good step forward. however much more needs to be done

India should procure atleast another 100 sukhoi-30MKIs on a fast track basis from russia apart from the 280 originally planned. by 2020 india needs atleast 20-squadrons of MKIs, & i mean atleast 20 squadrons, if not more.

also another thing that can be done is to base the 16 MiG-29Ks on the car nicobar till the aircraft carrier arrives, on this i propose that india should immediately order another batch of advanced MiG-29Ks ( atleast another 38 ) & make use of the car nicobar island as an stationary air-craft carrier

what say guys ????

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv!
nice article but can't enlarge the pic; can you do the necessary?
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

nice move...the govt seems to be waking up now....

Nitish said...

Just after about a month of the joint command being formed, two IAF jaguars roared in the skies of port blair on Nov 1 2001. i and my schoolmates still cherish the moments of witnessing that from the school bus stand(which was next to the airport).

Anonymous said...

The UPA seems to have not put a wrong step forward in the defence arena! Surprising, but true! A K Anthony's doing a good job. I know many will harp and cringe about the 6th pay commission fracas, but still..

NJS said...

A&N island is like boon for india to detect in coming threat from china sea , we need to have bhramos ship attack missile with air defense equipments. The modified ver of su-30 is capable to carry bhramos air version in ship attack . Due to china has naval base at coco island we need to have submarine fleet with ASW ships in this island . India need to create new three force base in Vietnam. Su-30 has become back bone to india IAF , so we need to increase more on purchase this kind of jets.

Anonymous said...

If we think that just by stationing a few Sukohis we will be able to deter Chinese aggression in that region then we are wrong.Military hardware alone will not deter an enemy without we having the courage to stand up and fight for what rightfully belongs o us.The conduct of the Indian leadership towards Chinese provocations(border intrusions,claims on Arunachaletc)proves otherwise.In all probability if the Chinese were to extend their agressive moves to the Andamans the Indian leadership will simply give in to them.

Anonymous said...

Andaman & Nicobar provides us a natural Aircraft carrier in the Bay of Bengal. It is only natural that we exploit this facility and build a number of forward bases across these islands.

Anonymous said...

The IAF is to order 50 more SU-30MKI's this will take its strength to 280. the SU-35 ( 20 aircraft)would also be formally
offered to India. then an MMRCA may not be a twin engined fighter gripen or f-16 ?????

NJS said...

As per my opinion U-214 is better than Amur 1650 / french sub's . U-212 is superior than u-214. these u class has greater depth in diving range , but india may select amur sub , because russian sub's may be modified to fix bhramos. Pakistan is trying to get U214 from germany in short period, i think india will take another 2-4 years for selecting itself .
India has highly shortage in long range bombers like Tu M3 backfire/ Tu160. Russa/Ukraine has the large numbers in inventory , india should try to get long range bomber , which is very important for longe range nuclear strikes / ship strike /striking Aircraft carrier's . Long range bombers with air superiority Su30 mki combination will give greater strike effect on enemy soil, so india need to get it in large nos...

Anonymous said...

Military build up of any form is the last thing that we should seek in the A&N. Create all the necessary infrastructure and the logistics chain. Hardware can always move in at short notice. What the islands need are excellent surveillance assets in the form of LRMP a/c, UAVs,Dorniers, gapless radar chain,locally based AN32, Mi17s(in larger numbers),naval and CG OPVs and development of all weather jetties and a full fledged 10000ft runway at Cambell Bay.By basing Su30s you are only going to up the ante with all our neighbours in the region. Maintaing a squadron of Su30s 700 miles from the mainland will bleed the AF dry which must maintain a supply chain and store the necessary armament locally. With their capability these versatile a/c can always be inducted from the mainland in less than 24 hrs. So think twice before behaving like the big bully on the block

Anonymous said...

First fix the pathetic infrastrucutre and upgrade the perimeter security around the airstrip at A&N so that any abdul with an ak-47 can't just storm in.

Then put the MKIs at A&N.

Anonymous said...

Infrastructure in the A&N islands needs to come up big time if we dream to convert it into a true ' forward' base for exercising military power.Presently,it is in no shape.Moreover,there is the earthquake/Tsunami threat all the time.The islands need sustainable power sources to meet the rising electricity needs.More jetties and proper harbours are needed for maritime connectivity.More ships need to ply there.

Anonymous said...

Not a defence guru..but doesn the planes look more like Mig 29s..

Anonymous said...

no anon, the first one shows jaguars and the other shows su's.