SHILLONG, Oct 6 - Eastern Air Command (EAC) Chief Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar today said that the Rafale is an “excellent” aircraft with “huge capabilities” and its induction into the Air Force would be a “game changer”, especially in the North East.
Speaking on the sidelines of an Air Fest organised at Upper Shillong, Air Marshal Nambiar said: “I flew the Rafale last week in France. It is an excellent aircraft and a very good platform… highly capable.”
Stating that Rafale can be a “game changer”, Air Marshal Nambiar added that the Rafale would be inducted in the EAC next year and it would operate from the Hasimara Air Force Base in West Bengal.
“Hasimara is close to Assam, east of Bagdogra and its presence in this area will give us a lot of deterrence and provide us with a huge modicum of capability which never existed in this part of the world,” the EAC Chief said.
Stressing the importance of the North Eastern region for the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal Nambiar said “roughly 30 per cent of the assets of the Air Force are based in the North East. So you can imagine how important the area is for all of us.”
Downplaying the China factor in the region, he said: “We don’t keep forces for any particular country as such. It is for our capability. We have five countries in the EAC – one of them is China. This capability is for India and not for any country,” he said.
Air Marshal Nambiar added that most EAC units are getting modern platforms which include the Rafale, Chinook and Apache helicopters.
“This Command is getting new induction of equipment. Our challenge lies in getting these new inductions in a timely fashion, improving training capability and capacity and also absorbing these new platforms and learning modern technology and best practices prevalent all over the world,” he said.
On ongoing projects related to Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs), he said that except the Vijaynagar ALG, all other recently commissioned ALGs are now functional in the region. “The problem in developing the Vijaynagar ALG is that there is no road connectivity to take the materials required to build the ALG. So it is taking some time,” Air Marshal Nambiar said.