Smart fencing, encroachment removal to ensure safe air bases

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) has proposed an upgradation of security at all the 54 major air bases across the country, following an audit that was undertaken in the aftermath of the Pathankot terror attack, an IAF official said.

The cumulative cost of the whole exercise, as estimated by the IAF officials, can be to the tune of Rs.5,400 crore to Rs.8,100 crore, with an estimated cost per base ranging from Rs.100 crore to Rs.150 crore.

The audit was ordered following the January 2 terrorist attack on the IAF base at Pathankot town in Punjab, which left seven security personnel killed. Six terrorists, who attacked the base, were also killed in a gun battle which lasted almost three days.

A senior officer of the IAF, who did not want to be named, said it has been decided that “smart fencing” and other changes to strengthen security will be taken up at all 54 major air bases across the country.

The officer said while security audit is a regular feature, the IAF was so far planning to go with the up-gradation of the bases in phased manner, as it is an expensive proposition, costing Rs.100 to Rs.150 crore per base.

However, after the Pathankot terror attack, the Narendra Modi-led government asked the IAF to present a collective proposal for all the major air bases.

The official added the exact cost of the whole plan, however, would be known later.

“The proposal sent to government includes smart fencing for the bases, and removal of encroachments along the boundary of the bases and other things,” the official said.

Asked if there was any finding on how the terrorists entered the Pathankot base, the official said: “The probe is on… They could have taken cover in the vegetation, or used the darkness.” He added that the dense vegetation along the boundary walls of the base is not being cleared.

The officer also said the IAF is seeking cooperation from state governments to implement the rules on leaving buffer space around air force bases, which varies from 100 metres to 900 metres depending on the base.

Asked about the Hindon air base on the outskirts of the national capital, the officer said almost 60 percent of the work on constructing the boundary walls is completed. But encroachment was a major issue, he added.

The IAF is also raising additional squadrons of Garud commandos, the special force of IAF.

According to plans, at least 10 more squadrons of commandos will be raised, consisting of about 1,000 personnel each.

“Government has sanctioned additional units of Garud commandos. Training is going on,” the official said.

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