The first phase of the aircraft operational exercise began on Wednesday Credit: EastMojo image

Dimapur/Tinsukia: Locals in Nagaland’s Dimapur town on Wednesday woke up to several aircraft such as Sukhoi SU-30MKI flying low over their houses. Seeing the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) aircraft hovering in the area’s airspace, social media was abuzz with speculations connecting the development to the ongoing Naga peace talks.

Referring to the stalled talks, a Facebook user wrote, “The Sukhoi Su-30MKI practicing road mapping under Dimapur for emergency air defence…The solution is near, gear up friends.”

However, the presumption of emergency air defence was soon cleared as IAF announced that in a major wartime preparedness drill it has planned fighter aircraft operational exercise with its topline jets — SU-30MkI and Hawk 132 — using six major civilian airports under its Eastern Air Command (EAC).

A Sukhoi fighter plane preparing for take-off

The operation, in two phases, began on Wednesday using four airfields including Guwahati in Assam, Imphal in Manipur, Dimapur in Nagaland and Kolkata in West Bengal. The other two airfields to be used in second phase include Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh and Andal in Durgapur in West Bengal.

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On Wednesday, a total of nine aircraft participated in the exercise including two aircraft from Imphal-based 106 squadron, two aircraft from Dimapur-based 102 squadron, three aircraft from Kolkata-based 2 squadron, two aircraft from Chabua in Assam.

Speaking with EastMojo, IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said, “The aim of this drill is to familiarise the IAF pilot and crew with the procedure of flying at busy (civilian) airfields and coordinate with civilian counterparts, besides familiarising the civilian functionaries, at these airfields, the conduct of military operation during war time.”

“The exercise will be done in two phases — October 16 to 19 and October 29 to November 01 — using civilian airfields,” said Wing Commander Singh, adding that it will be part of capability building up and operational training of undertaking operations from dispersed locations in case of hostilities.

A source disclosed that after finishing the morning sorties, they will conduct another round at night.

“The significance of the emergency exercise is also focused on training of the crew, to operate from airfields, other than the planned fighter bases, so that in case of any eventuality they can swiftly shift the operating base and carry out the operations,” the source added.

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