KOLKATA: Resurfacing of the runway at Air Force Station Panagarh, about 120 km from Kolkata, is expected to be completed by the end of July. The air base, of World War II vintage is being upgraded to meet the requirements of C-130 J Super Hercules aircraft that will start arriving in 2016. Engineers and technicians from Lockheed Martin are also working at the air base to build hangers and other facilities, sources in the Indian Air Force said.
"Restructuring of the runway and allied works at AFS Panagarh was undertaken by PNC Infratech Ltd in 2013. The work is expected to be completed by July 31. The air base will house the second lot of six Super Hercules aircraft that has been ordered by India. These aircraft have been modified to participate in special operations. The aircraft are being stationed at Panagarh keeping in mind the situation in the North East and requirements along India's northern border and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The new mountain division that is being raised will also be headquartered at Panagarh," the source said.
According to a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) published by the Department of Defense, USA: "The second India case, recently signed, has evolved since its inception. First envisioned as an additional six aircraft amended to the previous case, it is now an independent entity. The Indian Air Force will now stand up a new C-130J squadron at Air Force Station (AFS) Panagarh in West Bengal, located approximately 120 kilometers northwest of Kolkata. Lockheed Martin will be contracted to construct the facilities. AFS Panagarh currently serves as an ammo storage facility and shares its runway with the Panagarh civil airport. Soon, it will also become the home of 80,000 Army troops of the newly formed 14 Corps."
The runway at Panagarh is 2,743 metres long and has been sufficiently strengthened to operate the Super Hercules transport aircraft. The first batch of C-130J aircraft is based at AFS Hindon. The IAF already lost one of these in a crash in 2014. Initially though to be a technical glitch in the aircraft, inquiry revealed possible pilot error. -TOI