With the Army now establishing the new South-Western Command to bolster strike capabilities along the Indo-Pak border, the IAF too is taking steps to further enhance credible conventional deterrence and offensive options on the western front.
IAF plans to base the 12 Mirage-2000-V multi-role fighter jets, which are being acquired from Qatar, at the Adampur station near Jalandhar in Punjab, say sources. The Halwara airbase, also in Punjab, in turn, is likely to get a squadron of Sukhoi-30MKI "air dominance fighters".
The IAF has also operationalised a new airbase at Phalodi, 110-km northwest of Jodhpur, which is "strategically placed" near the border. Another airbase is slated to come up at Deesa, near Mt Abu.
The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the acquisition of the second-hand Mirages from Qatar, which still have 80-87% service life left in them, in end-March.
The IAF, of course, is also looking at French Mirage-2000-Vs, apart from the American F-16s, Swedish Gripen and Russian MiG-29M2s, for its medium-term project to induct 126 such fighters.
IAF's existing three Mirage-2000 squadrons - nicknamed "Tigers", "Battle-Axes" and "Wolfpack" - are based in Gwalior. "They can be moved to forward bases when required," said an officer.
Adampur, incidentally, was the base from which Mirages, armed with laser-guided bombs, launched operations against Pakistani forces atop Tiger Hill, Tololing and other places during the 1999 Kargil conflict.
Even during Operation Parakram, the massive forward deployment of troops after the December 2001 Parliament attack, the Mirages were moved to Adampur in preparation for strikes against terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.
The Mirage-2000s and Sukhoi-30MKIs, of course, have been designated as the preferred nuclear delivery assets. The IAF is now selecting important airbases to house future Sukhoi squadrons to keep pace with fresh deliveries.
So far, two Sukhoi squadrons, nicknamed "Lightnings" and "Rhinos", are based in Pune, while another called "Hawks" is at Bareilly.