Chabua Air Force Station
|Chabua Air Force Station
|IATA: none – ICAO: VECA|
|Operator||Indian Air Force|
|Location||Chabua, Assam, India|
|Elevation AMSL||367 ft / 112 m|
Currently used as a training airfield, the MiG-21 (FL) fighters assigned train young fighter pilots, thus, enabling a smooth transition to an operational role in the frontline squadrons of IAF. The unit calls itself ‘the young ones’. Formed in October, 1966 with the motto Abhyasen hi Kaushalayam, the unit has a glorious and chequered history since its establishment. Seven Vir Chakra, a Vayu Sena Medal and five Mention-in-Despatches won by the unit is a testimony to the gallantry of the unit. More recently, the unit has been declared as the `best fighter squadron' of EAC for the current year.
This Base was built in 1939. During World War II it was a major supply point for the ferrying of supplies to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek's forces in and around Kunming, China. This was known as "Flying the Hump".
The Japanese occupation of Burma in 1942 had cut off the Burma Road, the last land route by which the Allies could deliver aid to the Chinese Government of Chiang Kai-shek. Until the Burma Road could be retaken and the Ledo Road completed, the only supply route available was the costly and dangerous route for transport planes over the Himalayas between India's Assam Valley and Kunming, China. This route became known as the Himalayan Hump or simply The Hump.
Operated initially by the United States Army Air Forces Ferrying Command (Later Air Transport Command) China Ferrying Command (later ATC India China Wing). The 1st Ferrying (later Transport) Group operated three squadrons of C-47 Skytrain and C-46 Commando aircraft from Chabua. The airfield was also an important layover stop of the ATC Karachi-Kunming air transport route. Flights operated west to Agra Airport, Willingdon Airfield (New Delhi), Gaya Airport, Assam (Borjhar Airport) and east into Dali Airport, and Kunming (Wujiaba Airport) in China
While the route kept the transports relatively free from enemy attack (Enemy action destroyed only seven aircraft, killing 13 men) it led over rugged terrain, through violent storms, with snow and ice at the higher altitudes the planes flew over the mountains. Flying the Himalayan Hump would turn out to be some of the most dangerous flying in the world. Over the course of action there were 460 aircraft and 792 men lost. Still, the operations were a success. There were 167,285 trips that moved 740,000 tons of material to support Chinese troops and other Allied forces.
In addition to the ATC transport units, elements of the Tenth Air Force 380th Bombardment Group, 375th Bombardment Squadron operated B-24 Liberators from the airfield, flying long range bombardment missions into Burma, south China, Thailand (Bangkok) and well as French Indochina (Haiphong). A total of 8 B-24s were lost. Also the B-24s were used to ferry aircraft fuel into China.
The airfield was abandoned after the war. In 1962, in response to the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the subsequent threat it posed to the North-East, the IAF commenced operations from this airfield. Initially Dakotas and Vampires, later Hunters, Otters and Mi-4 helicopters commenced air operations from Chabua air base. In the mid-seventies, subsequent to the runway upgradation and renovation, the supersonic MiG-21 became the mainstay fighter aircraft operating from here till date.
The initiation was done through a symbolic ceremony with the inaugural flight of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI taking off from here. It also performed an overshoot before landing.
Wing Commander K Sundaramani and Flt-Lt MB Walunj took off for the first sortie on the Sukhoi Su-30MKI in the presence of senior officers of the Indian Air Force, including Air Marshal KK Nohwar, Air Officer Commanding in Chief Eastern Air Command, Air Commodore Mrigendra Singh, Air officer Commanding, Chabua Air Force Station . This was followed by a fly past by three Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft.
Speaking to the media, Air Marshal Nohwar said the induction of the highly sophisticated aircraft was part of the process to ascertain that the borders in the eastern part of the country remain free from any intrusion. "The Chabua station (102 Sqn, 14 Wing) is the easternmost fighter base of the country. It is the first line of defence in the east and the induction of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI will strengthen its capability," added Nohwar.
The Air Marshal said the Vijaynagar runway in Arunachal Pradesh was being repaired and will be soon open to operations of the fixed wing aircraft for better air maintenance. At present, the Air Force has a fleet of around 270 Sukhoi Su-30MKI aircraft.
Describing the special features of the fighter plane, Nohwar said the Sukhoi Su-30MKI was a state-of-the-art aircraft for better maintenance.
Chabua is the second airbase in the northeast after Tezpur to house the Sukhois, capable of striking targets inside China with a cruising speed range of 3,200 km, which can be more than doubled with mid-air refuelling by IL-78 aircraft.
The Air Force base at Chabua was constructed in 1939. The air field was extensively used for launching operations against the Japanese. In 1962, the IAF commenced operations in response to the Chinese invasion of Tibet and threat to the northeast.
While India is only now trying to counter China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, the People's Liberation Army (Air Force) already has at least six fully functional airbases in Tibet and three in south China. The Linzi airbase, for instance, is not even 30 km away from the LAC in Arunachal.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Airport information for VECA at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
- Airport information for VECA at Great Circle Mapper.
- Chabua Air Force Base at GlobalSecurity.org