By: Sama Raja Reddy
The 368-acre airfield on the outskirts of Adilabad town is lying in disuse for the last over six decades for want of vision on the part of the government. It is said the airfield, set up by seventh Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, was used as a refuelling station for Royal Air Force planes during the Second World War.
According to old-timers, the Nizam wanted to develop it as a full-fledged airbase. Works just commenced when Hyderabad state was integrated into the Indian Union and the project came to a grinding halt. And, that is where it remained since then.
Meanwhile, Indian Air Force officers visited Adilabad two weeks ago to survey the airfield, amidst concerns over possible encroachments. To its relief, the team found that the total extent of 368.18 acres was intact and there were no encroachments.
A copy of the survey report was handed over to the MRO for record’s sake.
However, it was noticed that the airfield was being dug up by brick-makers for red soil. A guard was posted there to protect the land.
About 10 years ago, the Central government sent proposals to the state for setting up a pilot training centre there, but the state government rejected it. There was also a proposal to use the airfield as a flight refuelling station because of the central location of Adilabad town. The existing runway is long enough to land big planes, though it needs to be renovated. The surrounding area is all agricultural land and the few houses around the airfield are only single-storey constructions. But this idea too was shot down by the state government.
It is argued that, if developed into an airport, the airfield will provide air connectivity to North Telangana region and parts of Maharashtra. Some old people still remember planes landing and taking off from the airstrip when they were young. MRO Sunil Kumar Masade said the survey team submitted a report saying the land did not fall pray to encroachers. They appointed one security guard to secure the land, he said. However, the MRO’s staff say the airfield file with the survey report, presented only recently, could not be traced now.
A Strategic Asset Ignored
According to defence analysts, the Adilabad airfield is a strategic asset being ignored by the government. The airfield is located deep inside the country from any direction. It is big and could accommodate a couple of fighter aircraft squadrons. The mountain terrain with thick forest cover in North Telangana offers a great opportunity for fighter pilot training, says an expert.
The conditions during rainy season are comparable to those in the Northeast, but Adilabad is much safer in comparison. Air Force personnel can be trained in handling fighters, transport planes and refuelling craft under harsh conditions, they say.
Another expert says an air base at Adilabad would be very useful for stationing AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) spy planes.
* Located deep within Indian territory (minimum 600 km from any direction). There will be enough time to detect an incoming threat and neutralise it.
* Intensive training could be provided to IAF personnel in the surrounding jungle and hilly terrain.
* The central location offers scope to shift aircraft stationed there to other places quickly if such a need arises.
* The airfield is large enough to operate even big planes.
* Other IAF bases in vicinity- Bidar, Nagpur, Hakimpet, Dundigal, Nanded, Latur
From: Express Buzz