Over five years after the Air Force projected the requirement of specialised shelters for protection of combat aircraft at strategic airfields, the idea is yet to get past the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

The IAF had taken up a case for construction of 108 new generation hardened aircraft shelters (NGHAS) in 2012, the cost of which was then pegged at Rs5,400 crore. Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the same was accorded by the Defence Research and Development Organisation in December 2012.

The NGHAS is a specialised structure designed to protect combat aircraft from a direct hit by a 2000-pound bomb. All IAF airbases have aircraft shelters spread over a large area where aircraft are parked. Also called “blast pens”, these are tunnel-shaped concrete structures covered with a layer or earth and protective walls near their openings, which are supposed to protect aircraft from the effects of blasts in case of an attack. Most of these have specifications which may not be able to mitigate damage by attacks from the present or future generation of guided missiles or precision munitions that have high penetration capability.

The case for NGHAS is under process for obtaining sanction of the CCS, a recent report by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence observed, while underlining that with the IAF already being short of combat strength, protection of the existing fleet becomes even more crucial.

A proposal to rework the project in three phases by categorising airfields within a distance of 100 km, 200 km and beyond 200 km from the border, respectively, with a gap of two years in each phase, is under consideration. The first phase would involve construction of 36 NGHAS requiring a cash outflow of Rs 270 crore. Pathankot, Srinagar, Udhampur, Bagdogra, Naliya, Hasimara, Jaisalmer and Uttarlai are some of the bases that are located within 100 km of the border.