An unannounced air strike has been conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) near Doklam which may or may not have any connection with the ongoing situation in the area since it was being planned for some time as suggested by historical imagery.
The air exercise was likely by continuation of the IAF rotations of SU-30 MKI Flanker in 2017-18’ at the Bagdogra Airbase. While by the end of January this year, nine Flankers were still in vision.
A squadron level deployment of the IAF’s advanced fighter was also visible in the commercial imagery received in January 2016 with about eleven Flankers.
The commercial imagery of October 2017, before the Bagdogra deployments, showed at least four SU-30MKI arriving near Hasimara. The tension with China about the Doklam dispute might have something to do with the flight of Flanker deployed for QRA duty.
The unavailability of the QRA aircraft at the end of December suggests that it might have been relocated to Bagdogra to make up for the squadron level deployment.
New arrivals were added to the eastern parking apron once the Flanker departed Hasimara, suggested commercial imagery. A flight consisting five Hawk MK 132 trainer aircraft were spotted in early January’s imagery which also points out the duration of the exercise to be of a month considering Hawk’s departure from the airbase.
The Hawk basically trains the pilots with stage 3 efficiency before they proceed to operational fighters. The IAF and Indian Navy ordered 123 Hawk MK- 132 jets.
Apparently, four MIG- 27 ML were also spotted around the northern side of the runway nearby the Hawk. Even the swing-wing aircraft is also being taken in operation by India out of Jodhpur and Gwalior.
While in late December, India has reportedly decommissioned the remaining MIG-27 at the airbase, however, many of them were observed near the operational areas last month. Earlier, non-operational MIG-27 was cannibalized for parts with it later being relocated to south of the runway.
The closest airfield to the Doklam dispute has witnessed a significant number of fighter aircraft deployed at China’s Shigatse, shows satellite imagery.
Though there have been no clear indications of India’s attempt of cover against Chinese rotations but the eyes are still set on IAF’s decision to whether maintaining the previous QRA flight or even bigger air element.