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Kalaikunda Air Force Station
Strategically located nearby the Kharagpur city of East Indian West Bengal state’s Midnapore West district, Kalaikunda AFS has been playing important role for proper systematization of Air Force in this region. This airbase remains a notable one for it being the home to Number 18 Squadron Indian Air Force named the Flying Bullets that is the key squadron and flies the Indian license-built Mikoyan MiG-27ML. So is it a crucial arm of the Indian Air Forces today. Identity of this airbase is mainly for being an important training base.
The history of Kalaikunda AFS dates back to pre-independent era. The British rulers developed an Air Force Station in Kalaikunda for the then Royal Indian Air Force to fight in the World War II. This airbase would once play crucial role for a purpose to conduct raids against the Burmese and Japanese advancements, so was it used to conduct operations for aid transportation into many Chinese establishments during that period.
Having been designed originally for the B-24 Liberator use, Kalaikunda AFS have enriched history for operation in terms of roles in pre and post independent India. Take for example use of this airbase in 1943 as a designated airbase to serve in the capacity of B-29 Super fortress Base. The purpose was to ensure the US Army Air Forces XX Bomber could be deployed in planned manner in the Indian soil.
By the year 1943, this airbase saw the arrival of Advance Army Air Forces so was it revamped through the phased upgrades to cater to such needs. It was a big project in which thousands of labor forces were involved to ensure timely upgrade could be made possible. Kalaikunda AFS therefore emerged into one of the four B-29 bases in the Indian subcontinent which Americans established in India during that period.
It was in March 1944 that XX Bomber Command came at Kalaikunda AFS to use the airbase. As it was in dilapidated condition at that time with poorly managed runway thorough efforts were made to lengthen runway to ensure that B-29s could arrive easily. This airbase became command headquarters of the 58th Bombardment Wing thereafter and literally turned into major place in the region during that period. The 468th Command flew its first operational mission from Kalaikunda AFS on June 5, 1944 against Thailand’s Bangkok railroad yards. So was another important flying from field A-7 as 468th bombing Imperial Iron & Steel Works in Yawata, Japan in the next decade. List of operations remain endless during that period against the Japanese, Manchuria, China, Taiwan, Burma, Malay Peninsula, Singaporean and Sumatra targets.
Soon after India’s independence from the British colonial rule, Kalaikunda AFS was considered a major airbase for crucial roles to maintain internal security through Air Forces of India. Its strategic location and easy access to Andaman and Nicobar Islands besides Bay of Bengal kept it into limelight for Su-30 MKIs squadrons use and many other advanced aircrafts training and monitoring purposes.
Although nestled among the Sal forests in the Maoist badlands of West Midnapore today, Kalaikunda AFS plays key role to handle country’s defence forces along the eastern coast and the Bay of Bengal region. Having been developed in the classical American style, this airbase operates flights to Kalaikunda, Dudhkundi and Salua amongst others.
The runway at Kalaikunda AFS had been effectively developed before independence itself. It has been modernized by keeping in view the defence needs of country and the involvement of Air Forces in this region. It is a modern one today and equipped with the latest tools which makes Air Force trainings at par.