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Indian Air Force to take over strategically-located Naini Saini airport in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh

The Uttarakhand government has approved the handover of Naini Saini airport in Pithoragarh district to the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to reports. The strategically-located airport is at an aerial distance of approximately 50km from the China border. The move came after the IAF requested permission from the Uttarakhand government to operate the airport. Until now, the airport was operated by the state civil aviation department.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran

The airstrip is 1,508 metres long and is presently being used by Pawan Hans heli services. A nine-seater airplane previously operated from the airport, but the service has not been operational since 2020. The airstrip was constructed in 1991 for administrative use, and the first commercial flight took off from the airport in January 2019. However, since March 2020, the flight service has remained closed due to technical issues. Presently, the airstrip is being used for choppers' landing and take-off, but even the heli services are not operated on a regular basis.

While the Indian Air Force would take over the airport, commercial flights would also operate from there, according to chief secretary SS Sandhu. He added that this would be done on similar lines as at the airports in Chandigarh and Prayagraj. Speaking on the issue, Pithoragarh district magistrate Reena Joshi said, "The district is yet to receive an official order in this regard and after getting it, we will act accordingly."

The move comes as India is focusing on strengthening its border infrastructure amid rising tensions with China. The Indian government has been actively developing its border infrastructure, including the construction of new roads and bridges, in order to bolster its defense capabilities along the border with China. The handover of the Naini Saini airport to the Indian Air Force is seen as part of this broader strategy.

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