Hello defence lovers! In this article, we are going to discuss a very interesting topic. We are going to talk about India’s secret airbase- the Farkhor Airbase in Tajikistan. Let’s discuss all the interesting facts and the strategic importance of the Farkhor Airbase.
[NOTE: WE ARE NOT REVEALING ANY SECRET INFORMATION. WE ARE ONLY USING THE INFORMATION WHICH IS AVAILABLE IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN]
Before we discuss the Farkhor airbase let us first discuss briefly Tajikistan. Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia. It used to be part of the Soviet Union. It got independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union disintegrated. It operates a small army and an airforce.
Tajik Airforce is a very small air force and consists of only one squadron. It operates 14 Mi 8, 6 Mi 24 attack helicopters, and 4 L 39 albatross light attack fighters. These aircraft still contain the old Soviet Airforce Red star roundel.
Russia is reluctant to give more advanced equipment as it wants Tajikistan to be dependent upon the Russian airforce for protection. This is an indirect way of controlling Tajikistan’s Military affairs. The Presence of the Indian Airforce also increases the protection from unfriendly neighbors such as China.
In the year 1996, the Indian foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) started negotiations with Tajikistan to use the Farkhor Air Base to transport high-altitude military supplies to the Afghan Northern Alliance in their fight against the Taliban, service their helicopters and gather intelligence. At that time, there was a small military hospital in the Farkhor region which the Indian Military operated. This hospital was used to treat Afghan Northern Alliance members injured in fighting with the Taliban.
In 2002, the news leaked that India was setting up an airbase at Farkhor and the Indian government has to accept that. Russian assistance was also involved in the process. The airbase was in a rundown condition as it was not used since the 1980s when the Soviets abandoned it. The Indian Government issued a $10 million tender to a private builder in 2003 to restore the airbase by 2005. But the builder defaulted and the Border Roads Organisation jumped into action to complete the work. By 2006 there were reports that the Indian government was considering the deployment of a squadron of Mig 29 at Farkhor airbase.
India also spent 70 million dollars to completely renovate and modernize the Ayni Airbase. India constructed a 3200 meters long modern runway, air traffic control, modern navigation equipment along with strong air defence systems. However the Indian government is silent over the status of Ayni airbase, but analysts believe IAF also operates from Ayni airbase along with the Russian Air force. The Tajik government is also silent over it as there are geopolitical reasons behind it. let us understand those.
Strategic Importance Of Farkhor Airbase
Farkhor airbase is strategically very important for India. It is located just 900 kilometers away from Pakistan which brings the Pakistani Capital in the striking range of IAF fighters. Pakistan has always considered India its biggest threat. Thus all Pakistani military assets are concentrated to cover the vast border with India. All Pakistan Air force bases are located near LOC away from the Afganistan border as Pakistan does not consider Afghanistan a threat. Pakistan’s air defence network is also deployed in a manner to cover the LOC and the adjoining regions.
Thus in case of a conflict, the Pakistanis will be totally surprised if Indian fighters from the Farkhor airbase enter Pakistan from the Afganistan border, strike important locations such as the Capital Islamabad and return back without any resistance as the assets will be deployed to cover LOC.
This Route will be useful to strike locations such as Peshawar and other northern cities of Pakistan which Pakistan considers out of India’s reach. This will open up an unexpected font with Pakistan in case of a full-blown conflict. It will create confusion in the Pakistani High command which will give India a significant edge.
These bases in Tajikistan give the Indian air force an edge over the Chinse Airforce as well. The reasons are the same. The Chinse would never anticipate an Indian offensive from Tajikistan. The Farkhor airbase can be very well used to disrupt the supply lines through the CPEC.
Both the Indian government and the Tajik government are silent over the current deployment and they have a serious reason to do so. The main objective of the Farkhor airbase is to retain an element of surprise. Thus it is obvious for the Indian government to share very little information in the public domain.
However, some unconfirmed reports suggest that some IAF Mi 17 are deployed in the Farkhor airbase. Allegedly India operates some leased Russian jets from Ayni airbase and uses Farkhor as a forward operating base. These fighters are maintained by Russian contractors but operated by Indian Pilots. Thus both Russia and India exercise joint control. This allegation is also supported by the fact that India has already spent 70 million dollars in building the Ayni Airbase, Indian government won’t invest such an amount without any aim. IAF already operates many Russian platforms such as the Su 30 MKI and Mig 29. Thus operating the Russian airforce’s assets won’t be a problem.
Somewhere around 2006, there were reports that IAF was planning to deploy a squadron of Mig 29 at Farkhor. However, no further update was released in public. But is very much possible that a squadron is currently deployed at Farkhor.
[NOTE: THE DEPLOYMENT OF LEASED RUSSIAN JET AT AYNI/FARKHOR AIR BASE IS JUST A SPECULATION AS THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO CONFIRM THESE CLAIMS]
Farkhor airbase is a very important asset of the Indian armed forces both strategically and geopolitically. It will help India to expand its influence over Central Asia which will indeed counter the rising Chinse Influence. India and Tajikistan share a very strong military relation. Tajik offers are trained at various Indian institutes. Thus India must look forward to expanding its military presence in Tajikistan.