Hawker Hunter is displayed outside the Nehru Museum at Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. Pic © IIT Kharagpur Alumni Network.
The airfields of West Bengal along with those in Present day Bangladesh and the North Eastern states were the mainstay for the Allied air war effort during the Second World War. From the numerous airfields that dotted the area, a myriad types of transport, fighter and bomber aircraft led the airwar against the Japanese airforces. At the end of the second world war, a few airfields were still active. The IAF decided to keep only one main base, stationed at Kalaikunda. The Eastern Air Command was formed in Calcutta in the 60s. Till its eventual shifting to Shillong, EAC was responsible for meeting all air threats from China and East Pakistan. It maintained airbases at Calcutta (Dum-Dum), Panagarh, Kalaikunda, Hashimara, Barrackpore and Baghdogra all of which are in West Bengal.
In the Midnapore District in the state of West Bengal, about 130 km from Calcutta is the Major Airbase of Kalaikunda. Established way back during the Second World War, this desolate village turned airstrip is now a major establishment on the IAF's Orbat.
Ever since its reactivation in 1955, Kalaikunda had been home to Mystere Squadrons, Vampires, Hunters, Canberras, MiG-21s , Su-7s and now MiG-27s. Kalaikunda has a large number of warbirds on display, approximately seven preserved. A number of hunter airframes have been noticed lying derelict around the airbase. It is suspected that atleast one Sukhoi-7 airframe is lying around in the airbase. In the late 70s, one Spitfire airframe which was lying as a decoy was recovered and auctioned off to the UK Collectors.
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Hashimara Air Force Station is located in the Jaipalguri district in North-west West Bengal. Raised as 16 Wing sometime in the early 1960s, Hashimara was initially home to IAF Toofani squadrons. No.47 and No.29 being two of them. Subsequently, Hunter squadrons operated out of Hashimara. Nos 17 and 37 operated with distinction during the 1971 War. Hashimara continued its association with Hunters by providing a home to No.20 Squadron, during its avatar as the Thunderbolts Aerobatic Display team in the 80s. Over the years various other AF fighter units operated from here including Gnats, Ajeets and MiG21Bis fighters.
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Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, is the Capital City of West Bengal State. The city is home to the Indian Army Eastern Command, and once upon a time hosted the Headquarters for Eastern Air Command of the Indian Air Force as well.
The city has a significant IAF presence in the form of Barrackpore Air Force Station, one of the oldest stations in the IAF, operating transport units. Barrackpore was also home to several Spitfire Squadrons in the early 1950s. Several Spitfire airframes were salvaged from Barrackpore in the 1970s and 80s and are currently restored to flying status in the west.
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