Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu: In a strategically significant move Indian Air Force inducted Southern peninsula's first squadron of Su-30 MKI fighter jets, the squadron 222 in Thanjavur on Monday. The squadron that is also known as 'Tigersharks' will house multirole Sukhoi Su-30 MKI Fighter Jets some of which will be modified version capable of deploying a BrahMos-A supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. The BrahMos-A supersonic missile is expected to be cleared for operational service in the year 2020. The new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were present during the induction.
"The decision to deploy the Su-30 MKI at Thanjavur was taken due to its strategic location. The Su-30 MKI Fighter Jets inducted here is equipped with special weapon (BrahMos supersonic cruise missile)," Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
"The Thiruvananthapuram Air Force airbase will play a crucial role, expansion plans here are on the anvil and additional land is being acquired, next to the present base. We expect to complete the expansion in around four years' time," the Air Marshal added.
"The decision to deploy the Su-30 MKI at Thanjavur was taken due to its strategic location. The SU-30 MKI inducted here is equipped with special weapon (BrahMos supersonic cruise missile),"- Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff
"SU-30MKI with BrahMos is the strongest maritime combination that we have, in terms of weapon capability. Thanjavur is the ideal location because of access to both the east & west sides&Indian Ocean Region. It will bring huge capability in support of Navy" Bhadauria told ANI.
This will be the IAF's second front-line fighter jet squadron to be based in the south. The other one is the 45 Flying Daggers Squadron housing the IAF's first LCA Tejas Mk1 jets situated 250 km east of Thanjavur in Sulur.
No 222 Squadron will be based at the Air Force Base in Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur and will provide India with a strategic location sitting where forces can take up both aerial and maritime challenges and guard the Indian Ocean region (IOR). Now equipped with the special lethal weapon the BrahMos which has the strike range of 300 kilometres, the Su-30 MKI will be able to strike targets deep in the sea. Tigersharks will initially have between five and six jets before scaling up to the full complement of 18.
"While the IAF is rightly reluctant to point deployments at any one country or threat, the positioning of Su-30s for the first time in India's south on a permanent basis (there have been temporary detachments before) is clearly at least in part a response to Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean, and specifically the Indian military's area of responsibility," wrote Defence author Shiv Aroor in his defence blog LiveFist. There have been occasional incidents of suspicious or unauthorised Chinese maritime activity in the Indian Ocean region in the last few years. Most recently, last year, Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 1 was asked to leave after being spotted by the Indian Navy. Chinese submarines are also reported to have been detected in the southern Indian Ocean on more than one occasion in the last few years.
No 222 Squadron (Tigersharks) was first raised at the IAF's Ambala station in Haryana in September 1969, with Sukhoi Su-7s. In July 1971 the squadron moved to the Air Force station in Punjab's Halwara and took part in the 1971 war with Pakistan. It was recognized for its efforts and awarded one Mahavir Chakra, three Vir Chakras and three Vayu Sena medals before officially being decommissioned in 2011. In December 1985, the 'Tigersharks' were the first squadron to be equipped with MiG-27s.