The Indian Air Force (IAF) stood up a new Su-30MKI squadron, the No. 222 Squadron “Tiger Sharks”, at Thanjavur Air Force Station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on Jan. 20.
The squadron dedication ceremony was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and the Air Force Chief Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria. The attendance also included G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary (R&D) at Department of Defence and Chairman, DRDO; Air Marshal Amit Tiwari, Air Officer Commanding–in–Chief (AOC-in-C) of Southern Air Command (SAC); Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of Eastern Naval Command (ENC); R Madhavan, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL); and other senior military and civilian officials.
On arrival, General Bipin Rawat was received by Group Captain Prajual Singh, Station Commander of Air Force Station Thanjavur. The induction ceremony culminated with a flying display by Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Sarang Helicopter Display Team and Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team.
The No. 222 Squadron is the IAF’s second front-line fighter jet squadron to be based in South India after the No. 45 Squadron “Flying Daggers” based at Sulur Air Force Station operating the indigenous HAL Tejas LCA fighter aircraft. But, the No. 222 is the first in the South to be operating Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets.
The No. 222’s Su-30MKI jets are capable of being armed with the new BrahMos supersonic Air-Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs). This makes the No. 222 Squadron also the first IAF squadron equipped with BrahMos ALCMs.
“The decision to deploy the Su-30MKI at Thanjavur was taken due to its strategic location. The SU-30 MKI inducted here is equipped with special weapon (BrahMos supersonic cruise missile)”, ANI news agency quoted Marshal RKS Bhadauria as saying.
The new Squadron will be primarily responsible for maritime reconnaissance and strike missions in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). With the 300 km-range BrahMos missile, the squadron’s Su-30MKI jets will be able to strike targets deep in the IOR. The squadron will initially operate 5-6 jets before scaling up to the full complement of 18.
The No. 222 Squadron was originally raised at Ambala Air Force Station in Haryana on 15 September 1969, with Sukhoi Su-7 swept-wing fighter aircraft. In July 1971, the squadron was moved to Halwara AFS in Punjab and was soon engaged in combat with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1971 India–Pakistan War.
In May 1975, the squadron was shifted back to Ambala and continued to operate there until 1981, when it shifted to Hindon AFS in Uttar Pradesh on 14 May 1981. In December 1985, the Tigersharks became the first IAF squadron to be equipped with Russian MiG-27 Bahadur combat aircraft. The squadron was given its current name “Tigersharks” by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi when he visited the airbase.
On 19 May 1989, the squadron was moved to Hasimara AFS in West Bengal where they were active till 2011.
Sukhoi Su-30MKI “Flanker-H” is a twinjet multirole air superiority fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
A variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, it is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter. The development of the variant started after India signed a deal with Russia in 2000 to manufacture 140 Su-30 fighter jets.
The aircraft is tailor-made for Indian specifications and integrates Indian systems and avionics as well as French and Israeli sub-systems. It has abilities similar to the newer Sukhoi Su-35 fighter with which it shares many features and components.
The first Russian-made Su-30MKI variant was accepted into the Indian Air Force in 2002, while the first indigenously assembled Su-30MKI entered service with the IAF in 2004. The Su-30MKI is expected to form the backbone of the Indian Air Force’s fighter fleet to 2020 and beyond.