The Indian Air Force inducted its first Su-30 MKI squadron-‘Tigersharks’ – at ThanjavurAir Force Station, Tamil Naduon 20 January. The Su-30MKI fighter jets are capable of carrying the indigenous BrahMos-A, supersonic cruise missiles to keep vigil over Indian Ocean Region and counter increased Chinese activities in the region. BrahMos-A missiles arecapable of carrying a nuclear payload.
The commissioning of the new 222 Squadron was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat along with the IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria. On the occasion, General Rawat said that the resurrection of the ‘Tigersharks’ highlighted the integration and jointness which is the future of the Indian Armed Forces. He also explained the significance of how the Su 30 MKI aircraft along with the BrahMos will be the game-changer which will extensively enhance the security of the maritime domain. The Squadron will be operating closely with the Indian Army and Navy to boost jointness of the Indian Armed Forces.
Air Chief Bhaduriatermed it a historic day for the IAF and disclosed that the decision to choose Thanjavur as the base for induction of the SU 30 MKI squadron was because of its strategic location keeping in view the Indian Ocean region.
The new squadron, currently consisting of limited number of aircraft, will reach its full complement of 18 aircraft by the end of this year. Developed by DRDO, the Su 30 MKI fighters have been modified to carry theair-launched variant of the BrahMos. Three successful test-firings have been carried out since November 2017, of which the most recent was in December 2019 when the Indian Air Force announced that the integration of BrahMos-A missiles on Su 30MKI had been completed.
The government approved the integration of BrahMos- with Su 30 MKI in 2016 and the process started in 2017 but it was expedited last year following the Balakot air strikes. A total of 42 Su 30MKI are to be upgraded to carry the 2.5 ton supersonic cruise missile out of the total 260 Sukhoi Su 30MKI aircraft in IAF’s inventory. The Indian Air Force plans to raise two Su 30MKI squadrons equipped with BrahMos-A missiles.
The BrahMos-A has an estimated operational range of 400 km and can be launched from 500 to 1400 meter (1,640 to 46,000 feet) by Su 30MKI fighter aircraft. The cruise missile is an upgraded variant of Russian P-800 Oniks and is considered to be one of the world’s fastest cruise missiles. Each Su 30 MKI can carry one missile in its launch canister.
Tigersharks are the 12th squadron of the fourth-generation air dominance ‘Sukhois’ and first one to be based in South India. The other 11 squadrons are deployed in western and eastern fronts keeping our threat perceptions emanating from Pakistan and China.