The Indian Airforce (IAF) stationed its most lethal aircraft Sukhoi-30 MKI at Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district. The move is aimed at keeping China's influence under check in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The IAF re-commissioned no. 222 squadron also known as 'Tigersharks', for its Thanjavur base. The speciality of this squadron would be the 2.5 'Brahmos' cruise missile that would be loaded on the first six SU-30s stationed at Thanjavur.
The strength of 222 squadrons will be increased later with 18 SU-30s and 3 additional in reserve. As per the size of an air force, a squadron generally has 16-18 aircraft. For India, it stands at 18 with 3-4 additional aircraft in maintenance.
SU-30 MKI: India's answer to growing Chinese influence in IOR
The newly stationed Sukhois will counter China's swift expansion in the IOR. In the last few years, the Chinese Navy along with its ground and Air forces have been flexing muscle in this region. In fact, the PLA set up its first overseas military base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa in August 2017. Moreover, the CPEC project has allowed China to use Karachi as a regular naval facility. The Dragon's ambition to become a blue-water navy is not a hidden fact. Recently, India's Naval Chief Admiral Karambir Singh confirmed the presence of Chinese warships in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
The Sukhois in Thanjavur will be loaded with the BrahMos missile, which has a range of around 300 kilometres. The missile will greatly increase the range of the aircraft allowing it a combat radius of around 1500 KM in IOR region. Notably, it is the 12th squadron of SU-30 MKIs to be commissioned in service but first in South India. The other 11 squadrons are located in Halwara, Pune, Jodhpur, Sirsa, Bareilly, Tezpur and Chabua.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Air Force Chief Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria were present at the induction ceremony. "Triple two squadron has been resurrected with the SU-30 MKI aircraft. It is armed with the BrahMos missile. By virtue of the fact that it is located in Thanjavur, which is strategically very well located in the southern peninsula from where it can dominate the seas, provide very close and integrated support to the Indian Navy," General Rawat quoted as saying by news agency ANI.