With Chinese expanding their footprints in the region, the induction of Sukhoi-30 MKI into the resurrected 222 Tiger Shark Squadron at the Air Force Station (AFS) Thanjavur, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will get an unmatched capability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), opine experts. The main focus of this Squadron is going to be on jointness among the services-IAF and the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy has been operating in the IOR and now with another Squadron of the Su-30MKI fitted with the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile airpower located in the South there will be more joint planning and operations together. With the BrahMos Missile onboard these fighter aircraft a new dimension to strategic importance will be part of the future planning.
Today's ceremony was in the presence of the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the IAF Air Chief Mar RKS Bhadauria, and top officers of the IAF and DRDO and BrahMos Aerospace CEO Dr Sudhir Kumar Mishra was also present.
Air Marshal M Matheswaran, Chairman, The Peninsula Foundation said "The need for IAF to increase its operational presence in the Peninsula has been voiced for quite some time now. Southern Air Command, with its HQ in Trivandrum, has probably the largest geographic area of responsibility, extending into the Indian Ocean region. In the context of the rising geopolitical importance of the Indo-Pacific, IAF’s ability to project aerospace power in the IOR is now more relevant than ever."
"Currently, the IAF’s Su-30 MKI is an ideal platform to meet these tasks. Plans to base a Su-30 squadron at Thanjavur has been on for nearly a decade. Delays have occurred due to development works on the base, including a full expansion of the airfield, and more importantly due to IAF’s problems of declining force structure. Hence, priority for Su-30 basing has been to deal with Pakistan and China theatres. Now that Rafale and Tejas are being inducted, and additional Su-30s being procured, it makes eminent sense to Thanjavur as a major Su-30 base. This would also give the due impetus to Southern Air Command," Matheswaran, former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (DCIDS) at Air HQ added.
Air Vice-Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (retd), Addl Director-General, Centre for Air Power Studies, said "The importance of IOR has engaged the attention of our security establishment due to the Chinese forays in the region. While the Indian Navy is spreading its wings, the requirement of having a permanent footprint of Indian air power over the Indian Ocean was lacking. With the basing of the Sukhois at Thanjavur, this deficiency would be overcome to a certain extent due to the deep strike capabilities of the aircraft. It is time that a permanent airpower presence is also established in Car Nicobar, which overlooks the Malacca Straits. This would convey the importance that we attach to our interests in the IOR."
Wg Cdr Abhishek Matiman (Retd) opines " The resurrection of the ‘Tigersharks’ – 222 Squadron of the IAF at Thanjavur most certainly gives us a much needed and in the current scenario, the most effective means to deter Chinese belligerence and the recent increased presence of the PLA(N) (People’s Liberation Army – Navy) in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region)."
"With INS Vikramaditya being the sole operational Aircraft Carrier in the Indian Navy’s arsenal at present, sustaining credible surveillance/dominance in the region badly needed an added punch. A shot in the arm just in time, the positioning of SU30MKIs at Thanjavur provides us with the critical ability to respond with speed and precision to any clash of interests in the IOR which historically has been India’s backyard.
The multi-role SU-30MKIs or the upgraded Super Sukhois with their superior range, endurance and a wide array of weapon systems offer the most potent weapon platform even in a maritime role. The newly developed IAF base at Thanjavur barely 55kms from the nearest coastline is ideally located to control / secure Indian economic/military interests far into the Indian Ocean as well as South East Asia right up to the South China Sea.
Operating aircraft based in the mainland in a maritime role has inherent advantages as compared to carrier-based aircraft and the logistical effort it entails. Notwithstanding, the urgent need of additional Aircraft Carriers to suitably address the Nation’s long term interests, the ‘Tigersharks’ at Thanjavur for the moment definitely lend us the much needed ‘claws and teeth’ hitherto sorely missed," Matiman added.