The Indian Air Force (IAF) commissioned on 20 January its first squadron of Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighter aircraft armed with the BrahMos-A (Air) supersonic cruise missile.
IAF officials told Jane's that the recently re-activated No. 222 'Tiger Sharks' Squadron at Thanjavur Air Force Station (AFS) on India's southeast coast, which will be tasked with "monitoring" India's eastern and western seaboards and the wider Indian Ocean Region (IOR), is also the IAF's first Su-30 MKI squadron to operate from southern India.
Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, who presided over the induction ceremony alongside India's newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, said the decision to deploy the Su-30MKIs from Thanjavur was taken because of the AFS's "strategic location".
Senior IAF officers said No 222 Squadron is expected to be equipped with its full complement of 18 licence-built Su-30MKIs by early 2021, with eight of these aircraft set to be armed with the 2.5 tonne, air-launched BrahMos-A missile, which has a 292 km range.
The 'Tiger Sharks' are the IAF's 12th Su-30MKI squadron overall and only the service's second fighter squadron based in southern India: the other is the No. 45 'Flying Daggers' Squadron at Sulur AFS, 250 km west of Thanjavur, which operates the locally developed and built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
The induction of the squadron followed three successful test-firings of the BrahMos-A missile system from the Su-30MKI since November 2017, the most recent of which took place off India's east coast in December 2019.
Developed by a joint venture between India's state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia, the 8.3 m-long BrahMos-A is a modified variant of basic naval/land configuration BrahMos.
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