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India's eighth Sukhoi SU-30 combat jet squadron by December

Posted on Sep 26, 09:18PM | IANS

India will raise its eighth squadron of Sukhoi SU-30 MKI frontline combat planes in December this year and it will be based at Sirsa in Haryana, just 150 km from the border with Pakistan, which had acted as a forward airbase during the 1971 war.

This will be the third Su-30 squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to be deployed close to Pakistan border in 14 months, after Jodhpur in Rajasthan in October 2011 and Halwara in Punjab on Tuesday.

"The third Sukhoi squadron close to our western frontiers will be based in Sirsa. It will be raised in December," a senior IAF officer told IANS here.

The Sirsa squadron will also be the second unit to fly the air dominance fighters under the Delhi-based Western Air Command (WAC) that controls 16 air bases and is responsible for defending the air space over north India.

The IAF had resurrected the disbanded 220 Squadron at Halwara on Tuesday.

In August 2010, the IAF had for the first time deployed a SU-30 squadron in the northeast at Tezpur in Assam, to act as a counter to China. In March 2011, it raised another Sukhoi squadron at the Jabua airbase, also in Assam.

The original two SU-30 squadrons are based at the Lohegaon airbase near Pune, which is also the home base for these sophisticated fighters. One squadron is based at Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.

However, the IAF is far from its target to operate 17 Sukhoi squadrons by 2018, when it would have inducted 272 aircraft, making it the main combat plane for the next decade or so.

India had first signed up for Su-30s in 1997, when it bought 50 of the planes off-the-shelf from Russia. Later, it also obtained a licence for Indian public sector behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture the planes.

From the HAL stable, the IAF would, at last count, be getting 222 Su-30s. This includes the 42 planes that India signed a deal for with Russia in December 2011 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in Moscow for a bilateral summit with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

N.C. Bipindra can be contacted at nc.bipindra@ians.in)