The Indian Air Force (IAF) has formally inducted the first squadron of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets into the Western Air Command (WAC) at Halwara Air Force Station in Punjab, India.
Western Air Command spokesperson, group captain Sandeep Mehta, was quoted by The Indian Express as saying: "The aircraft was inducted into the air base under the WAC in a formal ceremony by Air Marshal Arup Raha."
The aircraft will be operated by the 220 Squadron, known as the ‘Desert Tigers’. The squadron flew the MiG-23 fighter and the MiG-23 BN supersonic strike fighter jets until 2005 and 2009 respectively.
The Desert Tiger squadron was selected by IAF for the SU-30 MKI fighter induction in September 2011, following a two-year inactive period.
Developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence from Sukhoi Design Bureau, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a long-range air superiority fighter designed to conduct a wide-range of air combat and ground-attack missions in all weather conditions.
The aircraft is an advanced variant of the Sukhoi Su-30 fighter and features enhanced avionics, such as a Su 967 head-up display, a Sigma-95 integrated GPS and ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system, radars, Litening targeting pods, and electronic counter-measure systems.
India had first ordered 50 Su-30MKIs from Sukhoi under a $1.46bn deal in November 1996, and obtained permission for licensed production of more than 140 aircraft in December 2000.
The first Su-30MKI entered operational service in 2002, and the aircraft were subsequently inducted at several IAF bases in Bareilly, Pune, Jodhpur, Tezpur Air Force Station and Chabua Air Force Station in Assam, India.
As of January 2012, the air force operated 190 Su-30MKIs and is planning to acquire a total of 272 aircraft, which are expected to serve as the backbone of IAF’s fighter fleet..
Image: An Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI fighter jet during its flight. Photo: courtesy of diego_pmc.