The 222 Squadron ‘Tigersharks’, which began life in the late sixties in Ambala with a complement of Su-7 fighters was ‘numberplated’ in 2011 after a stint with MiG-27 jets. It has been revived now to house Su-30 MKI planes marked out for the maritime role, which centres around a deterrent ethic, but includes anti-ship operations if the need arises.
India’s new Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will oversee the induction on Monday in Thanjavur. The IAF’s Southern Commander and Indian Navy’s Eastern Commander will also be in attendance, all part of an emphasis on tri-service unity.
While the IAF is rightly reluctant to point deployments at any one country or threat, the positioning of Su-30s for the first time in India’s south on a permanent basis (there have been temporary detachments before) is clearly at least in part a response to Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean, and specifically the Indian military’s area of responsibility.
There have been occasional incidents of suspicious or unauthorised Chinese maritime activity in Indian waters over the last five years. Most recently, last year, Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 1 was asked to leave after being spotted by the Indian Navy. Chinese submarines are also reported to have been detected in the southern Indian Ocean on more than one occasion in the last few years.