Chennai: Thanjavur, which was only known for the big temple and pilgrim spots, has now found a place on world’s military map. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has upgraded the decades old airstrip into a modern one to house Sukhoi-30 MK-I fighter squadron.
Experts say Thanjavur airspace is uninterrupted and so it will be an ideal location to base the fighter planes. Sukhoi squadrons are currently present in Pune, Bareilly, Tezpur, Chabua, Halwara and Jodhpur.
“It will be a great pride to the armed forces to have an IAF operations base at Thanjavur. Any establishment, be it weapons, aircraft or troops, is generally based on strategic and threat perception,” said a retired Indian Air Force official. He added that it is not unusual to disburse squadrons from peace locations for ease of operations.
Air Vice Marshal (retd) K. Sridharan pointed out that the number of ships passing through the Malacca Strait has increased now. “When there is requirement for air element to protect the sea-lane, the Sukhoi fighter squadron could be utilized,” he said.
He further added that expensive equipment couldn’t be kept fully near the first line of defence. We need to keep some forces away from the range of China and Pakistan. If in case, the first line is neutralized, then we can shift these forces up north quickly,” he added.
A retired Naval official recalled the 1941 attack, when Chennai was evacuated. “The government had to rush forces from the North to Tamil Nadu by road. So, by placing a fighter squadron in the South, it would increase the mobility of armed forces and also act as a deterrent value,” he added. At the moment, the southern air command in Thiruvananthpuram looks after the operations of IAF in this region.