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IAF to get a boost with fourth Sukhoi squadron

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NEW DELHI: India will soon get its air superiority fighter fleet strengthened with the IAF raising the fourth squadron of Sukhoi multi-role strike fighters in February next.

“The fourth squadron of Su-30 MKI will be raised in February next and it is most likely to be stationed in Lohegaon near Pune,” a top IAF officer said in New Delhi on Sunday.

The IAF already has three squadrons of 60 Su-30 MKIs -- the most potent fighter aircraft in the IAF fighter fleet -- deployed in Lohegaon and Bareilly.

While Lohegaon is the home station for the 20 'Lightenings' Squadron, the 24 'Hawks' Squadron is currently based in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.

The third operational squadron, 30 'Rhinos', is currently based in Lohegaon, but would ultimately move to Tezpur in Assam near the China border, once the fourth squadron of Sukhoi is raised.

The 20 Su-30s required for the new squadron will come from the 40 aircraft ordered directly from Russia last year under a fast-track acquisition process, the officer said.

“The first set of aircraft in a knocked-down condition will reach Nasik, where it would be assembled and fitted with French and Israeli avionics beginning February next.
Simultaneously, the new squadron would be raised,” sources said. A Sukhoi squadron
usually consists of about 20 aircraft.

The fresh order for 40 Su-30s were placed with Russia's Irkut Corporation of the Rosoboronexport in the wake of the then IAF chief S P Tyagi writing to the government, in 2006, that India would lose its advantage over Pakistan Air Force if the depleting IAF fleet strength was not replenished with new squadrons. Some time back, the IAF fleet strength had gone down to 31.5 squadrons, while according to latest figures, the strength has slightly improved to 32.5 following the induction of the Hawks Advanced Jet Trainers beginning late last year, IAF officials said.

India ultimately plans to have about 20 squadrons.(PTI)

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