By stationing our frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi at Thanjavur, IAF can protect vast area of interests, Mr Antony said

A full-fledged air station, the first fighter plane base of the Indian Air Force in the southern peninsula, was dedicated to the nation here by Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday.

The establishment of a premier fighter base at Thanjavur assumes importance in the current geopolitical scenario and in view of the threat perception in the oceanic region around the peninsula, Mr. Antony said at the function. Assets envisaged for this futuristic air base would be able to provide maritime security cover to all strategic and vital installations in this region. He expressed confidence that the IAF, with its newer inductions like Su-30 MKI and UAVs and committed air warriors, would be able to protect the territorial waters and borders from any kind of threat.

Two Sukhoi 30 aircraft took off, one after the other, and formed a war formation to mark the occasion. “By a strong presence of IAF fighter squadrons in stations like Thanjavur, the country can be confident and feel safe,” he said. India was a peace-loving country, but was prepared to meet any eventuality, he added.

An airfield of World War II vintage has been done up to house the Thanjavur Air Force Station, a base that will handle fighters, transport planes and refuelling aircraft.

The Indian Air Force will base a squadron of Sukhoi Su-30 super-manoeuvrable fighter aircraft here, making it the first fighter squadron in Tamil Nadu.

A new runway has been created for the airfield, which used to have a runway and had served as a civil airport two decades ago. Thanjavur was connected with Chennai by Vayudoot in the early 1990s, but the service was stopped due to poor patronage.

Later, speaking to presspersons, Mr. Anthony said “India at present is not the India of the past. We have enhanced our defence capabilities. Many nations — about 48 in the world — have evinced interest in undertaking joint military exercises with India. Such is our capability.” He would soon visit Australia, Taiwan and Singapore to chalk out joint military exercises.

Ruling out the possibility of using the military to put down Maoism directly, the Defence Minister said the armed forces would certainly give indirect support to the police and paramilitary forces in the fight against Maoists and any form of terrorism. Even in Chhattisgarh, Air Force helicopters were involved in rescue operations.

He thanked the Tamil Nadu government for extending its support to the IAF in all its activities since 1984.

Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Chief of Air Staff, said a full Sukhoi-30 squadron would be established in Thanjavur by 2017. “We have extensive plans to equip the airbase with more assets. There was a small issue of relocation of village people in the expansion of the airbase. The Defence Minister discussed the issue and an alternative location has been given to them and compensation will be paid soon.”

Air Marshal RK Jollky, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command, was present.