Airfield of World War I vintage done up to house the station

This ancient town renowned for grand temples will soon have a new feature on its skyline - fighter planes.

A new “strategic air base” of the Air Force will be dedicated to the nation in Thanjavur on May 27 by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

An airfield of World War I vintage has been done up to house the Thanjavur Air Force Station, a full-fledged 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 already had a runway and served as a civil airport two decades ago. Thanjavur was connected with Chennai by Vayudoot in the early 1990s, but the service was stopped owing to poor patronage.

After the IAF took over the airbase, land acquisition started in 2006 for converting it into an Air Force Station. The Union government allotted Rs. 250 crore for the project.

The progress towards having an air force station here has been steady. During the Dakshin Prahar conducted by the Southern Air Command in February, fighter aircraft zoomed across the sky over Thanjavur. Two deep penetration fighter aircraft took to the skies from the newly-constructed runway of the Air Force Station in Thanjavur.

It was the first time that fighter aircraft took to the skies from the runway of the Air Force Station here. Various types of aircraft in the IAF inventory took part in the exercise - Maritime Fighter Aircraft (Jaguar), Air Superiority Fighter Aircraft (Su 30 MK), Fight Refuelling Aircraft and AN32 Helicopters.

During floods in November 2008, IAF aircraft and helicopters air-dropped 15,000 kg of relief material such as drinking water, biscuits and bread to the flood-affected people in Papanasam, Mulankudi, Melattur and Thanjavur areas.