Union Defence Minister A K Antony dedicated the first air base of the Southern Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF), capable of operating fighter planes, at the Air Force Station here on Monday.
Antony accepted the guard of honour and subsequently unveiled a plaque marking the dedication of the air base to the nation. The dedication ceremony was marked by take off, and flying of two Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft, in combat formation. The Defence Minister also visited the photo exhibition which depicted the history and evolution of the Air Force station at Thanjavur.
Later Antony said, “The Thanjavur air base is one of a strategically important base of the Indian Air Force. We are stationing our frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi at Thanjavur airbase.”
“With the establishment of this base, we can protect vast areas of our interests including the vast eastern coastal area and island territories,” Antony said, and added that 90 per cent of Indian foreign trade is being done through sea routes. The Indian Ocean is the lifeline of India. The emerging of piracy and terrorism, warrant an air base like this to ensure security.
“We have to be ever ready to face any threat to our national interests and to safeguard our sovereignty. Moreover, there are sensitive and important installations in the southern peninsular region. Several industrial bases are also here,” he said.
By a strong presence of an Air Force fighter squadron, India would be more confident. In a few years’ time, Thanjavur air base would not only have Su-30 fighter planes, but also more and more strategic assets.
Antony said, “Our forces are fully prepared. More and more countries are showing keen interest for joint military exercises.” He said he would be visiting Australia, Singapore and Thailand in the first week of June and also visit China soon.
N A K Browne, Air Chief Marshal, said the air base was strategically located in Southern India. By 2017, the air base would have full squadron of fighter planes. Talking about the resettlement of residents of Inathukkanpatti village which abuts the Air Force station, Browne said the Defence Minister had sanctioned the amount for compensation and relocation of the people. “They will be paid full compensation soon,” he added.