Defence Minister A. K. Antony unveiling the plaque to dedicate the Air Force Station Thanjavur to the nation on May 27, 2013. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne and the AOC-in-C Southern Air Command, Air Marshal RK Jolly are also seen.
Defence Minister A K Antony today dedicated to the nation the new Air Force Station at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and said the facility would help India protect its island territories and sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
"Even though we are a peace-loving nation, we have to protect our national interests from threats such as piracy and terrorism," he told reporters on the sidelines of the function.
Mr Antony said the IOR was increasingly becoming more and more active and, in the emerging security scenario, the presence of fighter planes in Thanjavur would not only guard the country's interests but also give a feeling of safety to its neighbours.
He said the operationalisation of the Air Force Station would strengthen the air defence capabilities of the Indian Air Force, in general, and the Southern Command, in particular.
He said various sensitive, strategic, industrial, aerospace and economic assets were coming up in the Southern Peninsula and the station would play a vital role in providing protection to those assets.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N A K Brown and the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command, Air Marshal R K Jolly , were among those present on the occasion.
The airbase at Thanjavur was first constructed in 1940 by the Royal Air Force (RAF). During the period 1942-45, 36 Sqn, 353 Sqn and 60 Sqn of RAF operated from this airfield with Hudson, Wellington 1C, Hurricane and Thunderbolt aircraft. These aircraft were used in various roles which included fighter operations, air transport, anti- shipping and anti-submarine patrol. After independence, the airfield was handed over to the Airports Authority of India and Vayudoot operations were undertaken from the base.
Accordin to an official press release, by the mid-1980s, a need was felt to build up the country’s air power capabilities in the Southern peninsula to provide air defence protection to high value national assets as well as island territories.
In addition, there was a growing need felt to protect the country's maritime trade and the large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the coming years. The government, therefore, decided to create Southern Air Command at Trivandrum in 1984 and also gave approval for the formation of 47 Wing at Thanjavur. The IAF took over the airfield in March 1990.
"With the modernization and induction of new technology into the IAF, it was but natural to upgrade the infrastructure at Thanjavur to utilise the sophisticated weapon systems in times of need and the works towards it started in real earnest. This included construction of runway, parallel taxi track and other operational, maintenance and administrative infrastructure to support air operations," the release said.
The air base is now ready to undertake fighter, transport and helicopter operations and detachments of these aircraft will be planned every year. The Air Force Station is also slated to house an array of IAF platforms in the future including Su-30 ‘Air Dominance’ Fighter Aircraft, Medium Transport Aircraft, Remotely Piloted Aircraft and a Medium Power Radar on build-up of further infrastructure.
Speaking on the occasion, Air Chief Marshal Browne said, in the years ahead, the strategic importance of the Thanjavur Air Base will grow in stature. He thanked the Defence Minister for settling issues relating to the relocation of some villagers for the expansion of the station.
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