New Delhi: India on Tuesday inducted its frontline Sukhoi combat planes at its air force's Halwara base in Punjab, bordering Pakistan. The Su-30 MKI, the India-built version of the Russian-origin combat jets, will replace the now phased out Soviet-origin MiG-23 planes in the 220 Squadron that is also known as 'Desert Tigers'.

The MiG-23 planes were retired from the Indian Air Force (IAF) service in 2005. With the induction of Sukhois, the squadron got revived at Halwara. The Sukhoi induction was done by Delhi-based Western Air Command's (WAC) chief Air Marshal Arup Raha in the presence of his wife Lily Raha, according to a defence press release.

India had bought the Sukhois from Russia and inducted them first in 1997. The MKI variant for India is built by the Bangalore-based public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under license.

A frontline all-weather air-dominance fighter with multi-role capability, Sukhois can undertake varied air combat and ground attack missions. Air Force Station Halwara is one of the oldest forward air bases of the IAF set up in 1942 by the British.

Halwara, due to its strategic location, was actively involved in both 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars. It was home to Spitfires in early 1950s and later converted into a MiG-23 operations base till 2009.In 2011, Halwara was chosen to be the first Sukhoi squadron base under the WAC.


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