Sqn No 222 was raised at Ambala on 15 Sep 69 with Su-7 aircraft. Later, the squadron moved to Halwara in Jul 71 and was soon made to engage in active combat OPs in the 1971 war.

The squadron launched counter airstrikes against Risalewala and Chander airfields with immense success despite intense enemy opposition, then at that time. Close air support was centered around Dera-Baba-Nanak, Hussainiwala and Firozpur sectors. In the post-war period, the unit continued its relentless task of maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and gained wide acclaim for exercises, gunnery meets and inspections. The Sqn shifted back to Ambala in May 75 and further to Hindon in May 81. In Dec 85 the squadron became the first unit in the IAF to be equipped with MiG-27 aircraft and was named “The Tigersharks”.

The squadron moved to Hashimara on 19 May 89. The unit has been privileged to be honoured with one Mahavir Chakra, three Vir Chakras, three VMs, two Ms-in-D and numerous commendations in recognition to its valuable service to the nation. The squadron was number plated in Mar 11 at Hashimara and was resurrected on 01 Jan 20, and on 20 Jan 20 the mighty Su-30 MKIs were inducted into the squadron over a water canon salutation.

No 222 Squadron, the Tigersharks were inducted at Air Force Station Thanjavur in a ceremony attended by General Bipin Rawat PVSM UYSM AVSM YSM SM VSM ADC, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria PVSM AVSM VM ADC , Chief of the Air Staff, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, DRDO, Air Marshal Amit Tiwari AVSM VM, Air Officer Commanding – in – Chief (AOC-in-C), Southern Air Command (SAC), Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain AVSM VSM, Flag Officer Commanding – in – Chief (FOC-in-C), Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Mr R Madhavan, Chairman cum Managing Director, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and other Dignitaries on Monday, 20 Jan 2020.

On arrival at the induction, CDS – General Bipin Rawat, was received by Group Captain Prajual Singh VM, Station Commander, Air Force Station Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. Whilst, addressing CDS – General Bipin Rawat, said, “The resurrection of the ‘Tigersharks’ highlights the integration and jointness which is the future of the Indian Armed Forces. He brought out that Su 30 MKI aircraft along with the BrahMos will be the game-changer which will extensively enhance the security of the Maritime domain. The Squadron will be operating closely with the Indian Army and Navy to get the ball rolling in jointness of the Indian Armed Forces”.

Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria PVSM AVSM VM ADC, Chief of Air Staff, in his address thanked the CDS for being at the ceremony. He said, “It is a historic day for the Indian Air Force, Southern Air Command, Air Force Station Thanjavur and 222 Squadron. He spoke of the decision to choose Thanjavur as the base for induction of the SU 30 MKI squadron because of its strategic location and complimented Southern Air Command and all personnel of AFS Thanjavur for their efforts towards advancing the induction of the squadron by almost a year”.

The induction ceremony culminated with a flying display by Light Combat Aircraft, Sarang Helicopter Display Team and Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team. The ‘Tigersharks’, are equipped with formidable, state-of-the-art air superiority fighter aircraft, which are armed with 2.5-ton air-launched BrahMos missile of 300 km range, have the capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy by day or night and in all weather conditions.

It has been ascertained that the capability of the missiles, coupled with superlative performance of the Su-30 MKI, is set to change the paradigm of maritime surveillance, security and strike in the region.

(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications)