The Indian Air Force (IAF) commissioned its first permanent squadron of 222 Tigersharks in southern India with the induction of the BrahMos armed multirole Su-30MKI on Monday.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Air Force Chief Air Marshal R.K.S Bhadauria witnessed the ceremony at the Air Force Base in Thanjavur city, Tamil Nadu state.
A defence official said the squadron would comprise six jets initially, but later it will be scaled up to 18.
"The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), a central maritime spread bordering three continents, has an important role to play in regional peace, security, and prosperity. The IAF, an intrinsically strategic force, is all set to extend its reach into the vast IOR," Air Marshal Amit Tiwari said in a statement.
Tiwari, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the Southern Air Command, added the force would also expand the base and "additional land is being acquired, next to the existing base. We expect to complete the expansion in around four years".
The IAF announced on 17 December that it completed the integration of the BrahMos-A (Air) supersonic cruise missile into the Su-30MKI multirole fighter.
With the integration of BrahMos missiles, having ranges of around 290 km, the most advanced fighter jets in operation with the service can hit the enemy, deep in the Indian Ocean Region.
China has been posing a significant challenge to the dominance of the Indian Navy in recent years through the deployment of warships and submarines in the Indian Ocean Region.
Last year, the Chinese research vessel Shi Yan-1 was asked to leave after being spotted by the Indian Navy near the Andaman Islands, which is a tri-service command of the Indian armed forces.