Four years after their last flight, the Surya Kirans, the Indian Air Force's dare-devil aerobatic squadron, is all set to take to the skies once again.
The Surya Kirans last performed in Bangalore in February 2011 and were grounded because the Air Force faced a severe shortage of training aircraft. The situation is less bleak now with the induction of the British Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer, being assembled in India by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited which is based in Bangalore.
NDTV has learnt that the Surya Kiran team will commence their flying displays within six to eight months. An official announcement to this effect will be made soon. The Surya Kirans, who form the Air Force's 52 Squadron known as "The Sharks" will once again be based in Bidar in Karnataka.
The Surya Kiran (which means 'sunbeam' in Sanskrit) squadron was originally formed in 1996 to serve as Ambassadors of the Indian Air Force who would showcase the prowess of the Air Force's fighter pilots in precision aerobatic flying. Pilots serving in the squadron are all Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs) with approximately 2,000 hours of experience on fighter aircraft. The team is led by a Commanding Officer who is also the leader of the formation during display sorties.
The Surya Kirans were among three internationally renowned nine-aircraft public display aerobatic formations and have performed with distinction in airshows in India, China and other countries.
The IAF has a long tradition of formation flying. In 1982, the IAF formed 'The Thunderbolts' on the golden jubilee year of the IAF, a team which flew the Hawker Hunter aircraft. In 1990, the Hunters were phased out and replaced by Kiran Mk II trainers and the Surya Kiran team flew for the first time in 1996.
The process of re-training Surya Kiran pilots in the art of aerobatic flight on new Hawk aircraft will not be easy and all nine aircraft will not fly in formation together from the very onset. The buildup to nine aircraft will be gradual, and the level of difficulty in close formation flying will be progressively enhanced.