The Indian Air Force (IAF) has a unique, 74-year-old new recruit: President Pratibha Patil. The commander of the Indian armed forces will soon have the privilege of flying in an IAF fighter jet—the formidable Su-30 MKI, which is the frontline fighter aircraft of the Indian Air force. Before her, former President Kalam had also taken to the skies in the same craft.
The Su-30 MKI is a long-range, high-endurance, heavy-class Air Dominance Fighter with multi mission capabilities. The ‘I’ in the designation stands for the technological modifications that this fighter bomber has gone through specifically for the Indian market.
It has been reported that a special audio-visual briefing was recently held for the President at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in which she was given instructions about the aircraft. She will also be donning the G-suit, the special anti-gravity get-up to withstand gravitational pressure.The IAF operates five Su-30MKI squadrons. The pioneer No 24 Squadron is based at Lohegaon Air force station in Pune and it is from here that the President will fly.
The Su-30MKI has 12 points at which weapons can be loaded. The maximum advertised combat load is 8,000 kg. It can carry a combination of long-range and beyond visual range air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, including the supersonic Brahmos, the fastest cruise missile in its class.
An SU-30 MKI aircraft crashed mysteriously in April this year in Rajasthan, killing both the pilot and co-pilot. The publicity generated by this flight should go a long way in dispelling any doubts about the safety of the craft.