India's nine-aircraft Surya Kiran aerobatics team was badly missed during the Air Force Day parade here Saturday, but its disbanding this February is not the end of the road for it yet.
The Surya Kiran will once again soar into the skies, with the Indian Air Force deciding to revive it three years from now with the British Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) that India will specially procure for the aerobatics team by 2014.
This announcement was made by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne while addressing the air warriors after reviewing the 79th Air Force Day parade - that included the aerial display - at the air base here on the edge of the national capital.
Browne also said it was "painful" to let go of the team, though it was only for a few years. He also promised that the Surya Kiran will enthrall the entire nation, as well as aviation enthusiasts abroad once again.
"This year, we had to take the painful decision of temporarily disbanding the nine-aircraft Surya Kiran aerobatics team. But we owe it to the nation to revive the team again and I assure you that in three years from now, the Surya Kiran will once again rise over the skies in Hindon and perform across the length and breadth of India, and indeed around the globe, this time newly painted in the national colours on the Hawk aircraft," Browne said in his address at the parade.
In the nearly one-and-half decades of its existence, this was probably the first time the Surya Kiran team did not perform at the Air Force Day parade, and they will now be missed for two more years.
The Surya Kiran flew in the Indian-made HJT-16 Kiran MkII trainer aircraft all along, but they had to give up their aircraft to meet the training requirements of rookie Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots after the HPT-32 Deepak trainer fleet was grounded last year following frequent crashes, claiming 23 pilot fatalities and 108 engine-cuts.
Apart from the Kirans, the IAF is now using the Hawks AJTs, bought in 2004 from British firm BAE Systems and delivered in 2008, for training newly recruited pilots.
The IAF has shortlisted the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer, for which the contract is expected to be signed later this month. It is buying 75 of the PC-7s for training purposes and is also remodelling its syllabus for the young pilots.
India is expected to place an order for over a dozen Hawk AJTs for the Surya Kiran team, apart from the 66 it has already bought for training purposes in 2004 and the additional 57 for air force and navy pilot training.