The Surya Kiran aerobatic team, also known as the “Sun Rays,” is a renowned display team of the Indian Air Force. With their stunning aerial maneuvers and precision flying, they have captivated audiences around the world. This article will delve into the history, achievements, and challenges faced by the Surya Kiran aircraft, which have become a symbol of pride for the Indian Air Force.
History of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team
The origins of the Surya Kiran team can be traced back to 1982, when the Indian Air Force formed its first aerobatic team to commemorate its Golden Jubilee anniversary. This initial team, called the “Thunderbolts,” flew nine Hawker Hunter F.56A fighters from No.20 Squadron. Painted in a striking dark blue colour with white trim, they showcased their skills to the world.
In 1990, the Indian Air Force decided to equip a new aerobatic team with four Indian-built HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk—II jet trainers. The team was named “Surya Kiran,” it debuted under this name on October 8, 1996, during the Indian Air Force Day celebrations at Palam. Over the years, the team expanded to nine formation aircraft with a solo pair, dazzling spectators with their synchronized displays.
Tragedies and Resilience
Unfortunately, the Surya Kiran team has faced its share of tragedies. On March 18, 2006, during a practice flight in a three-ship formation at Bidar Air Base, two of the team’s planes collided mid-air, resulting in the loss of two pilots: Wing Commander Dheeraj Bhatia and Squadron Leader Shailendra Singh. This was the first-ever crash involving the Surya Kiran team.
In another tragic incident on January 21, 2009, Wing Commander Rajpal Singh Dhaliwal lost his life when his Surya Kiran trainer aircraft caught fire mid-air and crashed near Bidar in Karnataka. Despite these setbacks, the team has shown remarkable resilience and determination to continue its mission.
Transformation and Rebirth
After a period of disbandment, the Surya Kiran team was reformed at the beginning of 2015, flying the BAe Hawk Mk132 aircraft. The new aircraft brought a fresh chapter for the team, and they made their first public display with the Hawk aircraft during the Air Force Day celebrations at Hindon on October 8, 2015. Initially, the team flew four aircraft and performed flypasts in different formations.
Over time, the team expanded its fleet, adding more aircraft. In November 2016, two additional Hawk aircraft were incorporated into their formation, and by 2018, the Surya Kiran team had achieved its goal of nine aircraft.
However, tragedy struck again on February 19, 2019, during an Aero India airshow rehearsal when two Hawk aircraft collided mid-air, losing one pilot. Despite this setback, the Surya Kiran team has continued to inspire the nation with their remarkable displays of skill and bravery.
Training and Precision
The Surya Kiran team’s success can be attributed to their rigorous training and commitment to precision. The pilots undergo extensive training to master their maneuvers and ensure synchronization during their displays. Each aircraft uses approximately 500 kg of fuel per display, showcasing their skills at around 600 km/h speeds.
When flying individually, the pilots experience forces of 5G to 6G; when performing together, they experience forces of up to 4G. This requires immense physical and mental strength, exceptional teamwork and coordination.
The Impact of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team
The Surya Kiran aerobatic team has significantly impacted the Indian Air Force and the nation as a whole. Their breathtaking displays not only showcase the skill and precision of the pilots but also serve as a source of inspiration for budding aviators. The team’s performances at national and international events have earned them a well-deserved reputation as one of the finest aerobatic teams in the world.
Their dedication and resilience in adversity have made them a symbol of the Indian Air Force‘s spirit and professionalism. The Surya Kiran team continues to inspire and instill a sense of pride in every Indian.
1. What is the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team?
The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team is a demonstration team of the Indian Air Force that showcases aerobatic maneuvers in air shows and public displays.
2. When was the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team formed?
The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team was formed in 1996.
3. What aircraft does the Surya Kiran team use?
The Surya Kiran team flies BAe Hawk Mk132 aircraft from Bidar Air Base.
4. What aircraft did the Surya Kiran team use before?
The Surya Kiran team flew Hawker Hunter F.56A fighters and later transitioned to HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk—II jet trainers.
5. Was the Surya Kiran team disbanded at any point?
Yes, the Surya Kiran team was disbanded in 2010 but reformed in 2015 with a new aircraft set.
6. Has the Surya Kiran team experienced any accidents?
Yes, the Surya Kiran team has experienced several crashes, resulting in pilots’ deaths. In 2019, two Hawk aircraft collided during a rehearsal, killing one of the pilots.
7. How experienced are the pilots in the Surya Kiran team?
The squad comprises 13 pilots with over 2,000 flight hours of experience.
With their remarkable flying skills and breathtaking displays, the Surya Kiran aerobatic team has become an integral part of the Indian Air Force’s legacy. Despite facing tragedies and challenges, the team has demonstrated resilience and determination, showcasing the indomitable spirit of the Indian Air Force.
As the Surya Kiran aircraft soar through the skies, they entertain, inspire and symbolize the strength, precision, and professionalism of the Indian Air Force. The Surya Kiran aerobatic team will continue to carve its place in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts and be a shining beacon of excellence for years to come.