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Indian Air Force aerobatic team reaches China in a historic first

A photo of the Surya Kirans released by the IAF Wednesday

NEW DELHI (BNS): The beautiful red and white stripes of Surya Kirans, the Indian Air Force's elite aerobatic team, would blaze the Chinese skies for the first time early next month. The SKAT (Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team) entered the Chinese airspace on October 29 in its journey to Zhuhai, where they would land on October 31 for putting up their performance.

Wing commander JT Kurien and Group Captain A Saxena will lead IAF team which would perform for the first time at an air show in China. Though IAF planes have landed at Chengdu airfield not far back to deliver aid for earthquake victims, the invite to Surya Kirans to perform at the air show signifies improving military ties between the two adversaries who have fought a bloody war in 1962.

The IAF team includes 48 officers and 88 airmen who are travelling in two support transport aircraft, an IL-76 and an AN-32. SKAT has become hallmark of IAF's flying skills and it has already performed at several international air shows. It is rated among the best aerobatic teams of the world, finding a place along side the Russian Knights, British Red Arrows and the French Patroullie de France.

"IAF is the only air force which is carrying out an air display in China. Thus, they are likely to be on the centre stage," says IAF spokesman Wing Commander Mahesh Upasni.

The SKAT will perform at the five-day-long seventh Chinese Aerospace Exhibition at Zhuhai beginning November 4. On their way back, they would stop over at the Laos capital, Vientiane.

The Indian team operates nine Kiran aircraft and carries out several gut-wrenching manoeuvers. They have performed regularly all over India and abroad, drawing massive crowds and applause wherever they went. Some of the best pilots of the IAF are selected to be part of the team which has now been designated as a separate squadron known as the Sharks.

The Sharks are used as ambassadors of the IAF as they help in showcasing what the force is all about. With more and more international performances by them, the world is getting to know the skills of IAF pilots and its airmen. Air force officers said the Indian government is planning to replace the old Kiran aircraft of the squadron with indigenous Intermediate Jet Trainer which is undergoing trials at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

The IAF feels that performing before the Chinese audience would be a big event as it is the first time they would be showcasing their skills in the neighbouring country.

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