A pair of Su-27 fighter jets has embarked on regular patrols of the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Sea, a state military newspaper reported recently.
A fighter jet Su-27 landed on Phu Cat airport in Binh Dinh central province after patrolling Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Sea on June 15, Photo: Archived photo
Vietnam began the missions June 15, sending the Russian-made Sukhoi fighters from Phu Cat airport in central Binh Dinh Province, according to Dat Viet newspaper.
It was air division 372’s first regular flight to the area. One of two other main air divisions, 370, started flight patrols to Truong Sa in 1988.
Combat pilots Le Hong Son and Nguyen Hong Tuan, both 31, flew the two jets for the 1,300 kilometers, roundtrip, between Phu Cat and Truong Sa.
“I feel moved,” Son said as he held a bouquet of flowers presented to him upon returning to the mainland.
“I could see my comrades on the island waving flags and hands to greet me. I could see the lighthouse on it clearly.”
The two fighter jets make up half of a squad, completed by cargo plane An-26 and a command craft.
Major Hoang Xuan Kien, political commissar of 372’s air regiment 940, said his unit has been put on permanent watch status. They have been combat-ready since early 2011, having trained for reconnaissance onboard the Su-27s, each equipped with twin-engines, a 3,530-kilometer flight range, heavy armament, sophisticated avionics and high maneuverability.
“Operating a fighter jet is similar to a boy holding hands with his girlfriend for the first time,” pilot Hoang Manh Hung said. “It should be gentle and flexible, but you should not let her escape your palms. That’s why it’s both easy and difficult.”
A fighter jet Su-27 can carry 8 tons of weapons including missiles, bombs and rockets
Senior Lt. Col. Vu Van Cuong welcomed the pilots.
“When we heard the thundering sound of the Su-27 engines, we rushed out to the front yard and waved flags to greet them,” said Cuong, commander at Song Tu Tay, an island in Truong Sa. “The pilots hovered so close above us that we could see their faces.
He added, “We are confident in staying here because we have support from the air.”
The flight to Truong Sa marked a milestone in the history of air division 372, which was named the Hero of the People’s Armed Forces in 1979.
Established in 1975, the division was responsible for missions to eastern and southern regions, including the fight against the Khmer Rouge.
In late 1979, it went to central Thanh Hoa province in a strategic move to defend national sovereignty, before settling in the central region in 1987.
Now, the division has three regiments: the first oversees fighters and bombers, the second naval assaults, and the third uses anti-submarine warfare and helicopters to transport people and cargo.
Crew of the anti-submarine hydroplane Be-12 after their flight to patrol Truong Sa (Spratly) in 1980s
Source: Tuoi Tre
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