|Published: May 2017|
Halwara, Punjab. The No. 221 Squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) is the latest to get the formidable Su 30 MKI aircraft.
The aircraft were formally handed over to the Squadron, also known as the Valiants, at an inspiring ceremony on April 24 with Air Marshal C Hari Kumar, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Western Air Command, formally handed over the official documents of the Squadron to Wing Commander HS Luthra, the new Commanding Officer of the Squadron.
The aircraft are equipped with the latest avionics and systems.
Among the distinguished guests present on the occasion were Mr Daljeet Singh, CEO, HAL and other officials from the state-run company, which makes the aircraft in India under license from Russia. HAL has already supplied more than 240 India-specific MKI variants of the aircraft to IAF out of a total order 272.
The No. 221 Squadron, designated The Valiants (Fearless), was formed in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict as an offensive fighter squadron on February 14, 1963 at Barrackpore with Sqn Ldr N Chatrath as its first Commanding Officer. It was then equipped with the Vampire jet fighters. Later, it converted onto Su-7 aircraft and took active part in the 1971 Indo-Pak war for the liberation of Bangladesh.
On the Eastern front, No. 221 Squadron along with No. 108 Squadron operated from Panagarh airfield north of Calcutta (now Kolkata), in support of the Indian Army’s blitzkrieg advance towards Dacca. The Valiants were allocated the tasks of counter-air, interdiction, offensive air support and photo reconnaissance, launching attacks against Kurmitola and Tezgaon air bases and against riverine traffic, railways and artillery positions, in support of the ground forces. Once the victory was assured in the East, the Valiants were transferred to the Western front on December 12, thus becoming one of the very few squadrons to have participated in both theatres of the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
The Squadron during its 54 years long journey initially changed many bases but then settled down in Halwara as its home base after re-equipping with the swing-wing MiG-23BN strike aircraft in early1980s. The Valiants, operating the MiG-23s, were the first ones to fire weapons on the enemy during the Kargil war in the summer of 1999.
Notably, many of the squadron pilots have been decorated with gallantry awards over the years.
The Valiants flew the MiG-23s till 2009 and were the last MiG-23BN squadron to be number-plated. The Squadron is now resurrected with new aircraft, and a new Commanding Officer in Wg Cdr Luthra.
It is evident that the induction of the Squadron will boost the offensive capabilities of the IAF in this sector.
In his address, Air Marshal C Hari Kumar congratulated the air warriors of the Squadron on the timely induction of the mighty Su-30 MKI. He appreciated the tireless efforts put in by all the personnel of the base and lauded the impressive low-level aerobatic display put up by the Flight Commander of the Squadron.
India Strategic congratulates Wg Cdr Luthra and his entire brood of Valiants on this historic occasion, who must surely be all set now to earn fresh laurels for the Squadron in the service of the nation.