- Good Bye Sea Harriers-welcome MIG-29K
By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 04 December 2016. As the Sea Harriers of the Indian Navy were being given a warm and tearful farewell, I felt it was just the time to feel nostalgic but remember their great contribution to the prepareness of the Navy for decades.
Anything which comes has to go is the mantra of life. But go with honours and salutes is the achievement of life. These illustrious and unique Sea Harriers of Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS 300) were given a befitting farewell in a function organised at INS Hansa,Goa. The function was attended by Admiral RK Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief Western Naval Command, serving and retired Officers and Men of the Indian Navy and all personnel who have served in the INAS 300.
Speaking on the occasion the then CNS Admiral RK Dhowan lauded the stellar role played by the squadron in the defence of the country and acknowledged the professionalism of the pilots, the maintainers and all those personnel associated with flying and maintaining the aircraft in peak efficiency during their service. He said that the rich legacy would continue as the baton is being passed on to the proud young crew of the MiG 29K squadron who have been successful in seamlessly integrating the fighters with INS Vikramaditya in the shortest possible time.
In appreciation of the faithful service to the nation by INAS 300 ‘White Tigers’,an impressive ceremony was held today which saw the Sea Harriers fly for one last time, and MiG-29K flanking their outgoing cousins and ceremoniously taking their place. The air display included supersonic pass by MiG 29s and formation flying by two each Sea Harriers and MiG 29Ks. The composite air display symbolized a smooth transition from the old to the new in continuance with the proud legacy of the INAS 300. On completion of the Air display,”washing down of the Sea Harriers” was carried out in a traditional manner. A first day cover was also released by the then Chief to mark the occasion.
The White Tigers or INAS 300 who stand for excellence, determination and aggressive spirit, heralded the era of carrier borne aviation into the India Navy. Almost six decades ago the squadron was commissioned at RNAS Brawdy with its distinctive ‘White Tiger’ logo and equipped with the Sea Hawk aircraft.After providing yeoman service for over two decades, the squadron was subsequently reincarnated with Sea Harriers in 1983. This premier carrier borne fighter squadron achieved iconic status in the Indian Navy with its distinguished service, receiving numerous gallantry awards which includes one Maha Vir Chakra, four Vir Chakras and one Nau Sena Medal.
From the time the white tigers came into being, ‘Three Hundred’ as the squadron is colloquially called, brought about transformational change in concept of naval operations. INAS 300 with its potent sea harriers formed the teeth of naval combat power and consequently was the center piece of naval operational strategy. With their professionalism, the White Tigers assured control of these as by ensuring air dominance for the Carrier Battle Group and were a force to reckon with, with their combat skills appreciated by many which included foreign navies as well as the Indian Air Force.
“We are very proud of our support to the Indian Navy in keeping the iconic Sea Harriers airworthy over the last 33 years. Three decades ago, when the Sea Harriers were inducted, these aircraft with modern weaponry, avionics and an engine which could land the aircraft vertically, defying all the laws of aerodynamics, introduced V/STOL for the Indian Navy. On this symbolic day, we re-dedicate ourselves to our partnership with the Indian Navy through our continued support on the Hawk advanced jet traine,” said Alistair Castle – Vice President and General Manager – India, BAE Systems.
After 33 years sterling service, the sea harriers were being de-inducted from the Navy and under took its last flight today. To continue the proud ‘White Tiger’legacy, the squadron has been re-equipped with the new and more lethal MiG 29Ks. INAS 300 would thus be re-equipped with the new swing role air dominance fighter giving the squadron enhanced combat power and offensive capability. For the versatile White Tigers, this resurrection also marks a full cycle from commissioning ‘Tail Hooking Sea Hawks’ to the ‘Vectored Thrust’ Sea Harrier era; and now with the induction of the MiG-29k to this elite squadron, marks the return of the ‘Tail Hookers’. This year was a year of saying goodbye to Sea Harriers but we will always remember them.