New Delhi. 28 November , 2015. Two squadrons of the Indian Air Force No 18 Squadron and No 22 Squadron were awarded the prestigious President’s Standard by President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at Air Force Station Hasimara.
The President’s Standard is awarded to operational Units based on their past record and achievements during peace as well as hostilities. The Commanding Officer of No 18 Squadron, Group Captain KJ Singh and the Commanding Officer of No 22 Squadron Group Captain Sandeep Singh received the Standards. The Parade was commanded by Group Captain KJ Singh, CO 18 Sqn.
18 Squadron AF was formed at Ambala on 15 April 1965 with five Gnat aircraft and eleven pilots under the command of Wg Cdr AL Michael. The Squadron is endowed with a rich history and a formidable operational legacy. The Squadron took on the role of the ‘Defenders of Kashmir Valley’ during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and carried out extensive flying towards escort duties and also mounted a near continuous day time Combat Air Patrol. On 14 December 1971, fighting bravely & valiantly, alone in his Gnat, against PAF Sabres, Flying Officer NJS Sekhon laid down his life. He was decorated posthumously with the highest gallantry award of the nation, the ‘PARAM VIR CHAKRA’ for sublime heroism, supreme gallantry, flying skill and determination above and beyond the call of duty displayed in the face of certain death. 18 Squadron remains the only Squadron of the IAF with a PVC awardee. The Squadron operated an improved version of Gnat ‘The Ajeet’ from May 1980 onwards. In 1981, Sqn Ldr Rahul Dhar was awarded ‘SHAURYA CHAKRA’ for carrying out a dead stick landing after an engine seizure. The Squadron bid farewell to ‘Ajeets’ in December 1988 at Bagdogra.
The Squadron was resurrected at Hindon with the formidable MiG-27 ML aircraft in June 1989, thus entering the supersonic era. In 1996 the Squadron moved from Hindon to Kalaikunda and soon after it was designated as the first dedicated Night Strike Squadron of IAF. In January 2010, Flt Lt M Arora was awarded ‘SHAURYA CHAKRA’ for recovering an aircraft after a canopy burst at an altitude of 10.5 km during a supersonic run, despite grievous injuries and hostile environmental conditions in the cockpit. The Squadron has also participated in several international exercises at Kalaikunda with the French Air Force, United States’ Air Force, Royal Singapore Air Force and Royal Air Force. In the year 2013, the Unit was additionally entrusted with the task of towing the banner target for air to air firing and on 19 September 2014 the Squadron finally moved to its present location, Hasimara. Since its inception, the ‘Flying Bullets’ has received three Shaurya Chakras, one Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry), nine Vayu Sena Medals and four Mention-in-Dispatches in addition to the Param Vir Chakra awarded to Flying Officer NJS Sekhon.
22 Squadron Air Force, then called as the ‘Hell’s Angels’ was raised on 15 Oct 1966 at Air Force Station Bareilly as the eighth Gnat Squadron of the IAF. In December 1969, the Squadron moved to Kalaikunda where it was tasked for Air Defence Role during the 1971 war. Here, the Squadron drew first blood for IAF by shooting down three intruding F-86 Sabre jets in a single four aircraft mission on 22 Nov 71. Thus the ‘Hell’s Angels’ found a special niche in the history of Indian aerial combat when they proved their mettle as the most successful and destructive fighter Squadron of the IAF in the 1971 War. For its daring performance, the Squadron was re-christened as the ‘Sabre Slayers’. All three pilots who shot down the F-86 Sabres; Flt Lt MA Ganapathy, Flt Lt RA Massey and Fg Offr D Lazarus, were awarded Vir Chakras. The Squadron was awarded Battle Honours during the Indo Pak conflict of 1971 for “Air Offensive for Liberation of Bangladesh”.
In April 1986, the Squadron received its official crest and was renamed as ‘SWIFTS’, the Squadron motto being “COURAGE TRIUMPHS”. In February 1990, the Squadron converted to the MiG-27 ML aircraft at Hasimara. The Squadron was deployed for Op Vijay in 1999 and for Op Parakram in 2001-02. On 08 August 2001, ‘SWIFTS’ became the first fighter Squadron to land at Lengpui airfield in Mizoram. The Squadron was relocated to Kalaikunda in the year 2012, but moved back to Hasimara in August 2014. In the recent years, the Squadron has won various air to ground gunnery competition trophies and has participated in various international exercises with foreign Air Forces thus remaining at the forefront of professional excellence. The number of honours and awards which have been bestowed on the unit and its personnel bear a testimony to this fact.
The Squadron continues to render yeoman service to the nation in the best traditions of the Indian Air Force. The Commodore Commandant of 22 Sqn, Air Mshl PP Reddy Vayusena Medal ADC, CISC and Air Vice Marshal TD Joseph Vayusena Medal Vishist Seva Medal, AOC Adv HQ Pune, Commodore Commandant of 18 Sqn have graced the occasion.
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Vayusena Medal, Aide-de-Camp, Chief of the Air Staff and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Marshal C Hari Kumar Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal BBP Sinha Air Officer-in-Charge Administration along with other senior defence and civilian dignitaries witnessed the ceremony. The President also released a First Day cover for No 18 Squadron and No 22 Squadron during the ceremony.