The longest serving combat unit of the Indian Navy, theWhite Tigers squadron, which played a stellar role in the 1971 India-Pakistanwar, has turned 60.
Flying Sea Hawks, the unit had stopped sections of thePakistani armed forces from fleeing into Myanmar following the surrender ofEast Pakistan on December 17, 1971, former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, oneof the leading lights of White Tigers, told IANS.
The 1971 war, which led to the liberation of East Pakistanand the subsequent creation of Bangladesh, was the only major instance that theWhite Tigers, Indian Naval Air Squadron – 300 (INAS 300), had seen action.
During the war, the squadron had been sent to the Bay ofBengal on board the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant from its base, the IndianNaval air station Hansa in Dabolim, Goa.
"The squadron played a major role in the defeat ofPakistan. The fighter jets attacked and destroyed numerous air bases, merchantvessels and gun boats in erstwhile East Pakistan. Forces of the Pakistani armymade an attempt to flee to Myanmar following the onslaught but the White Tigersand the presence of the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant could not make thatpossible. The White Tigers and INS Vikrant offered continuous support from thesea during the war," said Prakash.
During the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962, the White Tigershad been sent to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh following a 'lead'. However, theinformation was not authentic and the fighter jets did not participate in thewar.
The 1965 war between India and Pakistan did not see theparticipation of the Indian Naval forces directly.
But the White Tigers were sent to the Jamnagar air forcestation to meet contingencies, if any. The squadron was ultimately not involvedin this war too. Its moment of glory came in the 1971 war.
The White Tigers was commissioned into the Indian Navy onJuly 7, 1959 in a British army installation Brawdy in Wales. First generationSea Hawks were found to be most suitable for the INS Vikrant which weighedabout 20,000 tonnes.
The first set of pilots for operating the Sea Hawks wastrained by the British. The jet fighters came on board the Vikrant in May 1961.They were subsequently headquartered at INS Hansa in Goa.
The Sea Hawks were retired from the Indian Navy in a phasedmanner in the late-70s and early-80s. Subsequently, the Indian Navy procuredattack and reconnaissance aircraft Sea Harriers from British manufacturers.
The White Tigers entirely comprised Sea Harriers from 1984till May 2016 when these aircraft too were decommissioned. MiG 29-MKI aircraftcomprise the White Tigers at present.
The squadron gave two chiefs to navy — Admiral Arun Prakashand Admiral Sureesh Mehta.