Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of India's Greatest Military Victory

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Wings of the Navy : Tigers and Cobras
Operations aboard the INS Vikrant in the Bay of Bengal

Dec 08, Onboard the INS Vikrant: Within hours of the PNS Ghazi being sunk at the Eastern naval command's own doorstep, Aircraft of the Navy, under the "White Tigers" and "Cobras" Squadron were all set to strike terror into the hearts of the enemy. Both the squadrons are based on the Flagship of our Navy, INS Vikrant.

The Vikrant, commissoned first in 1961 has a complement of 1,350 officers and men. It has on board Ten Sea Hawk jet fighters, two Alloutte III helicopters and Four Alize Turboprops.

Commanding this floating fortress of aircraft and personnel is Captain Swaraj Prakash, an old sea dog with more than 24 years of service behind him. He had earlier commanded INS Delhi. Captain Prakash is not an aviator, but he is assisted by an Aviator Officer in the post of Commander (Air), in this case, Commander R S Grewal. Cdr Grewal , an ex Alize pilot with a Nao Sena Medal under his belt chalks out the daily plans for strike and flying with the respective COs of the two squadrons.

The location of the Vikrant has been classified and not much was known, but it is clear now that with the sinking of the Ghazi and the prime threat being eliminated, the Navy is much more open about the Vikrant and its operations.

The Vikrant was sailing towards the East pakistani coast near Chittagong on the morning of Dec 4th. That day, the first strike against the enemy was launched. Eight Sea Hawks led by Lt Cdr S K Gupta, the CO struck the heavily defended Chittagong airfield and Harbour with bombs and rockets. The Harbour Control tower was damaged, a fuel dump destroyed , two gunboats in the harbour sunk and another two merchant ships in the outer anchorage heavily damaged.

Our aircraft came back virtually unscathed with the exception of one aircraft which sufferred a bullet hole in the wing.

Chittagong was the target for the second day too. Additonal targets like Chalna, Khulna and Mongla harbours were also assigned. The Sea Hawks repeated the attack on Mongla on 6th, and suceeded in sinking two gunboats by rocket fire.

A heavy armed merchant ship the Ondarda was made the target of a special strike and sunk by  the Sea Hawks. An Anti aircraft battery at Patanga near Chittagong was attacked and 12 AA guns were knocked out.

The Cobras flying the french Alize turbo-prop Anti-Submarine aircraft too gave a hand in the raids by flying night missions against Chittagong.

It was only yesterday that the INS Vikrant did not launch any missions. The wind conditions did not favour takeoff conditions for the aircraft and the aviation maintanance personnel took the oppurtunity to repair and service the aircraft.

Flying resumed today when Six Seahawks were launched against a target in Barisal and Pathuakali areas. Three enemy barges laden with troops and equipment were targetted and sunk. As evening fell, Alizes were being prepared to fly a night mission against targets in the area.

The Vikrant has provided an additonal air umbrella into areas beyond the range of fighters of the Indian Air Force. the IAF doesnot have the range to provide close support missions in the Chittagong Hill tracts area. The Vikrant is filling a vital gap in this particular area.

Chittagong under attack
Aerial photo showing a Merchant ship under attack in Chittagong Harbour.

Sea hawks preparing for launch
Sea Hawk Jet fighters lining up for take off.

Alize Taking off
An Alize aircraft takes off from the flight deck

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