No.3 Squadron

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Lakshya Vedh – Destroy Target with Precision

Raising the Third

No.3 Squadron Air Force was formed at Peshawar on 1st October 1941, nearly six months after the raising of No.2 Squadron. The unit was assigned a Fighter Recce role under the command of an RAF officer, Sqn Ldr NAN Bray DFC. Six officers from No.1 Squadron, were deputed to No.3, these included Flt Lt DAR Nanda, and Plt Offr OP Mehra. Within a month, both the flights of the squadron were equipped with eight Hawker Audax vintage biplanes. ‘A’ Flight of the squadron soon moved to Miranshah to take over the frontier operations from No.2 Squadron. About this time, further number of Indian officers were assigned. These included Flt Lt Henry Runganadhan, and Plt Offrs M Asghar Khan and Nur Khan, both destined to become CAS of the Pakistan Air Force later on.

North West Frontier Province and the Hurs Operations

The Squadron’s task at Miranshah was to mount ‘watch and ward’ flights, and to carry out the policy of ‘Air Blockade’. These included bombing missions on the village of Sherani and Army cooperation sorties in other areas. During this time, the first operational loss occurred in Jan 42 itself, when Plt Offr OP Mehra crashed his Audax at Miranshah. The gunner, Sgt Muralidhar had to drag out an unconcious Mehra out of the wreckage. Both were safe with minor injuries. This accident was followed by another Audax crash in March 42, when Plt Offr VK Reddy overshot and ran into a fence. He was injured as was his gunner AC Seraph.

In February 42, ‘A’ Flight moved to Kohat where it stayed until September. ‘B’ Flight moved from Kohat to Miranshah and resumed operations. In Apr 42, on the posting out of Sqn Ldr Bray, the Squadron received its first Indian commanding Officer when Sqn Ldr Mehar Singh took over as the CO.

In May 1942, a detachment of the seven Audax aircraft were sent to Hyderabad (Sind) to carry out operations against the Hurs. The Squadron operated in the area approx 80 miles east of Hyderabad, where they carried out incendiary bomb drops as well as strafing. The first fatality of the unit happened when an Audax piloted by Plt Offr Z A Sanjana and gunner Sgt Arye crashed at the Datta Khel area while carrying out a Tactical Recce Mission. Both the crew members were killed. The operations against the Hurs was declared over by August 42 and the detachment moved back to Kohat by September 42

In the September 43, No.3 Squadron , now under the command of Sqn Ldr Prithi Pal Singh, moved to Risalpur to 151 OTU where they re-equipped and converted to the Hurricane IIc Fighter bomber. After completing conversion by November, further gunnery training was done at Phaphamau and low level attack training executed at Ranchi by February of 1944. The first Hurricane fatality in the conversion happened on 27 Jan 44, when Fg Offr RK Munshi forcelanded his Hurricane after an engine fire. He was unable to extricate himself out of the cockpit in time and perished in the subsequent fire.

On 15 February 44, the Squadron moved to Kohat in NWFP again. About this time, the Faqir of Ipi was creating trouble in the Shakti and Mazrat area and No.3 employed their new Hurricanes in a bombing role against the tribes under the Faqir’s control. Trouble subsided in Jun 44, but the Squadron resumed its training at Kohat for the rest of 1944.

Burma Campaign – Arakan Front.

Early in January 45, No.3 received orders to move to Burma for operations. On the eve of their move to Burma, the Squadron suffered an unfortunate loss – the CO Sqn Ldr Prithipal Singh failed to recover from a dive during a practice dogfight and was killed. Prithipal had been at the helm ever since the unit converted to the Hurricane and his loss was deeply felt. Sqn Ldr Shiv Dev Singh was assigned command of the Squadron and it was under him that the unit was to see action on the Arakan front.

The Squadron arrived at Bawli North on 20th January. Actual operations commenced from February onwards, in which nearly 194 offensive sorties were flown. One of the highlights of the attack was on the jetty at Kwyagn, which was an unqualified success. On March 13th, the Squadrons aircraft wiped out a Japanese train south east of Thinchaung. Several missions against dug in Japanese troops were flown in the Taungap area. Sometime during the course of operations in March, Plt Offr SR Pawar’s Hurricane went missing in the Ramree area. He turned up three days later by a Royal Navy Patrol boat, it turned out that he crashed on Elizabeth island while doing some low level flying.

The beginning of April involved the Squadron in road blocking sorties and attacking targets in the Taungup pass area with delayed action bombs. On April 11, the bridge south east of Thin chaung was bombed and destroyed successfully. By this time, the Japanese were on a retreat and the role of No.3 Squadron was also coming to an end. By the time its tour ended in middle of April, the Squadron had flown a total of 493 operational sorties against the Japanese targets. What made this amazing was that not a single operational fatality was incurred by the unit. The Squadron’s stint was short compared with the other RIAF squadrons, but its contribution was acknowledged by the award of one DFC to Flt Lt Minoo Merwan Engineer . Fg Offr Randhir Singh received a commendation for his services in combat.

Spitfires and Tempests

No.3 finished its de-induction move to St Thomas Mount at Madras by April 18th. It was to remain in Madras for another five months before moving to Risalpur in a training role in September. In October 1945, No.3 was earmarked for conversion to Spitfires. Sqn Ldr Shivdev Singh handed over command to Sqn Ldr OP Mehra on 28th Dec 45. In the last week of January 46, No.3 flew its Spitfires to Yelahanka to complete its conversion.

Mehra Nur Asghar Small
3 CAS’ in one photo! This picture of No.3 Squadron’s pilots include Fg Offr Nur Khan (Left), Flt Lt Asghar Khan (Second from Left) and Sqn Ldr OP Mehra. Nur and Asghar opted for Pakistan after Independence

A move to RAF Kolar was carried out in February 46. and it remained there till the end of the year. A spate of Spitfire crashes occurred over the next few months at Kolar. Among the first, Fg Offr SR Pawar took up the CO’s Spitfire ‘Baba’ for ‘just one sortie’ and ensured that it only flew one sortie for the rest of its life! He forgot to lower the undercarriage and belly landed the aircraft, wrecking it. In other accidents involving Spitfires Plt Offrs JM Bose and MU Haq lost their lives during this period.

April 46 bought No.3 Squadron the privilege of being the first RIAF Squadron to be re-equip with the Hawker Tempest II fighter bomber. Conversion had started in middle of 46 and was completed by December 46. In January 47, Sqn Ldr Mohan Dev Suri took over command of No.3 Squadron and moved the unit to Poona. There it remained for the much larger part of the year giving displays over neighbouring towns and cities.

Post independence

Immediately after Independence day celebrations, Sqn Ldr Suri’s Tempest crashed in the mountain ranges between Bombay and Poona due to bad weather. On Suri’s unfortunate demise, Sqn Ldr AR Pandit DFC was sent over to take command. His stint was hardly three months long. Sqn Ldr Pandit crashed his Tempest on take off on 9 Dec 47 and was severely injured. Sqn Ldr KS Bhat, an ex Vengeance pilot from No.7 Squadron came to take Pandits place. Accidents continued into 1948. Plt Offr Coelho was lost in a crash in July 48. There were several other ‘write off’ cases that were non-fatal. Flt Lt LRD Blunt arrived from Ambala to give dual checks to newly arrived pilots in an effort to decrease accidents.

Around middle of 1948, operations against the Nizam of Hyderabad appeared imminent and No.3 was involved in flying some recconaisance sorties over the Hyderabad State. When Indian troops launched ‘Op POLO’ against Hyderabad, No.3 from Poona and No.4 Squadron operating from Gannavaram were involved in providing close support to the advancing Indian troops. The operations were on a very small scale. Hakimpet airfield was strafed, as well as an enemy parade that was going on at Gulbarga.

September 48 itself saw three Tempest aircraft written off in prangs. The Tempest was always a temperamental aircraft to maintain and operate. The accident rate in those years was especially high. The Centaurus Engine is said to be highly maintenance intensive and prone to failure. Another CO of No.3, Sqn Ldr KM David VrC died on 28 April 50 while ferrying a Tempest to Poona. Sqn Ldr JI Mackenzie took over in his place. Within days Fg Offr Y Dutt’s Tempest caught fire at barely 1000 feet AGL. He managed to successfully bale out. In August 52, Fg Offr Smithy Bharadwaj faced a tough situation when the elevator hinge on his tempest snapped while in flight. He managed to land the Tempest safely.

altAir Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy in the cockpit of a MiG-21 of the Cobras

The crest shows a hand coupled at the wrist holding a winged dagger entwined by a Cobra. all in front of the wings.

The squadron crest was first put forward by Sqn Ldr Prithi Pal Singh and was approved by King George V in 1947. The original motto was ‘Ba Himmat Ba Murad‘ (Fortune favours the brave) but this was changed in September 1954 to Lakshya Vedh (Destroy the target with Precision)


The days of the Tempest were numbered and by November 52, it was clear that the Squadron was re-equipping with the Vampire FB 52. Pilots were sent to No.7 for conversion and by mid of December 1952, the unit has received its Vampires. Over the next year, the Squadron flew the Vampire on various ceremonial occasions like the RD Parade 53 and the Passing out Parade at JSW in Dehradun.

The stint with the Vampires was not long, In February 54, The Vampires were replaced with the Dassault Ouragan. At that time Sqn Ldr JJ Bouche was commanding the Squadron. Thereafter No.3 was involved in armament training at Jamnagar. In Dec 54 they gave an escort to the aircraft carrying Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia. In January 56, Flt Lt Jagat Lowe carried out the first crash-landing of an Ouragan when his nosewheel failed to lock on.

In May 57, Sqn Ldr Bose took over as the CO of the unit. It was also told to the Squadron that the Ouragans will be replaced by the Mysteres and a batch of six pilots were sent to France for training. The Mysteres came in May 1958, as soon as the Squadron finished its move to Kalaikunda. Conversion training finished by June, but not before the squadron got the dubious honour of having the first Mystere ejection in the IAF — Fg Offr Sahni ejected during a training flight. An year later, there was a fatality, Flt Lt C S Raj died when his Mystere crashed during a Low level sortie.

Click to Enlarge

No.3 Squadron personnel at Kalaikunda in 1959 under the command of Sqn Ldr OP Taneja.

About this time, two naval officers came and spent some time flying the Mysteres with the unit. This included the later CNS Lt Ram Tahiliani. The Cobras missed out on the Goa and China Operations, being on standby at Kalaikunda but never really being called into action. Serviceability was down in 1963 , later in the year Flt Lt Doraiswami had to eject when the aircraft went into an inverted spin at low level. The Squadron moved its base once again in September 63, leaving Kalaikunda and moving west. They now settled down at the forward base at Pathankot.

Operations in 1965

Wg Cdr Paul Roby took over command of the Cobras in April 65. The unit was held in standby when the Kutch skirmishes broke out. Later disturbances in Kashmir during August kept the pilots on alert, with regular training and recce sorties. Then the call came on September 1st evening, 3 Squadron was asked to send in one of the first missions to take care of the Pakistani Armoured thrust at Chamb. Wg Cdr Roby led the first mission, with the last mission being led by Sqn Ldr Ajay Sapru. The Mysteres encountered Pakistani army formations and tank harbours in bad light, which were promptly attacked. No air opposition was encountered . By the end of the day, the Pakistani army offensive was blunted.

The loss of four Vampires put in a degree of caution among the sorties sent out by Pathankot. On 2nd Sept, a two-ship recce mission was sent from No.31 Sqn, with a four aircraft escort from No.3. Two of the escorts dropped out due to a technical malfunction, and the recce sortie was scrubbed midway when the Flt Lt Doraiswamy noticed five Sabres orbiting over the target area.

Wg Cdr Roby had a medical condition on the very first day of the war, and he was unable to take further part in ops. Squadron Leader S Bhattacharya who was the FSO at Pathankot was attached to the Squadron as the acting CO.

On September 3, Cobras sent a couple of sorties as part of the larger formation in the famous ‘Sabre baiting’ mission in which Trevlor Keelor shot down a Sabre. It was repeated the next day when a four aircraft mission sent by Cobras ran into Sabres again. Flt Lt V S Pathania in an escorting Gnat shot down a Sabre.

No flying was done by No.3 on September 5, but the opening of the war across the International Border saw a resurgence in the number of sorties flown by the Mysteres from Pathankot. Not less than 12 sorties were flown from dawn to dusk against ‘Targets of opportunity. However it was with the return of the last mission that all hell broke loose. The last mission of the day was by Flt Lt Trilochan Singh had just landed back from hitting targets in the Chamb area. Even as the Mysteres were taxiing to the pens, Eight PAF F-86s swooped down to carry a raid on Pathankot!. Within minutes, both Tango’s aircraft, as well as Flt Lt Russel Montes Mysteres, were totaled. Two other aircraft belonging to No.3 were also destroyed in the raid. Strangely, Fg Offr Dinky Jatar whose Mystere had ran out of fuel while taxiing on the taxi track and whose aircraft was plainly exposed to the attacking aircraft was left completely alone! Pathankot suffered badly that day. No.31 Squadron lost another two Mysteres in the raid along with 2 MiG-21s, 1 Gnat and a C-119 Packet.

In retaliation, an attack on the Pakistani airfields of Chander and Rahwali were planned. Sqn Ldr Jasbir Singh led the three aircraft raid along with Flt Lt Doraiswami and Boman Irani. The mission found that Chander and Rahwali airfields were abandoned without any aircraft activity. However they found a Pakistani Radar operating at Rahwali and destroyed it with rockets. During the return leg, the Mysteres were flying at very low level altitude when Sqn Ldr Jasbir Singh’s Mystere hit the ground during a turn. He was killed in the crash.

Subsequent days saw the Cobras fly numerous sorties against Pakistani Army formations in the Chamb /Chawinda area. Some of the efforts turned out to be quite futile. On September 10th, all the 16 aircraft of the squadron which got airborne had to cancel their missions due to inadequate target indication on the ground. Fg Offr Potnis successfully bought back a damaged Mystere on Sept 12.

On Sept 16th, the new CO Wg Cdr Bhattacharya was returning from a strike sortie in the Sialkot sector when he saw a Pakistani Army AOP aircraft flying at low level. He promptly fired his air-to-ground rockets at the aircraft. Though the rockets did not hit the AOP, the blast of the rockets on the ground sent enough shrapnel to badly damage the Cessna aircraft which was written off as soon as it landed back at base! This was the only other Air to Air Combat kill by a Mystere besides the Starfighter kill by Sqn Ldr Devayya of No.1 Squadron!

A successful strike on September 19th led by Flt Lt Trilochan Singh succeeded in destroying sufficient number of Pakistani Armour in the Chawinda area. A couple of the Mysteres came back with bullet holes from small arms fire. The last mission of the war on Sept 22nd bought tragic results. Flt Lt Doraiswami flew his 21st Operational Mission over Lahore. However the target that they had been assigned had changed hands in the morning. As a result the Mysteres ended up attacking Pakistani positions that were held by our own troops. When the Indian forces returned fire, Fg Offr Ramchandani’s Mystere was shot down. He ejected safely but was fired upon while descending by parachute. He sustained injuries and died in the hospital on 26th September.

Throughout the war, No.3 Squadron has put in 290 sorties in a matter of 22 days. They had lost two Mysteres and two pilots in the air due to operational accidents — Jasbir Singh when he flew into the ground, and Ramchandani in a case of mistaken identity. Four Mysteres were lost on enemy air raids on the ground. Not a single aircraft was lost to the PAF’s fighters. This effort was recognized by the award of Four Vir Chakras and Three Vishist Seva Medals to the Cobras. Besides the posthumous VrC award to Sqn Ldr Jasbir Singh, the CO Wg Cdr Bhattacharya, Flt Lt Trilochan Singh and Flt Lt Doraiswami were also awarded the Vir Chakra.

1965-1971 Period

The Squadron remained at Pathankot at the end of the 65 War. Wg Cdr Bhattacharya was in command till 67, when Wg Cdr Kurane took over. During the intervening years, No.3 was to be one of the last two remaining Mystere IVa units along with No.31. All the other Mystere units converting to either the MiG-21 or the Sukhoi-7.

Flying from Pathankot, which is a forward base exacts a price. Over the years, Fg Offr J P Lal Daena, Fg Offr Jethmalani and Sqn Ldr Ajay Sapru lost their lives in accidents. There was a tinge of great Sadness at Sapru’s loss. He was at the forefront of the operations during the 65 War and had led many missions and come back unscathed. Yet he fell in a peacetime accident.

Wg Cdr RN Dogra assumed the CO’s mantle in July 71, and the Squadron moved to Hindon by the end of the month, bringing to an end an eight year stay at Pathankot. In November 71, as war clouds loomed ahead, one flight of the Mysteres was flown to Nal along with Mysteres of No.31 Squadron. The other flight remained at Hindon.

Operations in 1971

The key task of No.3 in the conflict was to provide close support and recce resources to IX Corps in the Fazilka and Suleimanke area. The Squadron operated under 1 TAC at that time. The operations started with the PAF’s pre-emptive attack on Indian Airbases and simultaneous attack on Indian troops in the Suleimanke area. The first mission by the Cobras was undertaken on 5 December, when a train carrying fuel was destroyed at Chistian Mandi. More sorties were flown on 6,7 and 8 December against targets in the Haveli Pattan area. Entire railway yards, A tank transport train and rail bridges were knocked out in these sorties.

Over the next few days, interdiction missions over the Fazilka Suleimanke area were undertaken destroying POL targets and Ammunition dumps. During this period 7 observation towers were knocked out. The wooded area around Haveli which were suspected to be Pakistani tank harbours. Their interdiction in this sector was one of the main causes for the failure of the Pakistani Strike Corps to launch their attack on India. One Mystere was lost during this period to engine failure.

13 December bought the first fatal loss for the Squadron. Sqn Ldr JD Kumar’s Mystere was hit by AA over the Suleimanke area. He had an unsuccessful ejection and was killed. The war was coming to an end and by Dec 17th, the Squadron had flown nearly 76 hours of operational flying. The Squadron received two Vir Chakra awards , One to the CO Wg Cdr Dogra while the other went to Sqn Ldr Jasjit Singh. It should be mentioned that Sqn Ldr Jasjit Singh actually gave up a safe posting in Air HQ and volunteered for combat duties. In addition one Mention-in-Dispatches and five CAS commendations were also earned

Post 71-80: Flying the MiG-21FL

As soon as the cease-fire was declared, the flight at Sirsa commenced its move back to Hindon and finished it by the end of the year. In January 72, the first of the pilots were dispatched for conversion to the MiG-21. In March, all the Mysteres were handed over to the BRD at Kanpur and Six MiGs were taken on hand for flying duties. The original move to convert to the MiGs at Chandigarh was cancelled and the conversion took place in Hindon itself from April 72 onwards. The conversion went on uneventfully.

Accidents in Migs were an unescapable part of the training regimen. In December 72, the first MiG ejection took place due to a bird hit. Hindon was to later prove to be a birdhit-prone area. The pilot was however safe and returned to ops soon after. On 30th May 73, during ACM Training Flt Lt DS Sawhney mushed into the ground and was killed. Sqn Ldr Jasjit Singh himself had a birdhit soon after and had to eject. This was the last straw. The squadron received orders to move from the birdhit-prone Hindon back to its older base at Pathankot.

The Squadron changed COs during the move to Pathankot. Wg Cdr Dogra left for a staff posting and Wg Cdr TN Vijayan took over as the CO. Several major events happened during Wg Cdr Vijayan’s tenure. In Feb 75, the Squadron’s first Commodore Commandant was appointed. The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal OP Mehra was to be the Commodore Commandant for No.3. On 18 March, No.3 Squadron became only the third Squadron in the IAF’s history to receive its Squadron Standards. At an impressive parade at Pathankot on that day, Flt Lt Rajesh Lal took the ‘Colors’ presented by the President of India, Shri Fakhruddin Ahmed. It was a singular achievement for No.3 Squadron.

However, tragedy occurred in Apr 75, when Wg Cdr Vijayan collided with another MiG being flown by Sqn Ldr Shirazi. Shirazi ejected safely but the CO was lost. Flying was curtailed after the collision and it was sometime before the squadron came back to its previous rate of sorties.

Life at Pathankot had its share of fun and mischief. The sister squadron for the cobras were the ‘Killers’, whose Signboard of a naked man hunting with a spear was deemed as offensive and indecent by the Cobras. As night befell, a crowd of Cobras and ‘Cobrinas’ (As the ladies were called) swooped down on the signboard and by morning left the naked warrior with yellow and black striped underwear! It is not known if the Killers tried to get back at the cobras for this. There wasn’t much you can paint on a Cobra anyway!

Wg Cdr DR ‘Natty’ Nadkarni took over as CO in 1978. He was the CO for nearly two years. Several Army cooperation exercises were planned and participated in during this time. No.3 also participated in a film shot for the promotion of Air Safety within the IAF. This film later turned out to be an award winner later at a Film Exhibition on Defence films. Towards the end of 79, Wg Cdr Nadkarni was nominated to go to Jaguars training and handed over to Wg Cdr UV Lagad. The Squadron chalked up a first. It received the Flight Safety Trophy for the year 1979.

The FL gives way to the Bis

In July 80, the Cobras gave up the MiG-21FLs and started converting to the MiG-21Bis. The conversion was completed officially on 1st Oct 80. Flying commenced in earnest, except for a brief period in 1981, when it was curtailed to less than 5 hours per aircraft per month! — all due to an ongoing strike in HAL.

Among the tasks the Squadron faced in the 80s were the trials of the Runway Denial BAP-100 bombs at the high altitude range at Kar-Tso. An exercise ADOSA (Air Defence of Srinagar Airfield) was undertaken in 87 under Wg Cdr RK Ghosh.

3 Sept 87 saw a remarkable accident happen. Flt Lt Rajbir Singh was conducting a 2 ship low-level formation when his MiG flew straight into the rising ground. As the aircraft crashed, the canopy got jettisoned and his seat thrown out and he himself got separated from the seat and was thrown off. The pilot suffered only superficial injuries and was able to ‘walk’ away from the scene of the crash – truly miraculous! No one was able to figure out what exactly happened! Wg Cdr Ghosh had a safe ejection on 10 May 89 when his engine flamed out.

The squadron did lose a couple of promising young officers. Fg Offr Shakeel Soni was one. He was doing a 1vs1 ACM sortie versus the CO when he flew into the ground. The other was Plt Offr S S Tandon on 20th July 89 . His loss was equally tragic. He was unable to locate the airfield and ran out of fuel and crashed.

Golden Jubilee

The Golden Jubilee of the Squadron was celebrated on 1st Oct 91. It was a rather small affair only for the Cobras. The Main Parade was done on the 11th, when the Commodore Commandant visited the Squadron. The senior most Cobra present at that time was Air Marshal (Retd) Shivdev Singh, who commanded the Squadron in 1945!

There was some excitement in June 96 when two of the MiGs on ORP were scrambled to intercept an unidentified contact NW of Pathankot. The MiGs lost visual sight of each other under the cloudy conditions.l One of the MiGs caught a glimpse of the Jet widebody as it blundered across the border prompting a scramble of the Pakistani F-16s! The comedy ended as the Uzbekistan airliner re-crossed the border and landed at Amritsar. Hopelessly lost.

The Squadron was under the command of Wg Cdr Roy Chaudhary in February 97 when they got the news that the Cobras will have to shift base again, this time to Ambala. No.3 stayed at Pathankot for 24 long years! perhaps the longest ever by any unit at one location. The move to Ambala was completed by the end of March, just in time to take part in exercises TRISHUL and EKALAVYA. The Squadron put up a record 473 sorties in one month! No.3 Squadron ended up with coming first in front guns and clinching the Overall Champions Trophy in EKALAVYA 99. This bought them the privilege of carrying out a Live armament demonstration at Tilpat before the end of the year.

Bis to Bison

The MiG-21 had served with the Indian Air Force for nearly four decades through half a dozen variants. They had become such an indispensable part of the Indian Air Defence network, that it soon became clear that the aircraft will have to undergo a radical transformation to enable it to counter Modern combat aircraft of the 21st century. Thus was born the MiG-21 Upgrade program. Initially called MiG-21-93, then renamed as MiG-21 UPG for some time. The first two Upgraded MiG-21s from Russia flew in October 1998 and the first HAL-assembled UPG made its first flight by 31 Aug 01. As more and more Aircraft were being upgraded, the privilage of being the first unit to fly these 21st century MiG-21s went to the Cobras.

Wg Cdr RK Dhir, who had been associated with the UPG program arrived from Russia to take command of the Squadron on 23rd July 2001. The Cobras got a glimpse of their first UPG, the HAL Assembled one, when it landed at Ambala in September. It was bought there to take part in the AFD 2001 Parade at Palam in October.

By the end of the year, five pilots were selected for the Conversion course and sent to Bangalore and Ojhar. The first ‘series’ production UPG was flown by Wg Cdr Dhir on 25th Jan 2002. The first three aircraft bought out by HAL were taken to Jodhpur for a series of weapon trials using the KAB-500 PGM TV Guided bomb.

No.3 Squadron however could take official charge of the aircraft only by 25th May. By that time, the IAF had officially decided to call the Upgraded MiG, the Bison. Within four months of receiving the Bison, the squadron had added more new aircraft to its stable and is exploring the envelope of the aircraft to its extremes.

Diamond Jubilee Year

The Cobras celebrated their Diamond Jubilee in October 2002. The Squadron History was bought out in a book by the AOC-in-C. It was an occasion to recollect the sacrifices of the members down the years, and time to reiterate their commitment to the service of the nation. As their motto states, they are ready to take on the enemy and destroy him!


Commanding Officers of No.3 Squadron

Gallantry and Service Awardees of No.3 Squadron

Commodore Commandants of No.3 Squadron

Known Names Date/Year
Air Chief Marshal Om Prakash Mehra, PVSM 21 Feb 75 – 07 Oct 79
Air Chief Marshal Dilbagh Singh, PVSM AVSM VM 08 Oct 79 – 10 Mar 86
Air Marshal P Venugopal, AVSM 15 Jul 87 – 23 Oct 90
Air Marshal Pondy J Jayakumar, PVSM AVSM 24 Oct 90 – 17 Mar 96
Air Marshal AN Sen, AVSM 18 Mar 96 – 31 Jul 01
Air Commodore AK Shyam, VM 01 Aug 01 – Tilldate


Aircraft Types operated by 3 Squadron

Aircraft Type From To
Hawker Audax Oct 1941 Aug 1942
Hawker Hurricane IIc Feb 1943 Oct 1943
Supermarine Spitfire XVIII Jun 1945 Apr 1946
Hawker Tempest II Apr 1946 Nov 1952
De Havilland Vampire FB 52 Dec 1952 Dec 1953
Dassault Ouragon Jan 1954 Apr 1958
Dassault Mystere IVa Apr 1958 Mar 1972
MiG-21 FL Apr 1972 Aug 1980
MiG-21 Bis Sep 1980 Jul 2002
MiG-21 Bison Jul 2002 Till Date
Other Types operated by the Squadron as trainer and hack aircraft: Harvard IIb, Vampire T.55 , and MiG-21U


Locations of the Squadron Post 1947

Locations From To
Risalpur Apr 1947 Aug 1947
Pune Aug 1947 Jul 1951
Halwara Jul 1951 Mar 1952
Ambala Apr 1952 Apr 1958
Kalaikunda Apr 1958 Sep 1963
Pathankot Sep 1963 Mar 1972
Hindon Apr 1972 Nov 1973
Pathankot Dec 1973 Mar 1997
Ambala Apr 1997 Till Date

No.3 Squadron War Diary – Diamond Jubilee History
– Wg Cdr Sabharwal
Aircraft of the Indian Air Force 1933-73 – Mr. Pushpindar Singh
History of the Indian Air Force 1933-1945 by Mr. SC Gupta, Combined Historical Cell, India-Pakistan Armed Forces.
The 1965 India Pakistan Air WarProject – Bharat Rakshak
Common Wealth War Graves Commission Website
Unpublished Recollections of Serving and Retired Air Force personnel

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