On the Air Force Day on October 8,the 12 Wing at Chandigarh will also be celebrating the 25 years of IL-76,one of the oldest aircraft with the force. Weighing 190 tonnes,IL-76 is also the largest aircraft with the force and is known as the Mighty Gajraj.
In early 1984,Air Force Head Quarters had decided to equip one squadron of the Air Force with the Russian aircraft,IL-76,and sent the first set of crew to Ivanova,USSR. On their return,this crew was attached to 44 squadron at Chandigarh.
IL-76 is the one of the best aircraft of the 1960s which is being manufactured even today. This is the only transport aircraft which even flew to the US for disaster management operation after the Katrina hurricane. It is a self-sustaining aircraft which can navigate on high precision without depending on any navigational aid, said 12 Wing Air Officer Commanding S R K Nair.
The most recent relief operation by the aircraft was in flood-hit Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where it flew at night evacuating people and dropping relief material. Flying at night was a challenge, said Wing Commander Ravi Dargan who flew the aircraft on October 3 from Chandigarh.
The 12 Wing of the Air Force at Chandigarh caters to the supply of men and material through IL-76. The aircraft is actively involved in assisting the Army deployed in the Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir sectors,sometimes making even four sorties in a day.
No other aircraft can match the precision of IL-76 as the flight operates within the limits of safety margins which are unparalleled anywhere in the world at such inhospitable terrain, said Wing Commander H P Kumar.
The credit for such a long journey of IL-76 also goes to the maintenance branch at the 12 Wing,Chandigarh. The crew working on 24-hour basis maintains a history of each component of the aircraft. As the machines are exposed to extreme conditions,repairing and maintenance is a tough job. We have even sent the party to a location in inhospitable terrain for the rectification of the aircraft,including replacement of the engine, said Wing Commander Avasthi.
The aircraft will be part of the air show in Chandigarh on the Air Force Day.
AN-32 turns 25 too
With IL-76,another transport aircraft,AN-32 ac,has completed its 25 years of operations. AN-32 has established itself as an excellent replacement for An-12 ac. A world record was set by AN-32 of 48 squadron based at 12 Wing,Chandigarh,by landing at 16,200 feet altitude on a two kilometre kutcha airstrip on May 31,2008.