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Rest over, upgraded Sukhois set to fly again

They call themselves Lightning, their motto — Vegvankutobhayah — ‘‘swift and fearless,’’ comes from the Bhagv...

Written by Saikat Datta | Pune |
September 27, 2002

They call themselves Lightning, their motto — Vegvankutobhayah — ‘‘swift and fearless,’’ comes from the Bhagvad Gita. Their score is two Maha Vir Chakras, eight Vir Chakras, three mention-in-despatches and two Vayu medals for gallantry and an AVSM.

The 20th Squadron, steeped in history and gallantry, was resurrected on May 20 this year. It will induct the mighty Sukhoi-30 MKI tomorrow in presence of Defence Minister George Fernandes. The squadron will see service a little over five years after it was ‘‘number plated,’’ air force jargon for retiring a squadron. The same squadron was also the IAF’s last unit to fly the redoubtable Hunters, British aircraft that joined the IAF in 1959 and was turned into a multi-role aircraft.

The squadron saw action in both 1965 and 1971 wars. In ’65 the squadron was deployed for Delhi’s defence with a small detachment in Halwara. It claimed two Pakistani trains carrying tanks and fuel in the Chhamb sector.

Remembers Gp Capt D.K. Parulkar (Retd) who flew with the squadron in ’65, ‘‘It was one of the finest squadrons. I was attacking some tanks when anti-aircraft guns opened fire and I was hit on the shoulder.’’

His squadron leader B. Bishnoi asked him to eject but Parulkar managed to fly the Hunter back to Halwara air base. Parulkar was awarded a Vayu Medal for gallantry at the end of the war.

In ’71, the squadron was back in action carrying out counter air-strikes at the PAF air-bases. Radio Pakistan crackled into life one December morning to announce a crippling attack by the squadron on the Attock oil refinery.

By the end of the war, the squadron scored two Sabre kills in dogfights, 13 aircraft on ground including two massive C-130 Hercules aircraft, 10 battle tanks and scores of railway wagons, locomotives, field artillery and trucks.

It went on to form the first IAF aerobatics team and were christened The Thunderbolts. By early ’90s, the squadron took on a training role, helping future Jaguar and Sea Harrier fighter pilots to cut their teeth at the Hunter Operation Fighter Training Units. By 1996, the Hunter left the IAF.

On May 20, 20 Sqn was resurrected to bring home the Su-30 MKI, all set to write another chapter in the squadron’s history.

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