Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who retires from service in another 20 days, has given the kiss of life as a parting present to the squadron he commanded during the Kargil War.
On Tuesday, at a solemn ceremony in Ambala, Dhanoa formally “resurrected” Number 17 Squadron, also known as the “Golden Arrows”, which was retired from the active list five years ago when its MiG-21Ms were phased out of service.
The resurrected Golden Arrows will be the first IAF squadron to be equipped with the Rafale fighter, which French firm Dassault is scheduled to begin supplying this month. This Rafale squadron will be based in Ambala and operationally committed to the India-Pakistan frontier.
“In the near future, 17 Squadron will be the first squadron to be equipped with the state of the art Rafale aircraft, which is an extremely capable, fourth generation, multirole aircraft with advanced weapons,” announced the IAF on Tuesday.
The IAF also plans to resurrect another former MiG-21 squadron, 101 Squadron or the “Falcons”, which too was “number-plated” (removed from the active list, and its identity mothballed for future use) some years ago when its MiGs become too old to fly. 101 Squadron, the second Rafale squadron, will be based in Hashimara to operate on the Sino-Indian front.
17 Squadron has an illustrious combat history. It was formed at Ambala in 1951 and was equipped with the Harvard-II B fighter. In 1957, it converted to the Hawker Hunter fighter, which it flew with distinction in the 1971 war, winning numerous gallantry awards.
The Squadron converted to the Mig-21 M in 1975. Under the command of then Wing Commander BS Dhanoa, the squadron distinguished itself in Operation “Safed Sagar”, as the IAF termed the Kargil conflict of 1999.