Golden Arrows have the distinction of being the most decorated fighter Squadron of the IAF, having won a maximum number of gallantry awards during Kargil conflict.
The first French fighter aircraft `Rafale’ will be handed over to the defense Minister Rajnath Singh on October 8 in Paris, which is celebrated as Indian Air Force Day and is also the auspicious of Dushera. Singh will be accompanied by a top-level official delegation will head to Paris where he will be handed over the first aircraft at a ceremony.
Sources explained that this aircraft which has been manufactured as per the specifications are given by India will be used by a batch of IAF pilots and ground crew for training purposes. So far the pilots and the ground crew has been undergoing training on the Rafale which is being flown by the French Air Force.
On Tuesday, at a ceremony Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa resurrected the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station, which will be the home for the first batch of French fighter aircraft `Rafale’. He presented a memento to commemorate the ocassion to Group Capt Harkirat Singh.
Dhanoa would leave behind a stamp of his rich legacy of valor and leadership for the IAF and for Gold Arrows as they usher into a new era with the induction of the Rafale, say former IAF officers.
The Golden Arrows 17 Squadron was commanded by Dhanoa in 1999 during the Kargil operations in 1999, which had operated from Bhatinda airbase. However, as the Russian MiG-21 fighter planes were being phased out by the IAF, this was disbanded in 2016.
What does resurrect mean?
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur VM (retd), Addl Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies, says: “Number 17 Squadron had been wound down (termed `number plated’) as the Type-96 MiG-21 was phased out from the Squadron. So a small ceremony is being carried out to bring it back to life with Rafales.”
According to former Group Capt Sundeep Mehta, “Golden Arrows was earlier number plated, implying that it existed only on paper as an establishment -without any equipment and manpower or any financial support to it. In effect, it indicated the declining strength of the IAF.”
Golden Arrows have the distinction of being the most decorated fighter Squadron of the IAF, having won a maximum number of gallantry awards during Kargil conflict. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, who is due to retire later this month, had led the Golden Arrows to its glorious heights with his dynamic leadership and bravery, during the Kargil conflict. Choice of a Golden Arrows squadron to be equipped with Rafale is indeed a perfect match. Rafale fighter jets is known to be a game-changer for the geostrategic equation of the subcontinent. It is indeed a proud moment for the country and the Air Warriors to witness the Squadron being resurrected by him. A major milestone in the history of the squadron, says Mehta.
“At a time, when the IAF has a rapidly declining numbers, Rafale will indeed bring a huge relief until the squadron strength gets restored over a period. Rafale jet was in news post-Balakot strike when a MiG-21 BISON had to lock horns with the advanced and modern F-16. Even when the BISON shot down F -16, deficiency in equipment being made good by superior tactics or skill and training is not a happy situation for national security and came for public criticism. For a similar reason, a massive Ex GAGAN SHAKTI was held last year to validate the preparedness – at a strategic level, with less than desired force levels available to meet the challenges on two fronts simultaneously,” according to Mehta.
Says former Wing Commander AR Giri, “ It means when the MiG 21 Type 96 were being phased out, the Squadron flying them were number plated if no immediate replacement is available or planned. In the case of number plating the Squadron history and property are all held in safe custody after a board of officers and all personnel are posted out.”