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A Bharat Rakshak Special by M. Mazumdar, K. Chandni, J. Pillariseti

Rakshak Special by M. Mazumdar, K. Chandni, J. Pillariseti Indian Naval Air Squadron 310 (INAS 310),

Indian Naval Air Squadron 310 (INAS 310), more commonly known as the Cobras celebrate their Golden Jubilee today, March 21.

As one of the most decorated naval air squadrons, the squadron has a distinguished history. Initially equipped with French Breguet Br. 1050 Alizé aircraft, the squadron now operates German origin Dornier Do-228 aircraft from NAS Hansa, in Dabolim, Goa.

But the story of this squadron begins in 1960 in the south of France. The crew of what would become INAS 310 arrived the French naval airbase at Hyeres, near Toulon on Sep 28, 1960 to begin training ahead of taking delivery of their new Alizé aircraft.

At the time, the Indian Navy (IN) had ordered 12 Alizé from Breguet. These were c/n 62, 63, 66, 67, 71, 78, 79, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85 serialled IN 201 to IN 212. Two additional ex French Navy aircraft (c/n 14 and 18) were later acquired in 1967 and delivered in 1968.

The Alizé (Tradewind) was a monoplane, turbo prop powered carrier based anti- submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft designed for the French Navy’s aviation arm, the Aeronavale. The Alizé’s roots can be traced to the Br 960 Vultur and the Br. 965 albeit

with extensive fuselage redesign to accommodate the ASW mission suite and crew. The prototype Alizé first flew on Oct 5, 1956 and the type introduced into service on May 29,


The crew of three comprised a pilot, a radar operator and a sensor operator. The pilot and radar operator sat side by side (pilot on the right hand side, radar operator on the left) while the sensor operator sat sideways behind them.

Image courtesy of urlé/images/ssAlizé-005.jpg The 13.68m long Alizé had a

Image courtesy of urlé/images/ssAlizé-005.jpg

The 13.68m long Alizé had a wingspan of 15.60m (9.98m folded) and a height of 5m. Empty weight was 5700 kg and maximum take off weight was 8200 kg.

Typical of carrier borne aircraft, the Alizé featured folding wings and a yoke style arrestor hook. The tricycle landing gear was designed such that the main gear, with dual wheel, retracted backwards into the wing mounted nacelles. The forward portion of these nacelles housed sonobuoys.

A Thomson-CSF DRAA-2B retractable radar was fitted behind the weapons bay to detect submarine periscopes or snorting masts. A direction finding system to detect submarine

radar transmissions was also installed. For prosecuting an enemy submarine, the Alizés used sonobuoys to track the submarine and depth charges to attack the submarine.

Powered by a Rolls Royce Dart RDa7 Mk21 developing 2100 shp, maximum speed was 292mph although patrol speeds were in typically closer to 150 mph. Maximum range was around 1550 miles. Typical endurance with the radome extended was 41/2 - 5 hours although it was possible to achieve an endurance of over 71/2 hours with maximum fuel . Rate of climb has been credited as 1380 ft/minute. Service ceiling was 20,500 ft.

The plane had a very slow landing speed. French sources credit the plane with an ability perform landings with wind ranging from 45 knots upwind to 5 knots downwind.

The internal weapons bay could accommodate a homing torpedo or three 160 kg depth charges, and underwing stores pylons could carry bombs, depth charges, mines, rockets, or Nord SS-11 missiles.

Typical underwing stores included 68 millimeter rocket pods, 127mm/ 5 inch rockets and bombs. There were racks for two 160 kg or 175 kg depth charges under the inner wings while the outer wings could be fitted with six 5 inch rockets or two Nord SS-11 missiles. 14 sonobuoys could be carried.

or two Nord SS-11 missiles. 14 sonobuoys could be carried. The first Indian Alizé, serialled IN

The first Indian Alizé, serialled IN 201, undertook its maiden flight on 21 October 1960 piloted by the Senior Pilot (Desig.) Lt RAJ Anderson. After completing numerous other sorties as part of the acceptance schedule, IN 201 was officially handed over to the Indian Navy at a ceremony in Villacoublay (Breguet factory) on 07 January 1961.

A few months later, on March 21, 1961, the Alizé unit was officially commissioned at

A few months later, on March 21, 1961, the Alizé unit was officially commissioned at 1115 hrs as INAS 310 at Hyeres by the Indian Ambassador to France, Nawab Ali Yavar Jung. The primary roles for the squadron were performing ASW, ASuW, reconnaisance and Elint.

squadron were performing ASW, ASuW, reconnaisance and Elint. The commissioning Commanding Officer (also known as the

The commissioning Commanding Officer (also known as the King Cobra) was Lt Cdr Mihir K. Roy who eventually went on to become a Vice Admiral. Other officers of the

commissioning crew were Lt Cdr H Singh and Lt’s RAJ Anderson, IA Choudhary, UC Tripathi, Laxmi Narain, VC Chakravarti, RK Deshpande, GN Sen, SK Das and Arun Rao.

At this time INAS 310 was the third naval air squadron to be commissioned – after INAS 550, the fleet requirements unit (with Sealand, Firefly and HT-2) which was commissioned on January 17, 1959 and INAS 300 White Tigers’ (with Sea Hawk fighters) which was commissioned at RNAS Brawdy on July 7, 1960.

Being carrier embarked squadrons aboard the newly acquired light carrier, INS Vikrant, the Cobras and White Tigers would operate together for several years until 1987.

Many firsts

As expected, the newly formed Cobras went on to notch a number of firsts.

The first deck landing by an Alizé onboard the Vikrant took place on May 23, 1961 off Yeovilton UK with Lt RAJ Anderson and Lt Cdr MK Roy flying Alizè IN 203. That same month, the ‘Cobras’ participated in their first tactical exercise with the newly inducted Type 12 frigates of the Indian Navy – INS Beas and INS Betwa sailing to India from UK. INS Vikrant embarked the first four aircraft in July, after it's arrival via Portsmouth, where the first Seahawk fighters had also been embarked.

where the first Seahawk fighters had also been embarked. Vikrant arriving Malta After an intensive, six

Vikrant arriving Malta

After an intensive, six week work up off Malta, Vikrant left the Mediterranean Sea and arrived in India on 06 November 1961 along with the embarked aircraft to a grand reception. Four Alizé were remained embarked on the Vikrant while the remaining aircraft were stationed at NAS Garuda, at Cochin, the shore base for the Cobras.

First combat deployment, Dec 1961

Soon after their arrival in India, the Cobras were deployed off Goa during Op Vijay in December 1961. Vikrant, with it's complement of Seahawk and Alizé aircraft, patrolled some 75 miles seaward of Goa. She was tasked with countering Portuguese Air Force F - 86 Sabre Jets that were reported by Indian intel to be operating from Dabolim as well as forestall any interference by Western NATO allies of Portugal. After steaming up and down at high speed for two days on 18 and 19 December, with dawn to dusk Seahawk

combat air patrols as well as Alizé patrol and reconnaissance missions, Vikrant did not observe any Portuguese Sabre aircraft nor any other intrusive air or naval activity. In the event, it turned out that intelligence was faulty on this count – there were never any Portugese F-86 aircraft in Dabolim. This is emblematic of how far modern ISR capabilities have progressed or to look at it another way, how limited such capabilities were at the time.

Although no offensive missions were flown, the Alizés carried out patrol and reconnaissance missions on one occasion, buzzing an Indian frigate by mistake throughout the duration of the Goa operations which was all of 36 hours from 18-19 th of December, 1961

In March 62, the Cobras, embarked on the Vikrant, participated in the joint ex with the Royal Navy, Jetex 62 followed by goodwill visits to Singapore and Malaya/

The Cobras made their 3000 th deck landing on 15 Dec 1963. Much champagne flowed to celebrate this milestone.

Temporary detachment to 550 Squadron

In Jan 1964, two Alizé’s were briefly loaned to INAS 550 to monitor and perform surveillance off Thumba rocket launching range.

1965 Indo-Pak war

The squadron was entrusted with a four fold task – the Defence of our own Fleet, Defence of Mumbai, Defence of Cochin, and aid in the destruction of enemy ships. Since Vikrant was under refit during the period, the Cobras operated in two detachments, flying armed recce missions simultaneously from Santa Cruz, Bombay and Cochin.

The squadron began its ELINT operations when one aircraft was tasked with active, and highly classified Elint ESM (Elint) operations using ESM to map enemy RF transmitters along the entire western border.

An excellent 2004 article on the Cobras by the late Harish Balaji Kannan aka B. Harry which appears on ACIG, details some elements of the ELINT mission.

“Operating from Jamnagar, most sorties were flown at low level, below 100 feet, and covered most of the Pakistani border from Jamnagar to Pathankot in Punjab. A number of Pakistani radar stations were detected, identified and pin-pointed with a three point fix thanks to the Alizé's highly sophisticated direction finding system which exceeded the capabilities of any similar system in IAF inventory at the time.”

On the night of September 7th, a Pakistani task force (TF) comprised of a cruiser, five destroyers and a single frigate bombarded Dwarka in Gujarat for about 30 minutes and withdrew at speed.

Alizé were launched on Sep 11 to try to locate the Pak TF. Detection efforts were partially successful but freak weather conditions prevented timely message transmissions to the Indian Fleet. In any event, the Pak TF had reached Pakistani territorial waters and higher naval leadership was lacking, thereby denying the Cobras an opportunity to carry out offensive operations.

Sadly, an Alizé was lost along with Lt SC Malviya and CPO (ACM) PK Unni while transiting to Bombay for an operational mission. Curiously, their names are not on the Shradhanjali list at the Naval Air Museum (NAM) in Goa.

Fleet Exercises, trials

Throughout the sixties, the squadron spent much time training, on operational taskings and continually improving capabilities and honing their skills.

Carrier air operations are inherently dangerous and accidents are commonplace. Any number of things can go wrong, very often with fatal consequences. So, it was not long before fatalities occurred. Sadly, on July 20, 1964, Lt SM Rajmachikkar's aircraft crashed on take off from Vikrant and all aircrew were killed. It is believed the wing folded after launch.

From 1965 onwards, the Cobras carried out trials on indigenous air dropped mines and worked on improving the anti submarine capability of the Alizés by fitting a sonobuoy recording system.

This involved retrofitting the new French JULIE sonobuoy recorders in all the Alizés to bring up to the same standard as two additional aircraft that were being acquired from the French Aeronavale to replace attritions.

In parallel, the Cobras were involved in development trials of an indigenous sonobuoy, which could cope with India's hot and humid tropical conditions, as well as minimise the outflow of precious foreign exchange on these expensive expendable items.

Until Indian submarines arrived in 1968, the Cobras did not have enough opportunities to exercise with submarines. However, when possible, they worked with Royal Navy submarines to gain ASW proficiency.

In 1965, the Cobras exercised with HM Submarine ASTUTE off Madras. Two years later, in 1967, another exercise was conducted with the British submarine ONSLAUGHT off Cochin. Clearly, this only gave limited ASW exposure to the Cobras and they were eager for the first of several Soviet built submarines to arrive India.

In August 1968, the two Julie fitted Alizés (c/n 14 and c/n 18 ) arrived from France, just in time for exercises with the Pr. 641 ‘Foxtrot’ submarine KALVARI which had arrived from Russia. Thereafter, as more Pr 641 boats joined the fleet, the tempo of Alizé anti submarine exercises steadily increased.

At this time, sea trials of the indigenously developed sonobuoys could also be carried out. These had been developed locally with the goal of ensuring the availability of large numbers of expendable sonobuoys to achieve proficiency in tracking submarines.

Besides ASW work, from 1966 onwards, the Cobras exercised regularly with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to enhance interoperability with IAF aircraft in the anti shipping (AsuW) role. Joint tactical exercises such as Ex Mangal were held in Oct 67 with Air Force Liberator MR aircraft, Canberra bombers, Hunters and HF 24 fighters in which Alizés homed these aircraft on to their targets.

The Cobras continually developed their ELINT proficiency by carrying out electronic surveillance missions whenever and wherever required but these details have not been revealed.

The Squadron lost yet another aircraft, IN 214, which ditched after take off from the Vikrant on Jul 19, 1969. The crew, Lt’s A Roy, Lall and AC Singh were all recovered safely.

Vikrant operated from the Andamans for the first time during 22-30 July 1969. She would return there a little over two years later during the 1971 War.

there a little over two years later during the 1971 War. On Oct 15, 1969, Prime

On Oct 15, 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gaandhi embarked Vikrant and to the squadron.

1n early 1970, the Cobras also carried out trials with the newly acquired Swedish LEPUS flare bombs off Kochi to illuminate targets at night for attack by Seahawks.

In Apri1970, the Cobras shifted from NAS Garuda in Cochin to NAS Hansa in Dabolim, Goa

1971 Indo-Pak War

The Cobras and White Tigers finally got to draw blood in the December 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh from what was East Pakistan.

At the same time, on the West Coast of India, the Cobras, operating from Bombay and Jamnagar carried out anti submarine and reconnaissance patrols.

Useful details of naval air operations are found in Adml Hiranandani’s History book, Transition to Triumph. The material below is largely reproduced from this book.

With the threat of war imminent, in August 1971, INAS 310 along with INAS 321 ‘Angels’ embarked Vikrant with 4 or 5 Alizés and a few Alouette’s. Vikrant had been hurriedly pulled out of a refit cycle. This meant that she was operating with three instead of four boilers, for a top speed of around 12 knots, maybe 14 knots at the most and a non- functional catapult!. The normal aircrew training cycle was interrupted to enable only senior, experienced pilots to do the flying.

Given the less than favorable conditions – i.e a catapult under repairs and a top speed less than the minimum 14 knots wind speed over the deck required for aircraft launches, the Cobras were tasked to evolve a technique of launching Alizé’s in these conditions.

It fell to a day-night qualified Alizé QFI, Cdr S Ramsagar (later Rear Admiral) to try out a free take off without the use of the catapult. Initially launching in a light load condition the Cobras pushed the envelope and performed free take offs at the full design loads. It was only then that the Vikrant, under the command of Captain Swaraj Prakash and Cdr Parashar as Commander (Air), sailed into the Bay of Bengal.

After working up for around 20 days in the Bay of Bengal, the Cobras were ready for ‘ops”. By this time the catapult as well as ll boilers were serviceable so a top speed of 18 knots was possible. At this point, the White Tigers embarked the Vikrant with 18 Sea Hawks. Vikrant and her embarked squadrons were ready for operations by 24 November 1971. She was in stand by position at Port Cornwallis Lagoon and sailed out towards East Pakistan on Dec 2, 1971.

At this time, the Cobras were led by Cdr Ravi Dhir, Cdr S Ramsagar as Senior Pilot (SPLOT) and Lt Cdr SP Ghosh as Senior ‘O’.

Operating in warlike conditions, the Cobras led the IN into action, taking to the skies at 0500 hrs on Dec 3, 1971.

When hostilities broke out the next day, four Alizè and eighteen Seahawk, operating from the

When hostilities broke out the next day, four Alizè and eighteen Seahawk, operating from the carrier Vikrant, mounted intensive air strikes on East Pakistan.

Between Dec 4 to Dec 14, the Cobras and White Tigers flew around 300 sorties. The Alizé’s flew both day and night missions while the Sea Hawks carried out daylight missions.

missions while the Sea Hawks carried out daylight missions. They struck both at pre-planned and opportunity

They struck both at pre-planned and opportunity targets at at Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Khulna, Chalna, Mongla, Barisal, Do Hazari, Chiringa and Bakarganj. Using 500 lb bombs, rockets and guns, they destroyed more than 100,776 tons of enemy shipping and maritime traffic, harbor installations, runways, infrastructure, vehicles, buildings, fuel dumps, AA gun positions, oil farms and attacked troop concentrations.

The Alizés proved most useful in assisting ships of the Eastern Fleet in contraband control.

The Alizés proved most useful in assisting ships of the Eastern Fleet in contraband control. The Alizés were busy doing recce sorties by day and bombing the runways at Cox's Bazar at night.

Despite sustaining damage by enemy anti aircraft fire, which required some emergency recoveries, all aircraft were kept airworthy.

Over the 10 days of operations from the Vikrant, the Cobras flew 63 sorties totaling 158 hours with four or five aircraft while the White Tigers flew 128 sorties totaling 108 hours with 18 aircraft.


(HK = Hawker Sea Hawk, AZ = Alizé) Contra Mongla Hothazari band ASW Cox's Chitta
(HK = Hawker Sea Hawk, AZ = Alizé)
Dec 4
4 HK
5 AZ
8 HK
8 HK
Dec 5
3 AZ
2 AZ
4 HK
Dec 6
3 HK
4 HK
4 HK 3AZ
7 HK
Dec 7
2 HK
2 HK
4 HK
2 AZ
Dec 8
Dec 9
Dec 10 - - 5AZ - 2AZ 1AZ Dec 11 - - 2AZ - 1AZ
Dec 10
Dec 11
Dec 12
1 AZ
Dec 13
Dec 14
For their efforts, the Cobras won six Vir Chakras, six Nao Sena Medals and three
Mentions in Despatches while the White Tigers won one Maha Vir Chakra, five Vir
Chakras, one Nao Sena Medal and three Mentions in Despatches.

Keeping in mind that the Cobras had four (another account says 5) aircraft whereas the White Tigers had 18 aircraft, the Cobras did very well for themselves.

The King Cobra, Cdr Ravi Dhir and Senior ‘O’ both earned Vir Chakras.

Sadly, the successful operations in the Bay of Bengal without loss of any aircrew were tempered by the loss of a single Alizé along with all crew members in the Arabian Sea on Dec 10, 1971 after a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) F-104 Starfighter chanced upon this aircraft. There are two versions of what happened.

The PAF had originally claimed that the Starfighter, flown by Sqn Ldr Arif Iqbal, had "shot down" the Alizé presumably with a Sidewinder. This was accepted at face value by the Indian Navy and mentioned in various official histories as the cause.

However, recent research by Air Cmde Kaiser Tufail, PAF suggests that this was not the case at all. The Alizé, flown by Lt Cdr Ashok Roy, tried to evade the Starfighter by going low. During the low level evasive maneuvers, he lost control and crashed into the sea with the loss of all three crew.” (Ref: support-at-sea-1971-war.html ).

The seventies

After the 1971 War and until Aug 1972, Vikrant continued to carry out training of new aircrew whose training had been interrupted in September 1971, when senior experienced aircrew had been inducted.

In Aug 72, Vikrant started a three year refit. For the next two and half years, until the Vikrant emerged from her refit, the Cobras operated from shore bases.

In March 1973, a French team visited the squadron to discuss refurbishment of the Alizés, similar to what the French Navy was undertaking at the time to extend their service lives and upgrade mission systems.

August 1973 saw successful integration of 1000 lb bombs on the Alizé at Kochi.

Vikrant once again became operational in May 1975 and the Cobras resumed carrier operations, participating in Fleet exercises. Significantly for the Vikrant, Seaking helicopters were embarked for the first time.

Upgrades of the Alizé aircraft to the latest French standard commenced in 1975 and completed in 1978. Presumably, the IN aircraft received the Thomson-CSF DRAA-10A Iguane radar, ARAR-12A RWR, ARR-52 sonobuoy system and Omega Equinoxe navigation system like the French Aeronavale aircraft.

1976 was not a good year with the squadron losing two aircraft. In April, IN 205 ditched off Goa and the crew escaped safely. However, IN 208 crashed off Goa in Oct with Lt Cdr P Kumar, Lt PC Handa and Lt Suharu perishing.

Through out the 70’s, the squadron participated in joint exercises with foreign navies, the PFR of Nov 1971 and Jan 1976, search and shadow missions of foreign warships as well as SAR missions off the Indian coast.

Vikrant entered refit from 1979-1981 so only shore based operations could be undertaken.

so only shore based operations could be undertaken. Picture taken on the Vikrant between 1983 and

Picture taken on the Vikrant between 1983 and 1987. A Sea Harrier is visible in the background

21 Mar 1986 – some 25 years since its commissioning, the Cobras were at the peak of their operational prowess. On that day, sailing off the West Coast, the squadron launched

an unprecedented 30 sorties from the Vikrant. By this time, the White Tigers had transitioned to the Sea Harrier FRS.51.

the White Tigers had transitioned to the Sea Harrier FRS.51. Judging by the 24 stars, most

Judging by the 24 stars, most likely signifying 24 years of flying, this photo is believed to have been taken

25 year ago - on 21 March 1986 which was also Silver Jubilee of the Cobras

IN via Vayu Aerospace

On return to Bombay, and disembarking to NAS Hansa, the Cobras celebrated the Silver Jubilee in style with a grand reunion and other events.

This high was marred by the loss of yet another Alizé and all three crew on 25 Sep 1986 Cdr S Mukherjee, Lt Cdr SK Kapila and NAM Dalip Singh perished as their aircraft crashed in the sea off Karwar.

The end of the eighties saw the last days of embarked operations for the squadron.

saw the last days of embarked operations for the squadron. Last deck landing, May 9, 1987

Last deck landing, May 9, 1987

The last launch of Alizés from Vikrant took place on 2 April 1987. The last deck landing was on May 9, 1987. By this time, the carrier was slated for conversion to a ski jump

configuration to allow Sea Harrier VTOL fighter to operate at longer ranges and greater payloads. Thereafter Alizés operated only from ashore and there was no let up in flying operations.

Op Pawan

From February 1988 to October 1989, the Indian Government dispatched an Indian Peace Keeping Force IPKF in what came to known as Operation Pawan to assist the Government of Sri Lanka in their struggle against the LTTE. The end of 1988 witnessed the squadron actively participating with the IPKF against the LTTE. Notwithstanding the age of its aircraft, the squadron was pressed into action, during the Peace Keeping effort over Sri Lanka.

into action, during the Peace Keeping effort over Sri Lanka. At Madurai during Op Pawan The

At Madurai during Op Pawan

The squadron was detached to Madurai, and carried out extensive flying from that remote location. Plunging into the thick of action the Cobras attacked and sank approximately twenty boats with 200 casualties, and earned more glory for the Squadron and gallantry awards for its crew. During Op Pawan, the Cobras flew 1800 hours and the squadron won three Nao Sena Medals and four Mentions in Despatches.

1800 hours and the squadron won three Nao Sena Medals and four Mentions in Despatches. Felicitations

Felicitations post Op Pawan, 1999

Shortly thereafter, the squadron also saw action in Op CACTUS undertaken by the Indian Armed Forces against the perpetrators of an attempted coup against the government in Male. The Alizès carried out a rocket strike against the rebels escaping in a hijacked ship

MV Progress Light between Sri Lanka and the Maldives, forcing it to stop and be

apprehended by other naval vessels.

Operations Pawan and Cactus proved to be the Alizès last hurrah, as the ageing aircraft


nearing the end of their service life and the Navy decided on replacing the Alizé


the Dornier Do-228-201K.

The Alizé’s stopped flying on 21 April 1991 and the aircraft were subsequently decommissioned.

The very last flight took place on 21 Aug 91 when IN 212 piloted by Lt TS Tomar and Lt (O) S Roy as observer welcomed the first Dornier 228, IN 221 crewed by Cdr KN Khankoje (pilot), Lt’s G Giridhar, MK Agarwal and Lt (O) PS Kulkarni to NAS Hansa

from HAL Kanpur.

Agarwal and Lt (O) PS Kulkarni to NAS Hansa from HAL Kanpur. Picture at NAM. We

Picture at NAM. We are not entirely sure of the intent behind the unusual caption!

The old welcoming the new, 21 Aug 1991 First Dornier Do 228 IN 221 upon

The old welcoming the new, 21 Aug 1991

The old welcoming the new, 21 Aug 1991 First Dornier Do 228 IN 221 upon arrival

First Dornier Do 228 IN 221 upon arrival at NAS Hansa

By this time, seven aircraft were left of the 14 acquired. During the 30 years of the squadron's existence, the Alizés had flown 35,912 hours and done 7,144 deck landings.

The fate of these seven aircraft is only partially known. IN 202 is an exhibit at the Naval Air Museum at Dabolim. IN 204 is an exhibit at NAS Garuda. IN 206 is an ‘x-ray’ exhibit at the Naval Institute of Aviation Technology, Kochi. IN 209 and IN 212 are exhibits aboard the museum ship INMS Vikrant.

at the Naval Institute of Aviation Technology, Kochi. IN 209 and IN 212 are exhibits aboard
at the Naval Institute of Aviation Technology, Kochi. IN 209 and IN 212 are exhibits aboard

IN 206 at NIAT, IN 209 aboard the Vikrant – courtesy Sandeep Unnithan

IN 209 aboard the Vikrant – courtesy Sandeep Unnithan IN 204 at NAS Garuda. K. Chandni

IN 204 at NAS Garuda.

K. Chandni

courtesy Sandeep Unnithan IN 204 at NAS Garuda. K. Chandni IN 202 at Naval Air Museum,

IN 202 at Naval Air Museum, Goa

Goodbye Alizé, Enter Dornier

M. Mazumdar, 2005

After the first Dornier, HAL Kanpur delivered IN 222 towards the end of 1991 followed by IN 223 and 224 in 1992 and IN 225 in 1993.

Aircraft in original blue and white color scheme IN 231 at Aero India 2001 sporting

Aircraft in original blue and white color scheme

Aircraft in original blue and white color scheme IN 231 at Aero India 2001 sporting a

IN 231 at Aero India 2001 sporting a new mission suite

original blue and white color scheme IN 231 at Aero India 2001 sporting a new mission

Aircraft in new color scheme

The Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol (MP) aircraft is only slightly larger than the Alizé. It

The Dornier 228 Maritime Patrol (MP) aircraft is only slightly larger than the Alizé. It has a length of 16.56m, a wingspan of 16.97m, a height of 4.86m. Empty weight is 3086 kg and maximum take off weight is 6400 kg. Powered by two Garrett TPE-331-5-252 turboprops each rated at 715 shp (or a -10 rated at 776 shp), cruise speed is 207mph while maximum speed is 266mph. Rate of climb is 1909 ft/min. Ceiling is 29,600 ft. Range with maximum payload is around 700 miles. Endurance is typically 6-8 hours since these aircraft have extra fuel capacity. The aircraft has good STOL capability.

The aircraft was configured for Maritime Patrol (MP) and Electronic warfare roles. At the time of their induction, the aircraft were fitted with MEL Super Marec 360º Search radar, sonobuoys, AES 210 ESM and direction finding systems. HAL's modifications to the airframe also included four underwing hardpoints, to accommodate up to 1030 kg (another account says 2201 kg) of external payload including wing mounted 7.62mm gunpods.

Like the Alizé’s the Dorniers were used to good effect in Fleet Ex and other naval operations such as ‘search and shadow’ as well as SAR as well as providing logistic support to naval ships proceeding to Somalia for Op Muffett (withdrawal of UN peace keepers). Operating from Porbandar, the squadron flew several sorties to intercept and shadow Pakistani naval ships in Nov 1995.

Unlike the Alizés, reliability was generally high although the first incidence of engine failure took place on 24 May 94 when the starboard engine of IN 223 failed in flight but the crew, Lt’s R Kapoor and Kulwant Singh brought the stricken aircraft safely back to base.

In Jan 1996, the Cobras bagged triple honours- the best naval air squadron, best frontline squadron and best in Flight Safety.

In 1998, GPS units and new ELINT equipment were installed resulting in a major capability upgrade for the squadron’s Dorniers.

Amid escalating tensions after the India Pakistan tit for tat nuclear testing in April 1998, the squadron was tasked with carrying out surface surveillance and ELINT missions along the IBL. The Cobras were so adept at the Elint role and exploited the new equipment to such advantage, that in recognition of services rendered, the squadron was rechristened ‘Information Warfare Squadron' on Oct 1, 1998 per NHQ 263 IG of 27Sep 98. It remains the only such squadron in the Navy till date.

In May 98, the Squadron participated in Madad 98 , a multinational SAREX off Port Blair with the navies of Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Later that month, one Dornier deployed to Seeb International in Muscat for a joint SAREX with the Royal Navy of Oman.

Besides military operations, the squadron rendered SAR assistance in Gujarat in the aftermath of a cyclone over Kandla Port in Jun 98.

1999 Kargil War and Op Vijay

During Op Vijay, from May-July 1999. the Cobras were busy carrying out MR/ELINT missions in close coordination with the Army and the Air Force. This was the first time the Dornier was deployed as an EW platform in support of the Army and the Air Force for integrated ELINT operations.

Three aircraft and about fifty officers and men were deployed to the forward air bases in Gujarat, close to the Indo-Pak border.

The squadron undertook extensive operations by flying close to the IBL in Rajasthan, Gujarat and over sea off Karachi, Gwadar and Bombay High. The Cobras covered the entire area along the Karachi FIR, from Muscat FIR to Kori creek up north till Jaisalmer.

The squadron was also tasked to undertake surveillance missions for the Army to locate battle surveillance radars and troop concentrations. Operating from bases in Rajasthan, the squadron covered the entire western border. Military Intelligence Officers were so impressed by the capabilities of the Dornier that they admitted that the information gathered by the Dornier in three days would have taken them three months on ground.

In all, during May-July 1999, the squadron flew 174 missions totaling 357 hours along the IBL without any incidents in a dangerous and challenging environment.

Again, B Harry writes that

“The first sortie was launched at 10 p.m on 24 May 1999 and went on till nearly 3 a.m. The aircraft flew at about 3000 feet above the Arabian sea and 300 miles to the West. The crew of four, picked up and fingerprinted every signal they hoped for including the Pakistani ground radars at Karachi, Ormara, Pasni, Malir, Khetibandar as well as the

radars onboard the Atlantique and P-3C Orion maritime aircraft of the Pak.Navy. Every parameter including the type of emitter, the frequency of the pulse and the location were identified in real-time and sent to the IAF after post mission analysis.

The results were evident when the squadron received another operational order from Naval HQ, in June. During the briefing, the defence minister, the Air chief Marshal of the IAF and the C-in-C Western fleet were present. The briefing was carried out by Air Marshal Krishnaswamy (now CAS of the IAF). The Do-228s now flew from Kori creek in Gujarat to Bikaner in Rajashtan, with four to five MiG-29s as escorts and picked up major Pakistani radar deployments, troop concentrations and missile batteries.

The next round of sorties were to cater to Army requirements. Flying 8-10 km inside Indian territory and hugging the border, the aircraft recce'ed the situation and emitters at Karachi, Lahore and Pir Patho. When the information was transmitted to them, the military intelligence was thrilled to find that the same corresponded with their own calculations. The squadron kept operating from Naliya, even after the war ended.”

Besides IW missions, MR (Maritime Reconnaissance) missions were also carried out south of the Karachi FIR to monitor enemy units and merchant traffic in the area.

1999 was indeed a very good year for the Cobras. Not only had they proved their value in a joint services operational scenario with the ELINT missions, they also bagged another Best Naval Air Squadron Trophy for 1998-99 year. But there was more to come. On Dec 4, Navy Day, the unit became the first naval air squadron to be awarded the ‘Unit Citation’ by the Chief of Naval Staff.

The outstanding individual contributions of several crew members during Op Vijay were aptly rewarded. Cdr BS Purba, Lt Cdr VA Inamdar and Lt AN Reddy received CNS commendations while Lt Cdr A Talwar and Lt AS Kolhatkar received CinC’s commendations.

During 2000, operating from forward airbases such as Naliya, Uttarlai, Udhampur, the unit undertook ‘pioneer’ missions along the IBL in the West upto Poonch in Kashmir for the Army and Air Force. It also performed similar Elint missions along the Eastern and Far Eastern seaboard.

The Cobras bagged yet another Flight Safety Trophy for 1999-2000 as well as a runners up trophy for the Best Overall Naval Air Squadron for the year 1999-2000/

2001 IFR Flypast planning

Apart from operational tasks, the squadron has also performed with distinction in all other tasks that it has undertaken. To celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Republic, the Indian Navy had planned an International Fleet Review (IFR) in February 2001. The Cobras were tasked with the painstaking task of working out and validating the aircraft flypast waypoints and timings.

As expected, the Cobras excelled. The R/T call "COBRAS ON TIME" became a ritual of the flypast rehearsals. The four aircraft formation led by the then King Cobra-tucked in neat and tight-was an awe inspiring sight on both days for the Review as well as the City Parade.

Operation PARAKRAM

The Cobras played a vital part in the 2001-2002 India Pakistan stand off following the high profile Indian Parliament attack by suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammed operatives on Dec 13, 2001.

Deploying at the commencement of Op Parakram in January 2002, the squadron, now with aircraft painted in a low visibility grey color scheme, was detached to Naliya to carry out more ELINT operations.

The Cobras earned more kudos from the various users for this intel gathering effort.

Equipment trials

The Dorniers have been progressively fitted with the latest radar, electronic and sonobuoy systems for the surveillance and EW roles. Trials of new role equipment for MR aircraft and improvements and developments of existing sensors has become synonymous with the squadron. Working in close coordination with various OEM and research agencies, the squadron has been instrumental in the ongoing development of a number of vital components of today’s modern day MR platforms.

The squadron has been instrumental in extensive trials, testing, and development of various new sensors, technologies and the resulting changes in Operational Procedures.

IN 222 was fitted with DRDO’s Simhika and the first sonobuoy was dropped in Feb


As early as 2000, an upgrade project was initiated. HAL and IAI displayed an upgraded Dornier (IN-231) at Aero India 2001. This replaced the MEL Super-Marec with the Elta EL/M-2022A (V2) maritime radar, a retractrable ELOP CompassIII optronic pod, Ring laser Gyro INS with GPS, SATCOM, DRDO developed Eagle ESM and long range (100nm) real-time datalinking capabilities, to perform intensive day/night aerial surveillance duties and feed data to ground stations for further processing and post mission data analysis.

It is believed that several, if not all of the aircraft operated by the Cobras

It is believed that several, if not all of the aircraft operated by the Cobras sport this configuration.

It is believed that several, if not all of the aircraft operated by the Cobras sport

Operational deployments

From Jun 2002 onwards, Muscat figured prominently on the squadron’s itinerary when it was tasked for pioneer missions off the Makran Coast with a planned landing at Muscat and Oman. The sortie was eventful, as the crew had close encounters with the coalition task forces operating off Makran coast. From then on such missions have been conducted periodically as per operational tasking.

Sri Lanka operations again

Like the Alizès during Operation Pawan, the Cobras had one more occasion to witness action on the southern front in 2005 – 06. On 19 Dec 2005 the Cobras moved out in quick time to the small airfield at Ramnad, with a two aircraft detachment anticipating heavy flying. Though initially planned for a week or two, the detachment continued operations through December and well into Jan 2006. The Cobras were instrumental in the success of the ensuing operations against the LTTE and their supply ships by the Sri Lanka Navy.

The Cobras in the new millennium spread their wings overseas, being tasked around the world from the Middle East to the small island nations of the Indian Ocean to South East Asia such as Mauritius, Seychelles and Singapore. Most of these missions were of a classified nature, but suffice it to say that the Cobras continued to draw praise and admiration from all quarters for a job well done.

The Cobras have participated in all Naval Operations both major and minor, exercised with foreign Navies, and rendered assistance to littoral and neighbouring island nations in combating piracy.

In fact, squadron aircraft are presently deployed to the Seychelles for assisting the Seychelles Coast Guard in anti piracy operations.

Earlier this month (March,2011), the squadron successfully foiled a pirate attack on MV. After tracking the pirate mothership, Vega 5 for over a day, aircraft from the squadron vectored naval ships Khukri and Kalpeni to the fleeing mother ships. On the night of March 12, Kalpeni sank the mothership after a brief exchange of gunfire. 61 pirates were captures making it the largest such group to be captured to date. 13 crew members were rescued although 9 are thought to have drowned along with several pirates.

Presumably, the squadron has also been involved in the other successful operations to capture and neutrAlizé pirate mother ships in January and February.

Flying into the Golden Jubilee year, the Cobras are going as strong as ever. It remains the most heavily tasked naval air squadron flying almost 3000 hours annually. The Cobras have the distinction of being the most highly decorated squadron in the Indian Navy today.

Off Vizag during the 2006 PFR With a glorious 50 years in their wake, the

Off Vizag during the 2006 PFR

With a glorious 50 years in their wake, the Cobras look to the future with wings (and Hoods!) spread and propellers spinning.

With 50 years of gallant service to the nation, the editorial team at Bharat Rakshak wishes the Cobras another 50 years of safe flying and success in their endeavours as they continue to carry out frontline missions.


We remember these Cobras who gave their lives while serving.

20 Jul 1964 - Lt S M Rajmachikkar, Lt BT Acharya, Lt VK Jaykumar, Lt KD Jayal (?) –

crashed upon launching from Vikrant

Sep 1965 - Lt SC Malviya, CPO (ACM) PK Unni – crashed while flying from Kochi to Bombay

10 Dec 1971 – Lt Cdr A Roy, Lt HS Sirohi, MCPO Vijayan –crashed while evading a

Pakistani F-104 Starfighter

Oct 1976 - Lt Cdr P Kumar, Lt PC Handa and Lt Suharu - crashed off Goa.

25 Sep 1986 - Cdr S Mukherjee, Lt Cdr SK Kapila and NAM Dalip Singh – crashed off