No. 7 Squadron IAF

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No. 7 Squadron
No7sqd.jpg
7 Squadron badge
Active December 1, 1942
Country India
Branch Air Force
Role Air superiority
Ground attack
Base AFS Gwalior
Nickname Battle Axes
Motto Shatrunjay
Sanskrit: "Vanquish the enemy"
Engagements Battle of Imphal
Burma Campaign
Kashmir operations 1948
Western air ops, 1965
Liberation war,1971
Kargil War
Aircraft flown
Attack Mirage 2000

No. 7 Squadron, Indian Air Force (Battle Axes) operates as a CAS and air superiority unit. Based at Gwalior AFB, No.7 Squadron along with No. 1 Squadron IAF (Tigers), and No. 9 Squadron IAF (Wolf Pack), forms a part of No. 40 Wing IAF, Central Air Command.

Crest[edit]

No. 7 Squadron Sqn has as its emblem two unfolded wings adorning a Farsha (Battle-axe) and the symbolic number 7 attached to the shaft. Below this crest, on a scroll were the letters Shatrunjay (Close English Translation: Vanquisher of the enemy). This logo was officially approved by President on 26 September 1960, and has adorned aircraft that No. 7 Squadron has flown since.

A Mirage 2000 of the No. 7 Squadron.

History[edit]

No. 7 Squadron (Battle Axes) was raised on 1 December 1942 at Vizag equipped with Vultee Vengeance dive bombers. Sqn Ldr HN Chaudhary was the first Commanding Officer and the personnel were drawn from No. 104 General Reconnaissance and 353 Squadron of RAF plus No. 3 (Calcutta) and No. 6 (Vizagapatnam) Coast Defence Flight, under Air Headquarters formation, order 268 on 19 November 1942. However, initially, the squadron operated Westland Wapitis until it could be armed with the Vultees. The first missions flown by No. 7 Sqn was in Waziristan in the North West Frontier Province in what is now Pakistan in December 1943. The squadron has since flown with distinction in a number of conflicts, including 1965, 1971 conflicts, 1999 Kargil War.

Burma Operations[edit]

The Squadron was to see extensive action during Second World War. In its first tour of duty between March and September 1944, No. 7 flew a six aircraft detachment against Japanese targets during the Battle of Imphal, initially against Kenji on Chindwin, and later against Japanese supply lines and army convoys along the Tiddim road. In December 1944, No. 7 Sqn moved to Peshawar and converted to the Hurricane Mk.IIc. By March 1945, the unit was back in the Burma Front, flying from Imphal, and later, from Magwe Airfield. It would later move to Samungli in June 1945. In November 1945, the Squadron moved to Gwalior, where it converted to Spitfire Mk.XIVs, which it flew from December 1945 till July 1947, when the squadron converted to the Tempest Mk.II.[1]

For his contributions during World War II the then CO, Squadron Leader P.C. Lal, would win the DFC.

Independence and Kashmir Operations 1947-48[edit]

Tempest fighters of Indian Air Force in 1947. The Planes show the Chakra roundels of the early IAF planes.

At the time of the partition No. 7 was based at Risalpur, having converted to the Tempest in June 1947. No.7 Squadron was one of the units allocated to India after the division of the Assets between the two new nations of India and Pakistan. After partition, the unit moved to Agra and was operational within two months of Independence.

The units first post-independence operations was in November 1947. In response to the tribal invasion of the Kashmir kingdom and subsequent accession by Maharaja Hari Singh, India flew in troops and stationed fighters at Srinagar. Tempests of 7 Squadron flew from Ambala in support of Indian Ground troops in the decisive Battle of Shelatang, offensive missions against Uri, Kotli and Rawalkot. The first fatality suffered was on 1 December 1947, when Fg Offr UA D'Cruz was shot down in his Harvard and taken prisoner. He was later awarded the Kirti Chakra (then Ashoka Chakra Cl. II) for his resilience in captivity. For his role in the initial days of operations, the CO Sqn Ldr Noronha was later awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. Flt Lt BS Dogra received the Vir Chakra for his sorties during the Battle of Shalateng.

The Squadron redeployed at Palam on a permanent basis in February 1948. Missions over J&K from the Advanced Landing Ground at Amritsar. These missions were flown in the Poonch area and against Skardu airfield, as well as the Tithwal area. Wg Cdr Ranjan Dutt along with some pilots of 7 Sqn flew to attack the bridge at Domel. The squadron would suffer two fatalities, Fg Offr Balwant Singh and Fg Offr DG Baptiste to ground fire. In August 1948, the squadron set up base in Srinagar and provided support to the army operations near the Zoji La pass. Gilgit airfield was bombed by Tempests on 4 November 1948. For its role, No. 7 Sqn would win five Vir Chakras.

One of the first three Vampires to be delivered to the Indian Air Force. The plane sports the Chakra roundel. This aircraft war later incorporated into No. 7 Sqn

In January 1949,the Squadron moved to Palam where it became the first unit in the IAF to operate the Vampire, which had arrived in November 1948. At that time the squadron was the first unit in the whole of Asia to operate Jet aircraft. The unit now operated one flight with three Vampires and the second flight with Tempests. After converting back to Spitfires in 1949, No. 7 converted to operating only the Vampires in 1951. During this time, No. 7 Sqn came to form the first aerobatics team.

The Vampires were phased out in January 1958, when the new Hawker Hunters were inducted.

Although put on high alert during the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the unit did not see any action in this conflict, mainly due to the government's decision to limit the air force's role to supply and evacuation.

Indo-Pakistan War 1965[edit]

At the onset of the war, the squadron was based at Halwara AFS. Already on a high alert, the unit flew its first offensive sorties on the morning of 6 September, against targets of opportunity. Through the day, the unit would fly twelve missions supporting the Indian Army over the IB. The first fatality suffered was on the evening of the 6th, when a four ship formation was intercepted by PAF Sabres over Taran Taran. In the ensuing battle, Sqn Sqn Ldr AK Rawlley's aircraft hit the ground and exploded.

On the same evening, Halwara Airfield was raided by a three ship formation from PAF No. 5 Sqn. At the time of the raid, No. 7 had two aircraft, Fg Offr PS Pingale and Fg Offr AR Ghandhi, flying on CAP over the airfield. Both were bounced by the Sabres. In the battle that followed, Pingale was shot down before he could give battle. Gandhi, however, was able to shoot down his adversary [2] before his aircraft fell to the cannon shells of the two remaining Sabres. At about this time, Hunters from No. 27 Sqn returning from a sortie were directed to join the battle, which shot down one of the attackers. The remaining sabre, although claimed as a kill by the IAF, was able to make it back to base.[2]

The No. 7 was to suffer two more fatalities the next day, when on a dawn strike against PAF Sargodha, a five-ship formation was intercepted. Two of the unit, Sqn Ldr SB Bhagwat and Fg Offr JS Brar, were lost on that day. Hunters from No. 7 Sqn, however, provided ground support for the troops through the war, repeatedly hitting ground targets in support of the army offensives. It hit an ammunition train at Kasur on 8 September, and ground targets in the Lahore area the next day. In a number of these missions, Hunters from different units flew together. On the night of 14 September, B-57 raid at Halwara destroyed two of the squadron's Hunters on the ground.

No. 7's next air-to-air kill was on 16 September, when Fg Offr PS Pingale shot down a F-86 Sabre over Tarn Tarn. His wingman Fg Offr Farokh Dara Bunsha from No. 20 Sqn was shot down and killed. Another aircraft fell on 20 September, when Fg Offr SK Sharma ejected from his badly damaged Hunter was over Kasur on 20 SeptemberSept 20. The unit however, lost Sqn Ldr DP Chatterjee, who had joined 7 Sqn on deputation from 20 Sqn was killed in the same battle.

Although the squadron's figures at the war are not impressive compared to what it would go on to achieve in six years, it remains true that it was seriously limited in its deep penetration strikes, operating ammunition-laden Hunters at maximum range in IAF's strike against bases as deep as PAF Sargodha,.[3][4] However, No. 7 squadron- along with the other squadrons operating the Hunter- proved to be invaluable in ground-attack roles. In total, the Battleaxes flew 453 sorties (including 109 CAP) amounting to nearly 333 Hours, expending 218 rockets and 13000 lbs of bombs. In the course of the war, the squadron flew a total of 128 strike missions and 46 Combat Air Patrol sorties. Three pilots were killed along with another two on deputation from 20 Sqn. Nine aircraft were lost in the course of the war. For their contribution, No. 7 was awarded 4 VrCs (S Malik, AS Lamba, PS Pingale and AR Ghandhi) and five mentioned in dispatches. For its impressive record in the air as well as on ground, the squadron received commendations from the Prime Minister L B Shastri, the Defence Minister Shri YB Chavan and Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh. After the war No. 7 would move to Hindon AB in November 1965 and also took on the role of Operational Conversion Unit with the addition of a Hunter Trainer Flight. However, the unit was moved again in March 1969, this time to Bagdogra.

Bangladesh War, 1971[edit]

No. 7 is probably the only unit to have flown both in the Eastern and Western theaters during the war. Operations in 1971 Eastern Operations (Main article: East Pakistan Operations 1971) Immediately following preemptive PAF strikes on the western airfields, the first strikes were flown on the morning of 4 December against targets in East Pakistan. Repeated strikes were carried out on airfields in Dacca as well as ground targets. One of these strikes destroyed the bridge over the River Teesta. The first fatalities were suffered when an attack on a train at Lal Munir Hat came up against fierce ack ack. Both of the two badly damaged Hunters eventually lost crossed the IB into friendly airspace. Fg Offr Andre Da Costa's Hunter went out of control and crashed, killing him. The Hunter leader, Sqn Ldr SK Gupta ejected safely over Baghdogra airfield. In total, No. 7 flew 40 sorties in the east before it was pulled out to the western theatre.

No. 7 Squadron (Hunters) flew to Hindon AB on 6 December. The next day a flight of eight Hunters deployed at Nal. The squadron provided close support to the troops, repeatedly hitting Pakistani targets. In one of the first missions against Pakistani tanks in Ganganagar, a Hunter was lost to ground fire. Its pilot was the charismatic Officer Commanding (O.C.) of the squadron, Wing Commander (and later, Air Marshal) Bernard Anthony Coelho. Wing Commander Coelho ejected over No Man's Land and was taken prisoner by Pakistani ground forces before he could be located by Indian troops. Interdiction sorties were also flown against targets in the Suleimanke Headworks area. One of these missions on 9 December, flown by Flying Officer Diskhit, landed with the fuel gauges reading zero. Towards the end of the war, the squadron moved to Pathankot, where it stayed till the end of the war. The squadron was awarded Three VrCs, and one Vayu sena Medal. Three other pilots were mentioned in dispatches.

After Bangladesh[edit]

After the end of the war, the unit moved to Nal, and then to Palam in 1972. Between 1973 and 1974, the unit started converting to the Mig-21MF which was operated till 1980, when Mig-21M were brought in.

Conversion to the Mirage 2000 was carried out in June 1985, which are (date?) still operational. A detachment flying from Srinagar operated over Ladakh from middle of 1988.

In June 1987, during Operation Poomalai, Four Mirage 2000s from No. 7, in anticipation of air opposition from the Sri Lankan Air Force, provided air-cover for the five An 32 detailed to airdrop food supplies over Jaffna.

The Battle Axes were called into action again on 3 November 1988 during Operation Cactus, when India responded to a plea for help by the Maldives government following a military coup. While the Il-76s of No.44 Squadron flew in troops from the Para brigade into the capital Male, six Mirages operating from Trivandrum made several passes over the Islands in a show of force. Wg Cdr Vaidya led the first formation with Flt Lt R Nambiar over the Hulule airfield.

Kargil Operations in May 1999 - Op Safed Sagar[edit]

No. 7 squadron was back in action again in May 1999, called to assist the Army in the area North, North-East of Kargil during Operation Vijay. The Battle Axes at that time was under the command of Wg Cdr Sandeep Chabra. For the first time, the IAF had employed Precision guided munitions to strike the supply lines of the entrenched enemy.

After the failure of the first strikes by Jaguars, the task was assigned to the Mirages. Flying from Adampur AFB, Mirages of No.7 Sqn struck Tigerhill, Muntho Dhalo,[5] Tololing. Along with the LGBs, 1000lbers were also used. On one particular sortie, a Mirage came upon a Pakistani Army Helicopter, but did not engage as it was in the moment of crossing back over the LoC.

Wg Cdr Chabra received the Yudh Seva Medal(YSM). Wg Cdr R Nambiar, who was an experienced test pilot attached to 7 Squadron during the course of operations was awarded the Vayusena Medal (VM), having flown over 25 sorties during that period delivering PGMs in precision attacks. Wg Cdr CH Kulkarni and Sqn Ldr DB Patnaik, who flew on the strike against Tiger Hill also received the VM. Sqn Ldr AS Heer, was awarded the VM, having shown considerable ingenuity to record the effects of the bomb-strikes. Sqn Ldr KI Ravi, of No. 1 Sqn, who devised the adaptation of the 1000 lb bombs to the Mirage was also the VM.

Operation Parakram[edit]

In 2002 Mirage-2000s from the squadron used Precision Guided Munitions to destroy posts captured by Pakistan Army in the Machal sector of the LoC.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Halley 1988, p. 523.
  2. ^ a b Hali S. M., PAF's First Shaheeds. Defence Journal, Karachi. September 2000. http://www.defencejournal.com/2000/sept/shaheeds.htm URL Accessed on 12-Aug-06
  3. ^ http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/IAF/History/1965War/Chapter4.html
  4. ^ http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/hunter/history.html
  5. ^ IAF intensifies strikes Capt, 4 others die in hand-to-hand combat. The Tribune, India. Sunday, June 27, 1999. http://www.tribuneindia.com/1999/99jun27/head.htm URL accessed on 13-Aug-06
  6. ^ The Kargil-II Incident

Bibliography[edit]

  • Halley, James J. Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Chopra, Pushpindar Singh. The Battle Axes: No. 7 Squadron Indian Air Force, 1942-1992. New Delhi, India: Society for Aerospace Studies, 1993.

External links[edit]