The Indian Navy will phase out its iconic Sea Harrier maritime fighter planes at a ceremony in Dabolim in Goa on Wednesday.
The Sea Harriers, part of INAS 300 (Indian Naval Air Squadron 300, also called White Tigers), were inducted into the navy in 1983 and were deployed onboard INS Vikrant and INS Viraat.
The reconnaissance and strike fighters operated for the last time from INS Viraat in March during the International Fleet Review staged by the navy off the Vizag coast.
The Viraat is likely to be decommissioned soon too. The White Tigers squadron will now induct Russian-origin MiG-29 K fighters.
The highlight of the ceremony, to be presided over by navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan, will be a flying display involving two British-origin Sea Harriers and two MiG-29K fighters. The commanding officers of the two squadrons will exchange batons after the flying display, marking the phase-out of Sea Harriers.
The navy has six operational Sea Harriers and five airframes. The retired planes, built by British Aerospace, will be dispatched as mementos to various naval aviation bases, the naval academy and two of them may be preserved onboard Viraat if the government decides to convert the aircraft carrier into a museum.
UK’s Royal Navy retired its Sea Harriers 10 years ago. The fighters served the British navy for 30 years.
The Indian Navy’s Sea Harrier squadron was deployed during Operation Vijay in 1999 and embarked on the Viraat during Operation Parakram in 2001.
The Indian Navy had a hard time maintaining the Harriers as British firm Rolls-Royce stopped producing parts – the planes featured a Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine.
The fighter planes were fitted with anti-ship Sea Eagle missiles, Derby air-to-air beyond visual range missiles and Matra Magic II missiles. The fighters also had the capability to fire rockets and drop bombs.