R-Day fly past to bring alive glorious history of ’71 victory
- The indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft and the Mirage 2000 jets are not taking part in the parade as single-engine aircraft are normally not permitted to fly over Rajpath though Tejas made its debut at the 2017 parade.
The military fly past at the Republic Day parade will feature formations to commemorate some glorious moments of India’s decisive victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, including the historic Tangail airdrop and the Meghna operation, apart from showcasing the Indian Air Force’s combat capabilities, officials familiar with the matter said on Monday.
As many as 75 different aircraft from the IAF, army and navy will take part in the January 26 flying display, including Rafales, Sukhoi-30s, Jaguars, C-130J special operations aircraft, Mi-35 gunships, MiG-29K maritime fighters and P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, IAF officials said at a press preview of the fly past.
“It will be the largest and grandest display,” an official said. The flying display is the highlight of India’s biggest ceremonial parade. India is celebrating the 75th year of its Independence this year.
The indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft and the Mirage 2000 jets are not taking part in the parade as single-engine aircraft are normally not permitted to fly over Rajpath though Tejas made its debut at the 2017 parade.
The Tangail formation will feature a vintage Dakota aircraft along with two Dornier 228 aircraft, the officials said. The Tangail airdrop north of Dhaka – the biggest airborne operation mounted by Indian paratroopers – set the stage for surrender by the Pakistani army.
The aim of the operation was to capture the Poongli bridge on Jamalpur-Tangail-Dhaka road and the ferry site on Louhajang river to intercept the Pakistani army’s 93 Brigade that was retreating from the north to defend Dhaka. Around 750 men of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment were involved in the successful mission.
The paratroopers defeated a force three times superior and shattered the will of the Pakistani army to defend Dhaka.
The Meghna formation to commemorate a critical heli-borne operation during the 1971 war will involve a CH-47F Chinook helicopter and four Mi-171V choppers, the officials said. IAF helicopters played a critical role in moving troops across the Meghna river in erstwhile East Pakistan.
The IAF tableau at the parade will display fighter planes attacking the Governor House in Dhaka and a model of the Gnat fighter that played an important role in the 1971 war.
The 1971 war, which ended with the liberation of Bangladesh, gave India a new generation of heroes, including Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon. Then 26, he is the first and only person in the IAF to be decorated with the Param Vir Chakra, the country’s highest wartime military honour. He was awarded posthumously.
His moment of glory came on December 14, 1971, when the Srinagar airfield faced a furious attack by at least six Sabre aircraft of the Pakistan Air Force. In the midst of the strafing of the airfield by the enemy aircraft that presented grave danger to his own safety, Sekhon took off in his Gnat, heroically engaged a pair of Sabres, shot them down and forced the Pakistani fighters to retreat, before his own aircraft was hit and exploded into a fireball.
In December, India observed the Swarnim Vijay Parv at India Gate to mark the culmination of yearlong celebrations organised across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of victory in the 1971 war.
The 13-day war ended on December 16, 1971, with the Indian Army taking 93,000 Pakistanis as prisoners of war.
The Republic Day fly past will end with 17 Jaguar fighters flying in a formation to commemorate the 75th year of the country’s Independence.
The formations being flown to commemorate the victory in the 1971 war in the 75th year of India’s Independence are extremely significant, former Air Chief Marshal Fali Major said.
“The Tangail airdrop and the Meghna heli-borne operation were among the events that changed the course of the war,” the retired air force chief said. “The actions speeded up the capture of Dhaka without any problems and led to the birth of a new nation.”