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Squadron celebrates 50 yrs

In 1972, Arun Prakash was awarded the Vir Chakra with seven others.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 02:44 IST

The most decorated 20 Squadron of the Indian Air Force, which will be flying President APJ Abdul Kalam in a Sukhoi 30 aircraft next month, had Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash flying with it 35 years ago. The Pune-based squadron is celebrating 50 years on June 1.

As a young Lieutenant with the Indian Navy, Arun Prakash was sent on deputation to the squadron about four-five months before the 1971 India-Pakistan war. At the time, the squadron comprised the Hawker Hunter aircraft. Though he was a trained pilot by then, Arun Prakash learnt to fly the Hunter during his deputation. The navy chief will be in Pune on Saturday to kick off the celebrations.

His skill came to good use once war broke out. The squadron was engaged in the western sector, carrying out counter air strikes against the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) bases and strategic targets. “In the second week of the war, the squadron, called the Lightnings, switched to close air support and ground attack tasks, mainly in support of the army in Chhamb, Poonch, Sialkot and Naushera sectors,’’ an Indian Navy officer said.

During these weeks, Arun Prakash took part extensively in the sorties. “The most famous strike was the attack on the Attock Oil Refinery, where the squadron caused extensive damage,’’ the officer said.

At the end of the war, the squadron had long list of trophies to display — two air-to-air kills (sabres), 13 on-ground aircraft including two C-30 Hercules, 10 battle tanks, and several trucks, wagons and trains.

In 1972, Arun Prakash was awarded the Vir Chakra with seven others. The squadron was also awarded two Maha Vir Chakras, 10 Vayusena medals and three “mention-in-dispatches.”

First Published: May 27, 2006 02:44 IST