The Swift fall in the category of types of birds of prey, which rely on high speed for interception in the open. Swifts have slim wings like a modern fighter aircraft, designed for high speed and maneuverability. A Swift is a long winged, insectivorous bird, stalking and attacking its prey for food with speed, surprise and agility. The largest species of the bird have wing span of 2 feet, a top flying speed of 160 KMPH and can fly a total of 600 miles a day even when feeding its Swift-let. The Swift is extremely fast and has a keen sense of sight, which enables it to spot and intercept its prey from great distance with extreme accuracy.
A fighter aircraft like the AJEET, operating in the skies, is in perfect harmony with the Swift. The AJEET has the same ability to cruise, maneuver, and surprise the enemy with speed and ferocity in attack. As the symbol of 22 Squadron, AF operating AJEET aircraft, the Swift is just appropriate.
During Operations in December 1971, after three intruding Sabre were shot down by the Squadron Pilots, the Squadron earned its name as "SABRE SLAYERS". On 20 December 1985, the President of India awarded the present crest of the named 'SWIFT'. Swift is a small bird, found in the sub-Himalayan tropical forests, famous for its speed, agility and offensive nature. The suitable motto for the swifts, therefore, was decided as 'COURAGE TRIUMPHS'.
22 Squadron, AF, known as the 'SWIFTS' was formed on 15 October 1966 at AF Station Bareilly under Central Air Command. The unit was then equipped with the Gnat Mk-I aircraft. In March 1982, the Squadron was re-equipped with Ajeet Mk-I aircraft. During that period, the Squadron was assigned Ground Attack and Air Defence roles. With the re-equipment of the unit with the HAL built MiG-27 ML aircraft in April 1990, the Squadron was tasked solely with a Ground Attack role.
After its initial formation at AF Station Bareilly, the unit moved to Kalaikunda under Eastern Air Command in September 1968. Since then, the unit has moved in EAC at different bases and has been located at AF Station Hasimara since 5 February 1990.
When hostilities broke out in 1971, during the Indo-Pakistan conflict, the Squadron was only five years old. It was then operating from 5 Wing, AF. The Squadron operated from Dum Dum from 22 September to 26 September 1971 to familiarise with the area. During hostilities, the Squadron operated from Dum Dum from 3 December to 26 December 1971. It was the first Gnat Squadron in the Eastern sector to go into the battle with PAF. It did so with such devastating effects that the PAF treated the diminutive Gnat with respect and caution thereafter. During the operations, the task allotted to the Squadron was five folds:
- Air Defence Operations: 22 Squadron, AF operated a dett from 23 September 1971 onward at DumDum airport. This was in anticipation of hostilities brewing up in East Pakistan. On 22 November 1971, unidentified aircraft were picked-up by our radar violating India Air spaces near Jessore. Four Gnats of 22 Squadron, AF were scrambled on a ground controlled interception, contact was made with 3 American built F-86 Sabres of the PAF, in the ensuing engagement all the three enemy intruders were shotdown.
- Ground Attack: The first air to ground strike by 22 Squadron, AF as launched at 1200 hrs on 6 December 1971, the target allotted was Brisal airfield, south of Dacca. Four Gnats carried out a successful mission destroying all the hangers and causing extensive damage to bunkers around the airfield. Thereafter the Squadron carried out numerous attacks on Ishurdi airfield on December 5-8, 1971 and Jessore on 8 December 1971. It was responsible for the destruction of the Army Brigade HQs at Khulna on 7 December 1971.
- Close Air Support: The Pakistani Army had dug-in in concrete defences around Jessore. This was stalling the advance of our troops on the Jessore and subjecting them to heavy shelling. 22 Squadron, AF was called upon for air support. Various defences around Jessore were destroyed in pinpoint attacks. As a result, the ground forces had little difficulty in over running the few remaining defences.
- Bomber/Transport Escort: The Squadron played a vital role in escorting bombers deep into enemy territory to carry out attacks on enemy lines of communication. The enemy took no chances with the Gnat escorts and the strikes went through unhampered by enemy fighters. Hunter aircraft and Canberra bombers could thus cause extensive damage to enemy strongholds and railway yards. The final assault by the paratroopers in transport aircraft on 11 December 1971 was also given fighter escort by Gnats of 22 Squadron AF, thus ensuring unhindered para dropping operations.
- Anti-Shipping Operations: The retreating enemy made an attempt to escape by sea. Small ships, motor launches and barges were being utilised to carry out fleeting PakistaniOfficials. To prevent their escape, the squadron carried out attacks on Khulna on 7, 10 and 12 December 1971, on Banisol on 6, 8 and 9 December 1971 and on Godanand on 15 December 71.
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