Air HQ Communication Squadron
Ministry of Defence maintains a fleet of aircraft in the Air Force Communication Squadron at New Delhi to provide air transport within the country to VIPs. The squadron operates three Boeing 737, seven Avro aircraft and six MI-8 helicopters. The orders regulating the use of special VIP flights stipulate that except the President, Vice President, the Prime Minister and the Heads of foreign Governments who are categorised as "VVIP", other entitled personages (OEPs) i.e. Defence Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, Cabinet Secretary, other ministers of the Central Government, Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence, Chiefs of the three Services, Defence Secretary and senior Service and civilian officers connected with Defence organisations can also avail of the facility of special flight. However, other entitled personages are to make use of commercial air services on official duty, whenever possible.
The Squadron adopted the motto 'Ba Hikmat, Himmat aur Hifazat' (with Wisdom, Courage and Safety) in 1952. In 1962 the President awarded the Squadron the 'Pegasus' crest (the mythological winged steed of the gods) and the motto was aptly changed to 'Seva aur Suraksha' (Service and Safety), signifying the Squadron's role and the essential character of its operations. This year the Squadron completes glorious service to the nation and the Indian Air Force.
Air Headquarters Communication Squadron of the IAF was formed on 1 November 1947 and has been based at Air Force Station, Palam since its inception. Originally called Air Headquarters Communication Squadron (RIAF), it became Air Headquarters Communication Squadron (IAF) on India's becoming a Sovereign Republic. The Primary role of the squadron is to convey VVIPs/VIPs of India and visiting foreign heads of states and Governments.
The requirement of conveying YIPs in pre-Independence India led to the formation of a small unit, Communication Squadron (India) under Wg Cdr Bryant Fenner in January 1947. After Independence this small unit was taken over by Sqn Ldr M Duarte on November 1,1947 andcarne to becalled Air Headquarters Communication Squadron (RIAF). In 1950, on India becoming a sovereign republic, the RIAF was replaced by IAF.
At the inception, the role of the squadron was to convey civil and service YIPs and Air Force officers on duty and provide flying facilities to GD officers in non- flying units in Delhi and Dehradun. The squadron started functioning with eleven aircrew, one engineering officer, one adjutant and a handful of SNCOs. The first aeroplane flown was the Airspeed Oxford. At the time of formation, there was no official motto or crest. In 1952, the squadron adopted the motto: Sa Hikmat, Himmat aur Hifazat (with wisdom, courage and safety). In 1962, the President awarded the squadron the 'Pegasus' crest (the mythological winged steed of the Gods) and the motto was changed to the present one: Seva aur Suraksha (service and safety).
The quality of officers and men of the squadron has been a consistent factor from formation till date. Only the very best in the Service is accepted. The aircrew and technicians are the most qualified in transport operations in the IAF. Tradesmen of the non- technical branches, Non-combatants (Enrolled) and civilians are specially chosen after shortlisting the most competent in their fields. Finally, the most stringent security verification precedes the privilege of stepping into the portals of the 'pegasus'. The squadron has had twenty-two Indian Commanding Officers till date in addition to W g Cdr Fenner, the British Commanding Officer at the time of the formation of the squadron.
Orginally equipped with the Airspeed Oxford (1947 to 1948), the squadron went on to acquire and operate the Harvard (1947 to 1968), DC-3 (1948 to 1967), Devon (1948 to 1978), Illushin-14 (1955 to 1967), Viscount (1956 to 1962), Vampire (1956 to 1962), HS-748 (1964 till date), Tupolev-124 (1966 to 1981), Boeing-737 (1983 till date) and Mi-8 helicopters (1984 till date).
Though established primarily to convey VIPs and provide flying practice to officers posted in non-flying units in and around the capital, the squadron has often gone beyond this charter to contribute its mite towards military operations in war and peace and has come to the aid of civil authorities time and again.
The very first VIP flight was to convey U Aung Ban III a Dakota on January 2, 1947 from Peshawar to Delhi. The first recorded flight of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (as Deputy PM in the interim government) was a survey of riot-hit areas of partitioned Punjab in 1947. On February 28, 1950 the squadron proudly carried the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad to Varanasi. In 1953, a secret flight was undertaken to evacuate the King of Nepal and his family to New Delhi. The same year, a long distance trip took VIPs to London for the Queen's coronation ceremony. Three Dakotas undertook Marshal Bulganin's tour in 1955 following which the Marshal presented an IL-14 to Pt Nehru. Mrs lndira Gandhi's last flight was on a B- 737 and Mi-8 belonging to this squadron on October 30, 1984. 0ne day prior to her assassination. In 1985, during Rajiv Gandhi's election tours, the squadron flew him 36000 kms in 25 days with 180 take-offs and landings. In April 1994 the Vice President, Mr KR Narayanan was flown Australia and back via Bangkok, Bali and Singapore, probably the' longest flight by the 'Pegasus'. The squadron can proudly claim that it has flown every President, Vice President and Prime Minister of India and nearly every foreign dignitary who has set foot on the Indian soil from HO Chi Minh and Nikita Krushchev to Pope John Paul II and Kofi Annan.
In addition to the regular job of conveying VIPs, the squadron has been called upon to supplement military air operations both during war and peace. The first action of this kind was during the J&K operation in 1948. Twentythree sorties flown in support of the Army saw three officers, Flight Lieutenants PL Dhawan, NB Menon and PO Barty earn a Vir Chakra each for outstanding bravery in the face of enemy. In September 1948, the squadron undertook bombing sorties over Adilabad and Bidar area with Fig Offr BW Chauhan as part of the crew during the Hyderabad police action. A UN Peace Keeping Force was carried to Indo-China in 1954. In 1960, the squadron's contribution was 31 hours and 55 minutes of flying effort carrying men and material to the theatre of action during the Goa Operation. In 1962, a total of 44 sorties were executed to airlift troops and convey YIPs to the area of operations during the Chinese aggression. The squadron, under Wg Cdr ID Bhalla operated detachments at Charbatia and Port Blair during the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh, flying 29 sorties towards reconnaissance, maritime and VIP missions. In fact, when the war broke out, Mrs Indira Gandhi was in Calcutta and was flown back to Delhi by night with all external aircraft lights and airfield lights in Delhi switched off.
The squadron has always responded promptly to all calls for assistance from the civil authorities. Mail runs, flood reconnaissance, emergency airlifts of men and material and casualty evacuations have been provided as and when asked for by the civil administration. Carrying election officials and necessary material during the general elections has been a regular activity. In 1953; a reconnaissance flight to Mr. Everest was undertaken to confirm its conquest.
In fifty years of dedicated service to the nation, the squadron personnel have won many accolades and achieved many 'firsts' , It was the first transport squadron to be awarded flying categories when three officers were awarded Cat 'B' in May 1949. In November 1949, Flt, Lt Ganapathy, GD(N) became the first Cat' A' navigator. FIg Offr BW Chauhan became the first pilot to get a Cat' A' in 1950. The first Avro HS- 748 landings at forward airstrips of Fukche (13734 ft) and Walong were carried out in 1973 by Sqn Ldrs SS Malhotra and D Joseph. Gp Capt RPS Garcha was the first to land a Boeing- 737 at Thoise, taking the squadron's operational horizons to the Siachen Glacier. Gp Capt AD Karandikar holds a records of the highest flying hours logged by any pilot in the IAF (12,500 hrs) till date. The first Indian aeroplane to land in Mongolia was a Communication Squadron B- 737 carrying the then Vice President of India, Dr SD Sharma in April 1992. The squadron was awarded the President's Standard on December II, 1984 in recognition of its glorious and dedicated service to the nation.
Inspite of the intensive flying, the squadron is credited with the lowest accident rate in the Indian Air Force. The squadro has won trophies for flight safety and the best categorised unit. The squadron personnel have won 3 Vir Chakra, 3 Ashok Chakra, 2 Shaurya Chakra, 6 Vishisht Seva Medals and 19 Vayu Sena Medals. In January 1949, FIt Lt Bhim Rao's successful force landing of a crippled Devon near Jaipur with Sardar Patel on board earned a 'Letter of Appreciation by the Constituent Assembly of India', an award never before or after given to any service personnel or organisation.
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