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Squadron 21

The Squadron crest is the 'Ankush' and was approved on 08 Jul 75 by, the then President, Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. The 'Ankush' is the weapon used by the mahout to spur the wild elements of warfare. A fighter aircraft, though small in size like the 'Ankush', is capable of unleashing a sizeable damage on the enemy. The Squadron motto is 'Siddhivasti Saha Se', which means 'Success lies in courage'.

The first IAF Squadron to convert onto the MIG-21( BIS), 21 Squadron known as the 'ANKUSH', operates from 12 Wing under the control of HQ WAC, IAF.

21 Squadron, AF was formed on 16 October 1965 at 7 Wing, AF, to be equipped with Gnat Mk I aircraft. The Squadron initially flew aircraft borrowed from 2 Squadron, AF and 18 Squadron, AF, until on 14 May 66, when she got her first complement of ac. The Squadron was initially a dedicated air defence systems. In December 1968, the Squadron was also alloted the role of ground attack.

During the 1971 Operations, the primary task assigned to the Squadron was Air Defence of the Barmer sector. For this the Squadron operated from Uttarlai with a complement of eight Gnat aircraft. It addition, three Gnat aircraft and three Pilots were positioned at Amritsar to assist in the Air Defence forces of that sector. The Pilots were initially housed in tents. Subsequently they were shifted to the underground ATC. During the days, preceding the war, word was floated that Paki Commandos were seen in the sands. The jockeys therefore, activated night patrol by turns. The jockeys were getting restless in their hideout with no sign of war and the endless wait, had started taking its toll. There were a number of VIP visits during this period.

The news of commencement of hostitlities filtered down at dusk on 3 December 1971. At about 2015 hrs, a PAF B-57 came and dropped eight bombs, all on the runway. That put the runway out of commission. However, next morning civil labour was employed to get atleast the parallel taxy track cleared. Thereafter only parallel taxy track was used for take off and landing. The Squadron flew a total of 109 AD sorties mainly comprised CAP missions.

Late in the war, a P-12 Radar was fully established at base giving excellent bearing, but the Pakis started avoiding Uttarlai airfield. Instead they went for the advancing army columns. The Squadrons, idea of giving close air support to the advancing columns did not materialise as the distance involved were beyond the capability of the tiny Gnat fighters.

On 13 December 1971, six aircraft move to Ahmedabad for the Air Defence of Ankleshwar Oil Refinery. A few days later four aircraft were asked to move to Srinagar. However, at Pathankot itself they were informed of the cease fire and despatched back to Gorakhpur. The highlight of the Ahmedabad stay was the visit paid by Film Star Asha Parekh.

The Squadron having formed at 7 Wing, AF Ambala stayed there until May 1966. Thereafter the Squadron moved to 17 Wing, AF, Gorakhpur until the 1971 operations. The Squadron won a number of trophies in Gunnery meets and was visited by the CAS, AIr Chief marshal Arjan Singh DFC, AOC-in-C, HQ CAC, IAF, AVM H Mulgavkar MVC and the DCAS AIr Chief Marshal MM Engineer PVSM, MVC, DFC.

The Squadron in September 1971 was earmarked to become a type training Squadron. Ultimately, in May 1973, it was tasked with the conversion training of Pilots on Gnat Mk I, in addition to the normal roles of AD and GA. During the period when the Squadron was equipped with the Gnats, the Squadron participated in a number of exercise mainly consisting of AD missions. The Squadron was visited by DASI in 72 and 75 and the Squadron moved to 7 C&MU at Bakshi Ka Talab and operated there til the time she was earmarked to be re-equipped with the Mig-21 BIS. During this time, three Officers were awarded the VM.

On 1 December 1976, the Squadron moved out of C&MU to 2 Wing, AF Pune to be re-equipped with the MIG-21 BIS. All existing Officers were posted out and Pilots trained in Russia on MIG-21 BIS were posted in.

The Squadron started operation from 2 Wing, AF from the Southern dispersal. On 1 December 1976, six Officers of the flying branch and four Officers of the technical branch formed the nucleus of the unit for its new role. On 15 December 1968, USSR trained technicians and 172 other technicians qualified on type were posted in. Howerer, no flying was carried out in December 1976, as the Squadron had not received any MIG-21 BIS aircraft.

The Squadron was tasked with the conversion of other BIS Squadrons and a number of Pilots from other commands. By September 1977, 19 Pilots from 26 Squadron, AF reported for conversion. The Squadron also retained its roles of AD and GA having been re-equipped with the BIS. It commenced range firing in November 1977. Within the first year, Squadron converted 46 Pilots belonging to other units.

In June 1978, the first accident took place on MIG-21 BIS aircraft. In a dark phase sortie, the nose oleo of an aircraft sheared off on landing. The engine and airframe were declared Cat B.

By June 1979, the Squadron had also converted 11 Pilots from 23 Squadron, AF and 5 Pilots from 15 Squadron, AF.

During the period 77-78, ther Squadron took part in a number of exercises. These include EX RANBHERU, EX AGNIVARSHA and CAC Weapons Meet, all at 4 FBSU, AF , EX AJINKYA at 5 Wing, AF and EX HAMLA conducted by SWAC in the Rajasthan Sector. It the Inter Command Gunnery Meet held at 4 FBSU, AF in February 1980, the Squadron won the team event and R/P event for CAC. The Squadron celeberated its 14th Anniversary from 9 March 1980 to 22 March 1980.

On 18 and 19 May 1982, the unit achieved 100% serviceability and all aircraft were flown on 19 May 1982. During this period, the Squadron took part in air to air missiles and gun firing at 5 Wing, AF. The Squadron also participated in a number of exercises including Ex VAJRAGHAT-III, EX CHAUKANNA-III and IV. The Squadron took part in CAC Weapons meet conducted at KK Range, Ahmednagar from 10 May to 21 May 1983. The Squadron was declared overall champion, in addition to coming first in the R/P team event among the MIG Squadrons. In the inter Squadron Gunnery Meet held at 2 Wing, AF the Squadron won R/P individual, F/G team and pactice bomb team events.

In 1982, the Squadron operated a Detachment of four MIG-21 BIS aircraft and one MIG-21 BIS trainer aircraft from 17 FBSU, AF Trivandrum. It was the first Super Sonic Squadron to operate from the newly formed Southern Air Command. On 13th and 14th November 1982, AF Golden Jubilee was celebrated at 2 Wing, AF.

The Squadron was inspected by DASI from 26 April 1982 to 30 April 1982 and was graded Average plus.

On 27 September 1984, The Squadron moved to its Op location at SantaCruz and stayed there till 30 October 1984. Again on 31 August 1984, following the assassination of the then PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Squadron was asked to move to Santacruz with five aircraft. The activation was called off on 8 December 1984.

During this period the Squadron participated in a number of exercises and in one major exercise condenamed EX RANVIJAY from 15 March 1986 to 22 March 1986. CAS, OAS and AD missions were flown. The Squadron also took part in EX TRISHAKTI in April 1986, and in EX RAPID DEPLOYMENT from 24 to 28 June 1986. The other major exercises in which the Squadron took part was EX LIVE WIRE from 11 November to 20 November 1986. Prior to this the runway at 2 Wing, AF went under repairs and the Squadron was asked to operate a detachment with all available aircraft and Pilots at 33 Wing, AF. In EX LIVEWIRE the Squadron operated a detachment of six aircraft and Pilots from Bareilly and another six aircraft and Pilots from NAL in AD role. The Squadron carried out a number of succesfull missions.

The Squadron was selected to carry out trials of the Crew Chief System which involved a 2 man DI of the aircraft on the flight line. This system was introduced in April 1981, and the trials were successful. It was discontinued and in between and re-introduced in February 1986. It has since again been discontinued.

In October 1986, the Pune runway was due to undergo repairs and as such the Squadron was asked to move on extended detachment with all available aircraft and Pilots to 33 Wing, AF for normal operations. The Squadron operated as a detachment from October 1986 and in January 1987 was asked to move its A and B flights by 10 January 1987 and C flight by 10 March the same year.

On 23 January 1987, the Indian Armed Forces were put on Red Alert following the build up of tension on the Indo-Pak border. By January 28, a total of six aircraft and pilots were ferried from Pune to Santra Cruz as per war plan. The remaining Pilots were put on ORP duties at 33 Wing, AF. On 5 February, six aircraft were moved to 32 Wing, AF on attachment till total de-escalation in mid-April.

Between the 17 and 20 March 1987, the Squadron took part in EX BRASS TACKS IV with ten aircraft and Pilots. The Pilots were retrieved from 32 Wing to take part in this exercise. The Squadron flew a total of 86 sorties of CAS, Search and Strike, Counter air and CAP mission with success. The Squadron also took part in air activation at Santacruz from 22 September to 25 September 1987. It flew four sorties alongwith Rakshak aircraft in the 'Buddy Role'at Bombay High for this purpose. From 25 February to 3 March 1988, the squadron took part in EX Hammer Blow-I from 41 and 33 Wing, AF respectively. A total of 78 sorties comprising Air Defence and strike mission were flown. In the later Squadron Armament Competition in October 1987, The Squadron got best individual bombing trophy. The Squadron also participated in a mixed formation fly past at 2 Wing, AF for BAAZ induction ceremony on 6 December 1987.

The Squadron moved out from 33 Wing, AF where it had been located since 10 January 1987, to 12 Wing, AF. Sixteen fighter aircraft were ferried out on May 9-10, 1988. The Squadron initially operated from the dispersed location along the loop taxy track (Plaza area), awaiting the movement out of 9 and 222 Squadrons who had occupied their permanent location in the hangers. The Squadron set up its independent 'C' flight at 12 Wing in June 1988.

The Squadron, at 12 Wing, AF was earmarked to man live ORPs in WAC, in addition to its normal operations. The first ORP to be manned by the ANKUSHES in this command was at Suratgarh from August 1-12 1988.

The Squadron participated in the flypast for colour presentation to 17 Squadron, AF and 104 HU,AF at Palam. From December 5-16, 1988, eight Mig-21 BIS aircraft undertook the activation of 1 FBSU, AF. The Squadron operating from 12 Wing, AF participated in the Air power Demonstration at Tilpat range.

The Squadron again operated a detachment from 1 FBSU, AF from 08 May 89. But the aircraft were temporarily grounded from 11 may onwards following a spate of accidents on type elsewhere. The aircraft were finally cleared to fly on 01 Jun. From 11 Oct to 21 October 1989, the Squadron operated an eight aircraft detachment from 41 Wing, AF for heavy armament work. The Squadron took part in EX EKLAVYA in November 1989 and did reasonably satisfactorily. Its R/P team missed the WAC team championship by mere 1%.

One of the DASI inspectors visited the Squadron on 7/8 February 1989 to check out the aircrew combat missions. Performance was High Sat. A two member team from TACDE visited the Squadron between 19 to 23 March 1990 for combat orientation capsule.

The operational role of the Squadron continues to be Air Defence. The Squadron frequently carried out live ORP in the Western Sector. The performance of the Squadron in various aspects of flying, maintenance and administration has been fairly satisfactory. Western Air Command Flight Safety Trophy was awarded to the Squadron for the year 1990-1991. The Squadron also maintained 100% serviceability from 16 to 23 May 1992. All eighteen aircraft flew on 20 May 1992. DASI visited the Squadron from August 11-14 1992. The Squadron performed fairly well in all aspect during the inspection.

The Squadron participated in EX-TRISHUL in February 1993. The Squadron was visited by DASI in March and was assessed at AV+ in all aspects of operations. The Squadron participated in EX-TRISHUL in February 1995.

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