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South-Western Air Command

South-Western Air Command is located at Ghandinagar in the state of Gujarat. The Command was originally established in 1980 at Jodhpur, and was previously under the authority of Central Air Command. The Command's Are of Responsibility extends from Gujarat to Saurashtra, from Kutch to Pune and covers most of Rajasthan.

Permanent airfields assigned to the Command are located Bhuj, Jaisalmer, Jamnagar, Joghpur, Nali and Poona, with forward airbases located at Ahmadabad, Nal, Suratgarth and Uttarlai.

Largely tasked with an air defense mission (though reportedly given also a strike mission), the Command is assigned squadrons equipped with MiG-21, MiG-23BN, Mig-29 and Su-30 aircraft. It is also equipped with the Jaguar aircraft for maritime attack and possibly the Canberra.

The South-Western Air Command (SWAC) is one among the five operational commands of the world's fourth largest Air Force. Raised initially at Jodhpur as No. 1 Operational Group on September 21, 1972 it was subsequently "upgraded" to SWAC on July 23, 1980 due to strategic reasons.

The area of SWAC was carved out of Western Air Command, which included most of Rajasthan southward, through Gujarat to Saurashtra and the Kutch area. In a significant strategic expansion in mid-80's, units located under Pune and erstwhile Bombay were also transferred from Central Air Command to SWAC. Thus, the area of responsibility of SWAC now encompasses nearly 1450 km of land border and 2400 km of coast line including the union territories of Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The command is also responsible for the "air-defence" of some of the most valuable assets of the nation in Gujarat and Maharashtra areas, including the off shore rig at Mumbai High. A significant part of its forces also operate in conjunction with the Army and the Navy in the western and southern sector.

Armed with the motto, Jai Shree Varte Veeram meaning victory to the brave, the command has an illustrious past and an impressive operational reputation. If the detection of Pakistan armour in the Rann of Kutch by Flg Off Utpal Borbora during 1965 Indo-Pak War was an event of considerable strategic importance, then the "air battle" of Longewala won by the IAF, was a turning point in the Indo-Pak war of 1971. It was over the desert sands of Longewala, four Hunter aircraft flown by the valiant pilots of IAF from Jaisalmer air base laid the graveyard of more than a regiment of Pakistani tanks including T-59s and Sherman tanks.

The IAF is, today, a technology-intensive force, with a proven record of excellence and professionalism. And, while keeping pace with modernisation, SWAC is also bestowed with the responsibility of training the newly commissioned ab-initio fighter pilots into ferocious and lethal air warriors in its frontline operational squadrons.

Among its varied arsenal and array of modern fighters and weapon platforms are the versatile and proven Mig-21s of the yore, the powerful Mig-23s, Mig-27s, the twin-engine deep penetration strike aircraft in the form of Jaguars, the formidable Mig-29s and the latest acquisition of the IAF, the majestic Su-30 MKIs. These jets regularly dot the south-western skies. Their thunderous roars, take offs, landings and the streaking manouevres are reassuring sights that the sentinels of the Indian skies remain ever so vigilant.

Together with the air-defence networks including radars and surface to air missiles, the strategic defence of the nation in the command remains a formidable one.

But it is not just the fighter fleet of SWAC alone that signifies the operational preparedness, both during war and peace. The other workhorses include the versatile Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters which regularly carry out special heli-borne operations with the troops of the Indian Army in the region as a part of the joint operations. The highly manouevreable Chetak helicopters are used for reconnaissance and search and rescue operations. Carrying out the regular communication duties and mass troop transportation is vested with the Avro transport fleet of the command.

While training and flying activities remain at the forefront of all operations, the operational efficiency of these flying machines is effectively backed by the personnel of the engineering branch of the command. These airmen ensure that both, aircraft and equipment remain at its optimum performance. Backed by state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and modern engineering techniques, these highly trained and motivated airmen form the backbone of all the flying activity.

The concerns of flight and maintenance safety have also been given a high degree of priority, to ensure a safe environment for operations. Indigenous innovations incorporated at the air-base in preventing bird strikes help to provide a safe and accident-free environment to the pilots.

While operations and maintenance ensure that the command is ever ready to stick to its primary commitment to the nation, the administration set-up ensures that the personnel and their families living in each of the air bases are secure and comfortable.

The air warriors of SWAC during calamities have often earned the sobriquet of being "manna from heavens". In the south-western sector, from Gujarat cyclone to the devastating earthquake of January 2001, IAF personnel from the command have been in the forefront of all rescue efforts. An Avro aircraft from No. 11 Squadron under SWAC was the first to land at Bhuj with doctors and medical supplies after the earthquake, which left in its trail tragic tales of misery. Disregarding their own loss of personnel, their own kith and kin, the air warriors worked tirelessly day and night to enable the rescue and relief operations continue. More than 170 sorties were flown by the aircraft of SWAC for relief and rescue operations alone. While more than 230 tons of relief materials were flown in, nearly 700 casualties were evacuated to hospitals in Pune, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Baroda and Mumbai.

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