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Home > News > PTI

Black Panthers, Camels to get President's colours

February 12, 2007 08:13 IST

President A P J Abdul Kalam will on February 15 present the President's Standard to 'Black Panthers' and 'Camels' at a function in Bhuj, Gujarat, in recognition to nearly 50 years of illustrious service rendered by the two squadrons of the Indian Air Force.

Nicknamed the Black Panthers, the MIG-21 squadron based in Bhuj and Chandigarh-based AN-32 medium-lift tactical transport squadron, also called the Camels, will be the 39th and 40th IAF units respectively to receive this rare honour.

The two squadrons will be honoured by the President at a special ceremonial parade to be held at the IAF air base in Bhuj.

Colours and Standard in military parlance symbolizes excellence. The award of Colours and Standard by the President is a great honour bestowed in recognition of the distinguished service rendered by a unit to the nation.

"This event is of great importance for the Bhuj air force base, which was completely destroyed in the earthquake of January 2001," Air Marshal P K Mehra, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), told media persons.

"Through this event, we want to showcase how the IAF had recovered from this tragic event," Mehra said at a special curtain raiser held on Sunday in connection with the President's forthcoming visit.

"Most of the concrete structures, including the Air Traffic Control were re-built after they were reduced to dust," Mehra added.

The earthquake had killed about 30 airmen and 68 members of their families in Bhuj.

"Christened 'The Black Panthers,' number 37 Squadron was formed on December 23, 1957 at Palam, New Delhi with Squadron leader A L Bajaj as the first CO," said Wing Commander P Mohan, the incumbment CO (Commanding Officer) of the squadron.

"The squadron was equipped with Vampire night-fighters to begin with. And in the five-decades that followed the squadron switched over to the Hunter sub-sonic fighter jets in 1962 before being re-equipped with the present-day Mig-21s in February 1977," he said while making a presentation on the squadron's history.

"The squadron was called upon to take part in the operations for the liberation of Goa in December 1961. In the 1965 war, the squadron was based in Chabua in upper Assam when hostilities with China broke out," Mohan said.

"The defining moment of glory for the Black Panthers was the pinpoint accurate bombing of the Governor's house at Dhaka (Bangladesh) on December 14, 1971," he remarked.

Similarly, the squadron number 48, christened as the 'Camels,' became operational at Srinagar on February 5, 1960 with six Dakota MK II aircrafts. Today, this squadron is an acknowledged transport unit of the IAF equipped with the Russian-built AN-32 aircraft and operates from Chandigarh under Western Air Command.

In its peacetime role, the squadron is tasked for air maintenance of Indian Army and Paramilitary forces, deployed in the Leh-Ladakh sector and the Siachen glacier.

Apart from its role in wars of 1962, 1965 and 1971, the squadron also helped extensively in the flood relief in Bihar, North East, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat and earthquake relief mission to Latur (Maharashtra), Bhuj (Gujarat) and Jammu and Kashmir.

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