– globalbihari bureau
Sulur (Tamil Nadu): The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday inducted Tejas Mk-1 Full Operational Capability (FOC) aircraft into the recently resurrected No 18 Squadron, the “Flying Bullets” at Air Force Station Sulur, marking yet another important step towards enhancing the operational capability of the Air Force. The Squadron is the first in the IAF to induct this platform. This is also an important milestone in the country’s indigenous fighter aircraft program and a significant boost to the ‘Make In India’ initiative. Tejas Mk-1 FOC is a single engine, light weight, highly agile, all weather multi role fighter aircraft capable of air-to-air refueling thus making it a truly versatile platform.
The Squadron was operationalised by Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria. The occasion was marked by the presentation of aircraft documents of the Tejas FOC version by R Madhavan, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to the CAS. The CAS further handed these over to the Commanding Officer of 18 Squadron Group Captain Manish Tolani, along with the ceremonial keys to the unit. The event commenced with a fly past comprising of a helicopter formation of the Mi 17 V5 and the ALH, An-32 transport aircraft and Tejas Mk-1 fighters.
No 18 Squadron was raised at Ambala on 15 Apr 1965 with the Folland Gnat Aircraft. Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, the only Param Vir Chakra recipient of the Indian Air Force was a part of the Squadron during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. The Squadron also has the unique distinction of having operated two HAL made aircraft, the Tejas and the Ajeet which it also operated from the same station. Over the years it also operated MiG-27 ML aircraft from various bases across the country. The Squadron was number plated in Apr 2016. The Squadron falls under the operational control of Southern Air Command which is responsible for integrating the Squadron into the IAF Concept of Operations.