Bengaluru: Resurrected in Bengaluru on July 1, 2016, at the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) of Indian Air Force (IAF) and then moved to Air Force Station Sulur, near Coimbatore on July 1, 2018, -- the No 45 Squadron, Flying Daggers -- now operating the Tejas has come a long way, flourishing leaps and bounds, every passing day.
Today, the Flying Daggers proudly stand as a hallmark of indigenisation, scripting new lessons in raising, maintaining and operating a desi flying machine that has caught the imagination of the nation.
Air Marshal Balakrishnan Suresh, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command, Thiruvananthapuram, has been playing a mentor’s role to Flying Daggers since he took over the reins of the command.
He told Onmanorama that the Flying Daggers are shaping well as a squadron ironing out all teething issues. “By March 2019 the squadron will have more machines to operate,” Air Marshal Suresh said.
Great flying environment
For the squadron, the move to AFS Sulur, endows a more conducive flying environment.
“For the Daggers, in the fair winds of Sulur, have a typical IAF environment which is conducive for safe and sustained flying,” says an official of the Station. He said the moving the squadron to a new location involved much more than just flying the fighters in.
“We had to physically move the entire range of ground equipment and then set up the maintenance facilities at AFS Sulur. We also had to establish the logistics support for spares and consumables to sustain unhindered operations,” he adds.
In addition, over 100 families had to move in at one go and they had to be settled at the new base in terms of housing and schooling among others.
Air Commodore A K Puntambekar, Air Officer Commanding (AOC), AFS Sulur is being admired by the Flying Daggers for playing a key role in accommodating the new unit.
Amid settling down, the Flying Daggers had to also ensure that the squadron’s flying operations were not hindered at any point of time.
The team is now focusing on training more pilots in both air combat and air-to-ground roles. They are hopeful that the increase in number of pilots and aircraft will enhance the operational capabilities of the squadron.
“The Tejas programme spearheads the country’s efforts to increase its self reliance and the Flying Daggers are witnessing a moment of pride on their path to assume greater responsibilities towards safeguarding national skies,” says an official.
The squadron is being commanded by Gp Capt Samrath Dhankhar, a recipient of Vayu Sena Medal. The Flying Daggers moved to Sulur under his command. He is a Fighter Combat Leader with flying experience of more than 1600 hours.
His deputy is Wg Cdr Manish Tolani, the Flight Commander of Flying Daggers. He is a Cat A Qualified Instructor and an Instrument Rating InstructorExaminer with vast experience of over 2200 hours on MiG 29, MiG 21s and Hawk MK 132A.
Flying Daggers now enjoy an envious operating environment and a modern squadron complex at AFS Sulur. Their move to the new base is a giant leap towards their establishment within IAF as a formidable squadron.
(The writer is an independent aerospace, defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)