The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday inducted Tejas Mk-1 FOC aircraft into the recently resurrected No 18 Sqn, 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. Air Officer Commanding in Chief of the Southern Air Command, Air Marshal Amit Tiwari, and the Commodore Commandant of 18 Sqn, Air Marshal TD Joseph, Mr R Madhavan CMD HAL, Dr Girish S Deodhare, PGD (CA) and Director, Aeronautical Development Agency were also present during the ceremony. While addressing the personnel at AF Station Sulur, the CAS congratulated them and lauded the efforts put in by Southern Air Command and AF Station Sulur towards the induction of the new airborne platform. He complimented Chairman HAL, ADA, DRDO labs, DPSUs, MSMEs and all agencies involved in the production of LCA for the achievement of this historic milestone.
The occasion was marked by the presentation of aircraft documents of the Tejas FOC version by the HAL CMD 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 flypast comprising of a helicopter formation of the Mi 17 V5 and the ALH, An-32 transport aircraft and Tejas Mk-1 fighters.
No 18 Sqn 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.
Before the induction ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria PVSM AVSM VM ADC flew a sortie in the Tejas Mk I fighter with 45 Sqn.