Vasco: INAS 300, the premier fighter squadron of the Indian Navy, completed 60 years in service of the nation last week.
The ‘White Tigers’, as the squadron is popularly known, has the rare distinction of operating all three fighter aircraft of the Indian Navy – Sea Hawk, Sea Harrier and MiG 29K – from all three aircraft carriers – INS Vikrant, INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya. INAS 300 – the White Tigers heralded the era of carrier-borne aviation into the Indian Navy six decades ago with the induction of the Sea Hawk, which provided yeoman service for a little over two decades from the deck of INS Vikrant.
The squadron became the mainstay of power projection over the Indian seas, and proved its mettle on various occasions, including Operation Vijay in 1961, Indo-China war in 1962 and the Indo-Pak wars in 1965 and 1971, wherein the White Tigers earned nine gallantry awards including one Maha Vir Chakra and five Vir Chakras.
The year 1983 ushered in a new era for the White Tigers when the Sea Hawk was replaced by the Sea Harrier which introduced the country to the concept of vertical take offs and landings and served with distinction for over 33 years from the deck of INS Viraat. In 2016, the squadron underwent yet another re-incarnation with the 4++ generation, swing role, supersonic MiG-29K bringing back the art of tail hooking along with the capability of air dominance from the deck of INS Vikramaditya.
From the time the squadron came into being, INAS 300 has brought about transformational changes in the concept of naval air operations and consequently the way the world looks at the squadron.
Transition from isolated surface action groups, search and attack units and naval gunfire support operations to present day carrier battle group operations has been possible only with the assurance of air superiority at sea, an assurance guaranteed by the ‘White Tigers’ over the past decades.
In its current avatar as the MiG-29K training squadron, INAS 300 has the responsibility to produce top notch war ready, deck-borne fighter pilots who can be relied upon to carry out a precision strike on enemy warships when needed.