IAF's Black Archers to get President's Standards

The Standard is the highest recognition of distinguished service rendered by a military unit and is awarded once. Besides the 47 Squadron, President Pratibha Patil will also present the Standard to TACDE, a training establishment of the IAF for developing air combat tactics and team leaders, based in Gwalior, IAF officials said.

In the IAF, Standards are bestowed on combat units while non-combat units and establishments are presented the Colours. A ceremonial parade with a fly-past by the 47 squadron and TACDE aircraft will mark the occasion. A detachment from 47 Squadron, along with a few MiG-29 aircraft which it flies, is already at Gwalior to prepare for the historic event.

Other functions to mark the occasion include the release of a First Day Cover, a photo exhibition and some social functions. The Defence Minister and the Chief of Air Staff are among those expected to be present at the parade.

Tasked to defend the Indian skies from enemy air attacks from the western border with Pakistan, particularly Punjab, the 47 Squadron, also called the Black Archers, was raised on Toofani aircraft at Halwara in December 1959, with Sqn Ldr DA Lafontaine, who later rose to become the Chief of Air Staff, as its first commander.

It was re-equipped with MiG-21 FL aircraft in 1968 when it was based in Chandigarh and later became the first squadron to convert to MiG-29, a fighter aircraft it flies till date, in 1986.

It also took part in all major conflicts be it 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan and the 1999 Kargil battle, when it flew maximum sorties to take down enemy positions, said the Squadron's present commanding officer Wing Commander Vikas Sharma. The 47 Squadron has two Vir Chakras and three Vayu Sena Medals to its credit for the valour shown by its personnel during conflicts while facing the enemy.

The TACDE, which was formed here in February 1971 and is considered as one of the fighter squadrons of the IAF, is divided into two wings -- one dealing with development of tactics and the other handling the training of fighter pilots.

Today, this establishment, which moved to Gwalior in 1972, also trains aircrew from the helicopter stream, fighter controllers, crew from surface-to-air guided weapons and also fighter pilots & direction officers from the Indian Navy. The TACDE has won a Vir Chakra and a Vayu Sena Medal while participating in the 1971 war and seven other Vayu Sena Medals for accomplishing other tasks.

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