MiG-23 takes final flight into history

By SiliconIndia   |   Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 05:00 Hrs
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Jamnagar: In a farewell ceremony attended by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi, the 224 Squadron of the Indian Air Force bid adieu to the last five MiG-23 MF fighter aircraft.

With this, the squadron ? christened the Warlords ? transcended into aviation folklore of sort, bringing an end to the operational duty of the flying machines that had logged 32,581 flying hours. Led by Wing Commander M K Singh, the MiG-23 MFs ? one of the most powerful single-engine fighter aircraft in the world till date?gave a formation in the sky as a mark of the farewell. Singh later handed over the documents form 700 (log book) and pilot notes to Tyagi to mark the official phase-out of the fighter planes from IAF.

"Though they are best in performance, considering cost effectiveness, the IAF has phased out MiG-23 MF," said Tyagi. Tyagi said that Sukhoi was being considered as an alternative to MiG-23 MF. Recognizing the importance of technology upgradation in defence, the Air Chief said: "The economic growt is possible only when the country is secured. To assure the security, the technology upgradation in the defence force is must. And, the IAF has been continually working to upgrade itself with the latest technologies."

He said in future the area of operation of IAF will not be limited to air space. "It will extended into aerospace," said Tyagi, adding, "India will get 24 Air Jet Trainers (AJTs) aircraft from the UK in September."

With phase-out, these last five flying machines will be kept as gate guardians. While one will be sent to Air Force Academy at Hyderabad, another will be sent to Air Force Museum at Palam. A decision on the other three is yet to be taken. On Tuesday, it was an emotional moment for the squadron that flew the machines for the last time. "These flying machines were one of the biggest assets of IAF. It was a great feeling to be part of the 224 Squadron," said Wing Commander R Khajuria.

For Squadron Leader Vijay Shelke, it was a moment of mixed feeling. "I feel sad as it bid adieu to MiG-23 MF. But at the same time, I am excited to take up a new assignment," he said. The 224 Squadron, formed on July 4, 1983 at Adampur in Punjab, had become operational with its primary role as air defence and secondary role as ground attack. It had been raised along with Squadron 223 to counter the air threat from the US made F-16 fighters of the neighbouring country.

In their nearly two-and-a-half decades, the Warlords have participated in various operations that include Meghdoot in air defence of Siachen Glacier during 1985-86. The squadron has also the rare distinction of having operated from Leh.

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