Thursday, March 24, 2011

Indian Navy’s Information Warfare squadron base INAS-310 ‘COBRA’ celebrated

Indian Navy’s Goa based based squadron, INAS-310 ‘COBRA’, celebrated its golden jubilee yesterday.

The squadron has two unit citations, over 80,000 hrs of flying, operations in – 1971 (East Pakistan), 1999 (‘Op Vijay’) and 2002 (‘Op Parakram’). Other operations that participated were Operation Vijay (Liberation of Goa) in December 1961, 1965 war (defend naval assets) against Pakistan, 1988 Operation Pawan (against LTTE) in Srilanka and 1988 Operation Cactus (maldives).

INAS 310 was commissioned by Nawab Ali Yavar Jung on 21 Mar 1961 in Heyres, France. The squardon was headed by Lt Cdr Mihir K Roy (later Vice Admiral). The squardon was commissioned on the French Aircraft carrier ‘Arromanches.’ The first Alize 1050 aircraft was handed over to India on 7th January, 1961 at a place called Villacoublay in France. The Cobra’s participated in a tactical excercise with Type-12 ships (INS Beas and INS Betwa). Both Alize and Type-12 (from UK) were newely acquired and were making their way to India.

The squadron operated from INS Vikrant being acquired from the UK. The COBRAs operated the Alizes from INS Vikrant for the next twenty six years ie till 10 May 1987. The Alizes saw action during the 1971 Indo-Pak war when the squadron’s aircraft flew extensively, remarkably, even by night. The squadron earned six Vir Chakras, six Nao Sena Medals and three mention-in-Despatches for these operations. Vice Adm M K Roy and Cmde RAJ Anderson, the pilot who carried out the first landing of the Alize on INS Vikrant were among the 100 odd veterans attending the ceremony.

With the induction of the Dornier 228, in 1991, the squadron transformed itself from a carrier borne ASW squadron to a shore based Maritime Reconnaisance and Electronic Warfare squadron . The squadron’s exploitation of the Electronic Suite on board, and demonstrated domain expertise, earned it the distinction of being called the ‘Information Warfare’ squadron of the Indian Navy.

The Information Warfare reputation of the squadron was such that the squadron’s services were requisitioned by the IAF and the Army for operations in the Western sector during the 1999 Kargil Operation. The squadron’s aircraft operated far from any sea and from IAF airfields all along the Western border.

It was during this period that the COBRAs moulted from the blue and white skin to the steel grey skin. As recounted by a COBRA, “one day as we were returning to the (IAF) airfield from a sortie, the airfield being camouflaged was quite invisible but the Naval Dornier with its sparkling White wings shone like a torchlight. Immediately thereafter the Dorniers were recalled to Goa and repainted to a dull grey in two days and repositioned in the forward airfields”. The squadron now operates only grey Dorniers.

The COBRAs earned another unit citation in 2002 for their stellar performance during Operation Parakram. The squadron later inducted the ‘Para’ version of the Dornier and has now expanded its repertoire to include para dropping of Marine Commandoes.

The COBRAs, currently commanded by Cdr Sanjay Chauhan.

The squadron is also hosting an International Seminar on ‘Airborne Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance (ISR)” on 22 Mar 11.