Aviation Origins

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Indian Naval Aviation - The Legacy

Origin

It is to the credit of the vision of those at the helm in early post-independence era that saw the Indian Navy depute a Royal Indian Navy officer, Lt YN Singh, India’s first naval pilot to the United Kingdom and Canada in 1941 for Basic Pilot Training. In due course he gained experience on escort carriers of the RN during the Second World War.

With no aircraft or carriers being spared by the RN, IN decided to look elsewhere for aircraft and to set up a shore based arm in preparation for future expansion. In 1948 thirteen young officers were sent to the IAF for preliminary flying aptitude screening. Of these ten went to the UK for training at RNAS Donisbristle in Scotland. Five of these brave men eventually earned their wings and moved on for Operational Flying Training (OFT) as pioneers of the Indian Fleet Air Arm.

Formation of Fleet Requirement Unit

The airfield at Kochi was taken over by Indian Navy from the Civil Aviation on 01 Jan 53. The first Sealand touched down at Kochi airfield on 04 Feb 53. The Fleet Requirement Unit (FRU) was commissioned on 11 Mar 53.

First Naval Air Station:- The first Naval Air Station was commissioned as INS Garuda at Kochi on 11 May 1953. Two Firefly Mark 1 target towing aircraft were acquired and these arrived in Cochin (Kochi) on 14 Feb 1955. To maintain continuity of flying proficiency after earning wings, Navy acquired HT-2s from HAL on 07 Oct 1956. Later variant of Firefly were equipped with 20 mm cannon and had provision for carrying bombs and rockets, thus giving the Naval Aviation fighting teeth.

The First Naval Air Squadron:- On 17 Jun 1959 the FRU with 10 Sealand, 10 Firefly and 3 HT-2s was formally commissioned as INAS 550. Later the squadron also flew a gifted Russian MI-4 helicopter, the Dove, HT-2, HJT-16 Kiran, different variants of the Islander and in the 1990s got the Dornier 228.

Naval Jet Squadron:- The Naval Jet Flight was commissioned as INAS 551 on 01 Sep 1961 at Sulur and shifted to Goa in 1964 post Goa liberation. The squadron was operating Vampire F-52 and T-55. Later it got some Sea Hawks from the reserves and finally the HJT-16 Kiran in 1971. The armed version Mk 1A joined in 1978. These aircraft continue to train pilots for frontline squadrons.