Sea Harriers of the Indian Navy flew for the Last Time today

They were always a sight to behold, a force to reckon with. Fighters landing vertically, akin to helicopters, with ear-splitting roars on a moving airfield despite being fixed-wing. It left even the usually phlegmatic Manmohan Singh slightly nonplussed during the “PM’s day at sea” in 2006. Similar was the case of other politicians, before and after him, like A B Vajpayee and L K Advani.
But the old must give way to the new. Ahead of the 56-year-old aircraft carrier INS Viraat’s retirement later this year, the Navy has finally given Farewell to eyeball-grabbing Sea Harrier “Jump Jets” after 33 years of yeomen service.
The Sea Harriers, part of INAS 300 (Indian Naval Air Squadron 300, also called White Tigers), were inducted into the navy in 1983 and were deployed onboard INS Vikrant and INS Viraat.

sea harrier
Indian Navy Sea Harrier
Navy inducted 30 of the British-origin Sea Harriers from 1983 onwards, but only 11 “air frames” are left now due to old age, lack of spares and cannibalization as well as accidents over the years. “They have flown their last. The six Sea Harriers on board INS Viraat, which has returned to Mumbai from her final operational journey to the International Fleet Review last month, disembarked from the carrier on March 6,” said an officer.
The 11 Sea Harriers are now been mothballed at naval air station INS Hansa in Goa before being distributed as museum pieces to different establishments. “Their pilots are going for career advancement courses or MiG-29K conversion training,” he said.
Interestingly, Sea Harriers were part of INAS 300 (Indian naval air squadron 300) nicknamed the ‘White Tigers’. And much like the feline genetic oddity, a Sea Harrier stood apart, capable as it was of VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) operations.
sea harrier
Sea Harrier launching using Ski Ramp
“Harriers were certainly unconventional in their vertical landing, even though they usually took-off from the angled ski-jump on INS Viraat. With time, their production was stopped in the UK. The British Royal Navy also retired its Sea Harriers in 2006,” said another officer.
The White Tigers squadron will now hibernate till it’s re-commissioned with MiG-29Ks for INS Vikrant, which is slated to be ready by 2018-19. Incidentally, INS Vikramaditya’s MiG-29K squadron INAS 303 is christened ‘Black Panthers’.
Though the Sea Harriers had an operational speed of 640 knots or 1,186 kmph, with a range of around 800 nautical miles, they fell short of exceeding the speed of sound at Mach 1 or 1,235 kmph. They did undergo a “limited upgrade” some years ago, including being fitted with Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multi-mode fire control radars and ‘Derby’ beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, but have outlived their utility. “MiG-29Ks give us a four-fold capability jump over Sea Harriers,” an officer said.
On board INS Viraat
The illustrious and unique Sea Harriers of Indian Navy was given a befitting farewell in a function organized at INS Hansa, Goa on Wednesday (11 may 2016).

The function was attended by Admiral RK Dhowan, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Sunil Lanba, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief Western Naval Command, serving and retired Officers and men of the Indian Navy and all personnel who have served in the INAS 300.

It was a really touching movement to watch them fly for the last time” said a retired pilot who had flown Sea Harriers during his entire time with the Navy.

Speaking on the occasion Admiral RK Dhowan lauded the stellar role played by the squadron in the defence of the country and acknowledged the professionalism of the pilots, the maintainers and all those personnel associated with flying and maintaining the aircraft in peak efficiency during their service.

He said that the rich legacy would continue as the baton is being passed on to the proud young crew of the MiG 29K squadron who have been successful in seamlessly integrating the fighters with INS Vikramaditya in the shortest possible time.

Sea Harrier and her Mother Ship INS Viraat

In appreciation of the faithful service to the nation by INAS 300 ‘White Tigers‘, an impressive ceremony was held today which saw the Sea Harriers fly for one last time, and MiG-29K flanking their outgoing cousins and ceremoniously taking their place.

The air display included supersonic pass by MiG 29s and formation flying by two each Sea Harriers and MiG 29Ks.

The composite air display symbolized a smooth transition from the old to the new in continuance with the proud legacy of the INAS 300.

On completion of the Air display, ‘washing down of the Sea Harriers‘ was carried out in a traditional manner. A first day cover was also released by Admiral RK Dhowan to mark the occasion.

The White Tigers or INAS 300 who stand for excellence, determination and aggressive spirit, heralded the era of carrier borne aviation into the Indian Navy.

Almost six decades ago the squadron was commissioned at RNAS Brawdy with its distinctive ‘White Tiger’ logo and equipped with the Sea Hawk aircraft.

Refueling Operations underway

After providing yeoman service for over two decades, the squadron was subsequently reincarnated with Sea Harriers in 1983. This premier carrier borne fighter squadron achieved iconic status in the Indian Navy with its distinguished service, receiving numerous gallantry awards which include one Maha Vir Chakra, four Vir Chakras and one Nau Sena Medal.

From the time the white tigers came into being, ‘Three Hundred‘ as the squadron is colloquially called, brought about transformation change in concept of naval operations. INAS 300 with its potent sea harriers formed the teeth of naval combat power and consequently was the center piece of naval operational strategy.

With their professionalism, the White Tigers assured control of these as by ensuring air dominance for the Carrier Battle Group and were a force to reckon with, with their combat skills appreciated by many which included foreign navies as well as the Indian Air Force.

 

After 33 years sterling service, the sea harriers were being de-inducted from the Navy and under took its last flight today.

To continue the proud ‘White Tiger’ legacy, the squadron has been re-equipped with the new and more lethal MiG 29Ks.

Sea harrier during Exercise Malabar

INAS 300 would thus be re-equipped with the new swing role air dominance fighter giving the squadron enhanced combat power and offensive capability. For the versatile White Tigers, this resurrection also marks a full cycle from commissioning ‘Tail Hooking Sea Hawks’ to the ‘Vectored Thrust’ Sea Harrier era; and now with the induction of the MiG-29k to this elite squadron, marks the return of the ‘Tail Hookers’.

 Sea Harriers were truly remarkable planes and there presence will always be missed by everyone…

Specially by those who flew it ….