Wednesday, November 4, 2009

25 Squadron (Himalayan Eagles)


In the wake of the Chinese aggression in 1962, a need was felt to strengthen our supply lines to the Army in the Northern Sector encompassing J&K and Ladakh regions. Consequently, 25 Sqn, AF was formed on 01 Mar 63, with 04XAN-12 aircraft acquired from the erstwhile USSR. The unit's first Commanding Officer was Sqn Ldr GJ Shaw.



Nowhere in the world have the heavy transport aircraft such as the AN-12 and IL-76 been used in so hostile a terrain as prevails in Ladakh and J&K Sectors. Therefore, credit must go to the dedicated band of aviators of this squadron for evolving such complete and abiding procedures for safe landings of these heavy transport aircraft at high altitude airfields like Leh (10,500'), Chushul (14,500') and Thoise (9,800'). Through operational operational innovations and varied use these aircraft have completely changed the concept of Transport Operations, move specifically Air Maintenance over the years.



The tasks entrusted to the squadron are :

  • Air maintenance in the Northern Sector
  • Transportation of cargo, both within the country and Ex-India
  • Transportation of troops whenever and wherever tasked.
  • Paradropping and platform drops at designated dropping zones.
  • To bring succor to the needy during natural calamities; both within & outside the country.

Since its inception in 1963, the personnel of the squadron have executed the allotted tasks with dedication, remarkable efficiency and a very strong sense of service pride. The mettle of 'Himalayan Eagles', an epithet that the squadron has earned over the years because of yeoman service it has been rendering to the numerous Army and Air Force units located in the Northern Sector, has been proved time and again both in war and in peace. Everytime, it has proved time and again both in war and in peace. Everytime, it has emerged with flying colours.

A brief resume of the important events in which the Himalayan Eagles have participated over the years is as follows :-

1963-1989 - During this period the squadron operated with AN-12 aircraft along with 44 Sqn AF which was co-located in Chandigarh. it took part in the following operations :-

Indo-Pak Conflict -(1965) - AN-12 aircraft of the squadron were used for movement of men and material.

Indo-Pak Conflict - (1971) - Departing from its usual role of transportation, the AN-12 were utilised as bombers extensively in the Western Sector. The Battalion Group paradrop at Tangail in East Pakistan was a noteworthy success.

1989-1993 - By the mid-eighties, however, the 'Old Work-horses', the AN-12 had aged and spares requirement had overtaken the supply. To provide relief to the AN-12 fleet, four IL-76 aircraft joined the 'Himalayan Eagles' in 1989. The two heavy transport aircraft worked together for four years before the AN-12 yielded the pride of place to the medium transport aircraft - the AN-32 - glided into the pages of IAF's glorious history on 30 Jun 93. Some of significant events in which the Il-76 fleet participated during this period were as follows :-

1990 : Firing IR Flares at Pokhran Range - Two IL-76 were modified and their objective was to test the systems effectiveness to divert fire power of heat seeking missiles, shoulder fired guns, and also jamming of radar by dispensing chaff around the aircraft.

Gulf war evacuation of stranded Indians from Dubai and Basra. This has been acknowledged as the biggest airlift operation since World War II.

1992 - Evacuation of 5000 passengers stranded at Leh due to a strike by the Indian Airlines.

Airlifting of para military forces to every nook and corner of the country in the aftermath of Ayodhya riots.

1993-94 : Deinduction of T-72 Tanks from Leh (Total 24) - Due to restrictions of maximum take off weights when operating from Leh (altitude 3270 mtrs), the deinduction was a laborious process as the hull and turret of the tank had to be dismantled and two sorties were required to deinduct one tank (wt of hull 24 tons, turret 10 tuns, other accessories 08 tons). A total of 55 sorties were flown of 55 sorties were flown to deinduct 24 tanks plus four ARVs.

Ex-Snow Leopard - In 1994, heavy platform drop at Stakna DZ in the Ladakh sector neat Leh airfield was carried out with excellent results.

1993 - On 30 Jun 93 and AN-12 phasing out marked the end of a glorious chapter of transport operations in the IAF. They were replaced by 03 AN-32 in Jul 93. Three more AN-32 were allotted in Aug 93. By Sep 93, the AN-32 took over the complete gamut of operational roles in the Northern Sector. They joined the IL-76 of the squadron to walk in footsteps of the glorious traditions of the AN-12 aircraft. The sqn did itself proud by flying the "Big Boy Formation" with one IL-76 in lead and two AN-32 of the Squadron in formation on the occasion of the Air Force Day on 08 Oct 93.

Ex-Leaping Gazelle and Desert Fox - By Jan 94, 03 sets of AN-32 crew had been qualified on the new displaced Trail formation. The squadron AN-32 ac took part in Ex-leaping Gazelle (2 AN-32 ac) and Desert Fox (01 AN-32 ac) and dropped paratroopers, in formation by night, with precision.

Ex-Snow Leopard - In Jan 94, a P-16 heavy platform was dropped for the first time at Stakna DZ (Elev 3270 m) with excellent results. 02 X AN-32 aircraft of the squadron took part in formation para drop successfully.

Big Boy Formation on Air Force Day 94 - The Sqn lived upto its reputation by doing another meticulous "Big Boy Formation" on Air Force Day with IL-76 and three AN-32s from the squadron.

Evacuation of Civilians from Yeman - In May 94, the IL-76 of this squadron carried out evacuation of civilians from Yeman (Sanna) in record time in perilious conditions, involving 38 hrs of nonstop work by the aircrew.

1995 - Big Boy Formation Flypast on Republic Day : The squadron, as expected, was tasked with this formation. This flypast over Rajpath was being revived after 08 years. The squadron provided the IL-76 and 02 formating AN-32 aircraft. The formation was a grand success.

Night Operations at Leh and Udhampur

Successful operations to Leh and Udhampur airfields by night requiring a very high level of proficiency have been carried out by the IL-76 and AN-32 aircraft of the squadron. The first landing by night at Leh was carried out by the AN-32 in Jul 96 and by IL-76 in Jan 97.

Squadron Crest

25 Sqn badge

The Himalayan Eagle

The primary role of the Sqn, being Air Maintenance in the Northern Sector, the unit crest rightfully depicts the 'Himalayan Eagles' in all its glory. The background depicts the mighty show capped Himalayas over which the sqn ac have been flying day in and day out, ever since its inception.

Ladakh region is basically hostile and rugged in nature and is snow bound for a major part of the year. The roads remain unsuable for nearly eight to nine months in an year and transportation of men, material and ration by air is the only viable alternative. Further North, where the Army is deployed over the Siachen glacier, air dropping by AN-32 ac and helicopters is the only way to survival. Therefore, the unit serves as a 'lifeline' for the Northern Sector and hence the inscription on the crest ' The Saviors of the North'.


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