Chennai: No. 18 Squadron ‘Flying Bullets’, Indian Air Force's only unit to have won the Param Vir Chakra, will be equipped with the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Teja Final Operational Clearance at Sulur airbase in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore. Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria will operationalise the 'Flying Bullets' with Tejas fighters, making the unit only the second IAF squadron to fly the home-made combat aircraft after the 45 Squadron Flying Daggers.
However, the Tejas jets joining Flying Bullets are a little more advanced than those operated by the Flying Daggers. The Tejas FOC made its first successful test flight in Bengaluru just a couple of months ago on March 17, 2020.
Several advance technologies have been incorporated into the Tejas FOC including Air-to-Air refuelling and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile system to make the fighter a potent platform.
The IAF already operates 20 Tejas jets in Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) in the 45 Squadron while the 18 Squadron will also have 20 jets in FOC version with 16 fighters and 4 trainers.
IAF's No, 18 Squadron, formed on, April 15, 1965 with the motto "Teevra aur Nirbhaya", has an illustrious history. Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon of the Squadron was decorated with the highest gallantry award Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his daring dogfight with Pakistani Sabre jets over the skies of Kashmir valley. The gallant action by the Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon and the squadron led to unit earning the sobriquet Defenders of Kashmir Valley.
The Squadron has operated Folland Gnat, HAL Ajeet and ground-attack ground-attack Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-27ML before it was number-plated in April 2016.
Apart from the Tejas, the IAF flies Sukhoi Su-30MKI, MiG-21 Bison, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, MiG-27 and Jaguar. A group of IAF pilots, engineers and technicians are in France for the training on Rafale fighters, India's lastest aerial combat platform acquisition.
The first Rafale is expected to land in India in a few weeks.