INAS 303 - The Black Panthers
Indian Navy has contracted for acquisition of 16 MiG 29K/KUB carrier based fighter aircraft with RAC MiG on 20 Jan 04. Aircraft deliveries began in Dec 09 and all 16 aircraft of the Main Contract have been delivered and accepted by the Indian Navy. An option clause contract for 29 additional aircraft was also signed on 08 Mar 2010 and delivery of these aircraft of the option clause contract is in progress and the last of the option clause aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in end 2016. Based on the exploitation experience, the first MiG-29K frontline squadron was commissioned on 11 May 13 at INS Hansa, Goa. Capt AD Theophilus was the first Commanding Officer.
Press Release on Commissioning Ceremony:-
Defence Minister AK Antony commissioned the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 303, the first MiG 29K squadron of the Indian Navy at INS Hansa in Goa
Commissioning the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 303, the first MiG 29K squadron of the Indian Navy at INS Hansa in Goa on 11 May 13, Shri AK Antony, the Defence Minister, said he was confident that the Squadron will make a significant contribution in enhancing peace and stability in our area of operations. It would also provide effective safeguards for unhindered economic development of the nation and other friendly nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), he said. The Squadron will very soon operate from INS Vikramaditya.
Sri AK Antony also emphasised the importance of India maintaining an edge over its adversaries in defence preparedness which is better served through acquisition of new technology and better training of the personnel, given the fact that the security scenario in the region is changing at a rapid pace.
The MiG-29K is a true swing role aircraft which carries enough punch to undertake Air Dominance and Power Projection missions simultaneously, bestowing the Commander at sea, great flexibility. It takes Indian naval aviation from a defensive stature to one of dominance. The MiG 29K aircraft is a state of the art, all weather, carrier based, air dominance fighter specially built for the Indian Navy. The aircraft has a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound (about 2000 kmph), can pull up to 8 times the force of gravity, can climb to an altitude of over 65000 feet. Armed with an arsenal of some of the most sophisticated weapons in the world it is fully equipped to dominate by engaging targets in air, at sea or on land. Latest avionics, with data link capabilities coupled with its range of armament will enable true power projection. With its air- to- air refueling capability its ranges are also extended to perform true power projection and air space dominance roles.
It may be recalled that the MiG 29K supersonic air dominance fighters were inducted by Mr Antony on 19 Feb 2010. Sixteen of these potent aircraft were inducted to form the main combat power of the, soon to be inducted aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya. Since its induction, the aircraft have flown over 2500 hrs and have successfully concluded armament trials of the entire range of arsenal comprising air to surface missiles, air to air missiles, bombs, rockets and guns. After proving in trials the aircraft have also participated in important theatre level exercises with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. Having successfully completed all tasks and trials assigned and established its combat potential, the MiG-29K squadron has now been commissioned into front line service to form the sword arm of the Indian Navy.
A MiG 29 K aircraft prepares to take off at INS Hansa
In the tradition of naming its fighter squadrons in the 300 series, the MiG- 29K squadron, is christened INAS 303 and is being popularly referred to as the ‘Black Panthers’. The number 303 has been derived from the revolutionary .303 rifle cartridge, which in the mid-19th century replaced the traditional lever-action cartridges with pointed-tip bullets, giving it a ballistic advantage over its counterparts. This path breaking technology enabled the bullet to travel at much higher speeds, more accurately and inflict much more damage than its predecessors, thus creating a new standard on which the future guns of the world were built. Drawing similarity to the above mentioned attributes of the rifle the number 303 has been chosen to represent the MiG 29K squadron. Just like the rifle revolutionized the concepts of rifle firing, the induction of the Black Panther squadron marks the beginning of a new era of fighter flying in the Indian navy and hence the squadron is also referred to as "the game changers". The squadron’s insignia depicts the rare Black Panther, rampant on sea waves, against an azure background.
Defence Minister AK Antony piloted a 25-minute flight of MiG-29K on the state of the art simulator
The Defence Minister also inaugurated a state of the art full mission simulator. Equivalent to a Cat D flight simulator, this enables pilot training across the full range of aircraft capabilities including carrier take off and carrier landings, combat missions and even air to air refuelling. This simulator will serve as a force multplier for the aircrew. After flying a 25- minute sortie Shri Antony was impressed with the immersive realism of the simulator.
The Defence Minister also visited the Shore Based Test facility being built for the LCA Navy by the Aircraft development Agency. The SBTF which replicates the aircraft carrier environment. Ashore includes a ramp for Short take off and arrester wires for arrested landings. Shri Antony was shown the facility which will be inaugurated in a few months. Once inaugurated it will serve both the LCA Navy as well as the MiG29K, for both testing and training purposes. The senior officers and dignitaries present included Chief of Naval staff Admiral DK Joshi, Vice admiral Shekhar Sinha, commander in chief Westen Naval Command, VAdm AK copra Commander in chief ENC and VAdm Satish Soni commander in chief, SNC.
Shri Antony made a special mention of the three senior veteran aviators and retired chiefs of Naval Staff who were present viz Admiral (retd) RH Tahilianin Admiral (Retd) Arun Prakash and Admiral((retd) Sureesh Mehta.
INAS 303 is commanded by Capt AD Theophilus, an accomplished and experienced Sea Harrier pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor.