It’s the highest honour bestowed on a military unit in recognition of its exceptional service to nation

President Ram Nath Kovind will award the President’s Colour to Indian Naval Aviation at a ceremonial parade to be held at INS Hansa, Goa, on September 6. The President’s Colour is the highest honour bestowed on a military unit in recognition of its exceptional service to the nation.

Naval Aviation came into being with acquisition of the first Sealand aircraft on January 13, 1951 and the commissioning of INS Garuda, the first Naval Air Station, on May 11, 1953, the Navy said in a statement. “Today, Naval Aviation boasts of nine air stations and three naval air enclaves along the Indian coastline and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” it stated.

Over the past seven decades, it had transformed into a modern, technologically advanced and highly potent force, with more than 250 aircraft comprising carrier-borne fighters, maritime reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the Navy said.

The Navy was the first amongst the armed forces to be awarded the President’s Colour on May 27, 1951 by then President Rajendra Prasad, as per the statement.

The arrival of the armed Firefly aircraft in 1958 added an offensive punch and 1959 saw the commissioning of the Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 550, with 10 Sealand, 10 Firefly and three HT-2 aircraft. Over the years, a variety of rotary wing platforms have been added as well. Maritime reconnaissance also grew steadily, beginning with the induction of the Super-Constellation from the Indian Air Force in 1976 to the state of the art Boeing P 8I aircraft in 2013.

Carrier Aviation

The Navy heralded the beginning of carrier aviation with the induction of INS Vikrant in 1957 and integral Sea Hawk and Alize Squadrons subsequently. “INS Vikrant with its aircraft played a crucial role in the liberation of Goa in 1961 and again in the 1971 Indo-Pak war, where its presence on the Eastern seaboard proved decisive,” the Navy said.

The Navy inducted its second carrier INS Viraat along with Sea Harrier aircraft in the mid-1980s and Naval Aviation was further strengthened with the arrival of MiG 29K fighters on INS Vikramaditya in the last decade. “The Indian Navy’s Carrier capability received significant fillip with sea trials of the indigenously built aircraft carrier, the new Avtaar of INS Vikrant, commencing this month,” the statement noted.

Naval Aviation has played a major role in operations such as Op Cactus, Op Jupiter, Op Shield, Op Vijay and Op Parakram as well as spearheaded Humanitarian And Disaster Relief (HADR) operations on numerous occasions both in India and the extended neighbourhood.

Naval Aviators have been decorated with one Mahavir Chakra, six Vir Chakras, one Kirti Chakra, seven Shaurya Chakras, one Yudh Seva Medal and a large number of Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry) over the years, the Navy added.