The Indian Navy's first MiG-29K fighter squadron, INAS 303 Black Panthers was commissioned today at the INS Hansa naval air station in Goa. Happy to say the squadron's name was first reported here on Livefist in 2009 before the first batch of aircraft were inducted. Excerpts from a press release today:
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.
INAS 303 is commanded by Capt AD Theophilus, an accomplished and experienced Sea Harrier pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor.
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.
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.