11 Indian Navy Sea Harriers, the last of a full fleet of the iconic British-built jumpjets stretched their wings for the last time today. It's been a deeply emotional day down at INS Hansa, the Indian Navy's premier aviation base in Goa.
India's Harrier ride began in 1983 with the purchase of 26 Mk51 and 4 TMk60 Harriers, plus a final two trainers purchased in 2003 called T4i, converted from RAF T4 aircraft to the Indian Navy variant. Arriving in two batches between 1983 and 1986 the aircraft were part of 300 Squadron Flying White Tigers and 552 training squadron. The Sea Harrier operated from both INS Vikrant and INS Viraat, where the use of the ski jump allowed the aircraft to take off from a short flight deck.
The Sea Harriers will likely be converted into static mounted displays at naval bases around the country (more specific details on this soon).
Speaking at the ceremony today, Indian Navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan lauded the "stellar role played by the squadron in the defence of the country and professionalism of the pilots, the maintainers and all those personnel associated with flying and maintaining the aircraft in peak efficiency during their service."
BAE Systems, which was still British Aerospace during the acquisition, has serviced the fleet for over three decades.
“We are very proud of our support to the Indian Navy in keeping the iconic Sea Harriers airworthy over the last 33 years. Three decades ago, when the Sea Harriers were inducted, these aircraft with modern weaponry, avionics and an engine which could land the aircraft vertically, defying all the laws of aerodynamics, introduced V/STOL for the Indian Navy. On this symbolic day, we re-dedicate ourselves to our partnership with the Indian Navy through our continued support on the Hawk advanced jet trainer," Alistair Castle – Vice President and General Manager - India, BAE Systems said today.