A little known story about Grp Capt Harkirat Singh, who will command first Rafale squadron

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Group Captain Harkirat Singh (inset) will be the first commanding officer of the new Rafale squadron | Background photo: Twitter | Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) | Inset photo: Twitter | @rajnathsingh
Group Captain Harkirat Singh (inset) will be the first commanding officer of the new Rafale squadron | Background photo: Twitter | Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) | Inset photo: Twitter | @rajnathsingh


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New Delhi: With France handing over first of the Rafale fighter jets to India at Merignac Tuesday, photographs of a beaming Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and senior Indian Air Force officers with the aircraft in the background were splashed all over social media.

Standing among the officers was Group Captain Harkirat Singh, the designated Commanding Officer of the newly-resurrected 17th Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’, which will get the first set of four Rafale fighters by the end of May 2020.

Group Captain Singh, earlier a MiG 21 pilot, is known for his “exceptional courage” and was awarded the Shaurya Chakra in 2009 for his brave act that helped save the aircraft as well as his own life.

What happened on the night of 23 September 2008?

Group Captain Singh, then a Squadron Leader, was in a two-aircraft practice interception sortie on the MiG 21 Bison aircraft at night on 23 September 2008.

During the interception phase at an altitude of 4 km, when the pilot engaged reheat to accelerate to the briefed speeds, he noticed a bright flash in the peripheral vision and heard three loud banging noises from the engine, according to his citation.

“He promptly selected reheat off. However, the Rotation Per Minute and Jet Pipe Temperature continued to wind down indicating an engine flame out. This resulted in complete loss of thrust with the speed washing off and the aircraft descending,” reads the Citation of his gallantry award.

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