Shri Ram Nath Kovind, the Hon’ble President of India, has awarded the President’s Colour to Indian Naval Aviation at the ceremonial parade held at INS Hansa, Goa. During the occasion, a Special Day Cover was released by the Postal Department. The ceremony was attended by the Governor of Goa, Raksha Mantri, Chief Minister of Goa, Chief of the Naval Staff several other civil and military dignitaries. The President’s Colour is the highest honour bestowed on a military unit in recognition of its exceptional service to the nation. The Indian Navy was the first amongst the Indian Armed Forces to be awarded the President’s Colour on 27 May 1951 by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the then President of India. Subsequent recipients of the President’s Colour in the Navy include Southern Naval Command, Eastern Naval Command, Western Naval Command, Eastern Fleet, Western Fleet, Submarine Arm, INS Shivaji and the Indian Naval Academy.
Indian Naval Aviation came into being with the acquisition of the first Sealand aircraft on 13 Jan 1951 and commissioning of INS Garuda, the first Naval Air Station, on 11 May 1953. The arrival of the armed Firefly aircraft in 1958 added an offensive punch, and the naval aviation steadily expanded its inventory to become an integral part of a formidable Navy. The year 1959 saw the commissioning of 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, ranging from the Alouette, the S-55, Seaking 42A and 42B; the Kamov 25, 28 and 31; the UH3H; the Advanced Light Helicopter and the latest in the line, the MH60R. Maritime reconnaissance (MR) also grew steadily with the induction of the Super-Constellation from the Indian Air Force in 1976, the IL-38 in 1977 and the TU 142 M in 1989. The induction of Dornier 228 in 1991 and the state-of-the-art Boeing P 8I aircraft in 2013 marked the entry of modern high-performance MR aircraft.
The world witnessed the Carrier arm of Indian Naval Aviation coming of age with the induction of INS Vikrant, the first Aircraft Carrier, 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. Induction of INS Viraat along with legendary Sea Harriers in the mid-1980s strengthened Carrier operations of the Navy, which transformed into a reckonable force with the arrival of MiG 29Ks on the mighty INS Vikramaditya in the last decade. The Indian Navy’s Carrier capability received a significant fillip with sea trials of the indigenously built aircraft carrier, the new avtaar of INS Vikrant, commencing this month.