End of an Era of British Aircraft as the Sea Harrier is phased out by the Indian Navy; marks the demise of British connection with India
The Indian Navy is the only Navy in South Asia to operate an aircraft carrier. Presently two aircraft carriers are deployed by it. Considering that China has only one operational aircraft carrier, the significance of the Indian Navy operating two of them cannot be lost.In 1980, India opted for the Harrier a VSTOL fighter aircraft. In September 1980, The Sea harrier Project ( SHARP) was formed and the first aircraft was ready to join the air fleet in December 1982.This was a British aircraft and was operated from the Indian aircraft carrier. India was a colony of Great Britain and though the British left in 1947, the hangover for things British continued. When an interceptor was needed for the aircraft carrier Vikrant, the navy opted for the British-made Sea Harrier. It replaced the obsolete Sea Hawks.
The Sea Harrier.
The sea harrier is a difficult plane to fly as was brought out by the death of one of the test pilots in the UK. Indian pilots, however, mastered flying the Harrier which was the main weaponry of the INS Vikrant. After 34 years of service, the Navy has phased out the Harrier. A glittering ceremony was held in Goa as the Sea harrier was phased out on 11 May 2016. The plane has been replaced by the MIG 29 K. This is a Russian Mach 2 interceptor and much superior in performance to the Harrier. The phasing out of the Harrier also brings an era of British aircraft to an end with Indian military aviation. Earlier the Indian Air Force also used a preponderance of British made aircraft like the Hawker Hunter, Folland Gnat, English electric Canberra among much more. All these aircraft have been phased out and replaced by Russian fighter / interceptors Like MIG and the Sukhoi.
Last of the British aircraft.
This shift was political as the western nations after the 1965 war with Pakistan, denied the latest military aircraft to Indian and perforce, the left-leaning defense minister Krishna Menon negotiated with the Russians for the state of art aircraft to equip the Indian armed forces.The Harrier served with distinction for 33 years and though no war took place, yet it always acted as a deterrent. The Harrier with a speed of 1150km an hour was a versatile aircraft and helped the Indian navy become the dominant force in the Indian Ocean. The last mission was on 6 March 2016 from the deck of the carrier INS Viraat. It was also the last hurrah for British aircraft with the Indian Navy.