Having soared the Indian skies for nearly 24 years and logging nearly 32,581 flying hours, 224 Squadron of the IAF, christened the ‘Warlords’ will on March 20, end their tryst with the veritable ‘air superiority fighter’ (ASF) of its times, the MiG-23 MF fighters (see photo, ©Copyright Bharat Rakshak) belonging to the squadron will take to the sky for one last time on Tuesday next. The historic flights will take place at the frontline Air Force Station (AFS) Jamnagar under the South Western Air Command (SWAC) heralding their transition into the annals of military aviation history while also marking the end of an era with the IAF. The Air Chief, AOC-in-C, SWAC and the Commodore Commandant of the Squadron will be among those present bidding adieu to this venerable flying machine that is set to transcend into the aviation folklore.
The last flight of the MiG-23 MF, NATO codenamed Flogger-B and also known by her Indian nomenclature – Rakshak, brings to an end temporarily on March 31, the ‘Warlords’ operations as it gets ‘number-plated’, an euphemism that in IAF parlance signifies the temporary ceasing of a flying squadrons, 223 and 224, raised to counter the F-16 threat from across the border, ever operated this swing-wing variant of the MiG-23s that were inducted in the early 80s. While the former switched over to the MiG-29 ASF in May 89, only 224 squadron continued operating this aircraft till date. This variant, many assert, is perhaps one of the most powerful single-engine fighter aircraft in the world till date.
After the last symbolic flight by the squadron, the ‘Warlords’ also take a brief hiatus until Air HQ allots them a new role and restores them back in their new avatar. No. 224 Squadron was raised on July 4, 1983 at AFS Adampur in Punjab. The first Commanding Officer (CO) of the Squadron was Wing Commander RA Massey Vr C. The Squdron is presently commanded by Wg Cdr K Khajuria and between them altogether 13 COs have commanded the Squadron till date.
MiG-23 MF is a swing-wing interceptor capable of delivering an array of missiles, bombs and guided weapons. The Squadron became operational with its primary role as Air Defence (AD) and the secondary role as Ground Attack (GA). The ‘Warlords’ moved from Adampur to nearby Halwara, also in Punjab in April ’96 and then to Jamnagar, in Western Gujrat in September ’97. The Squadron was actively involved in providing AD cover over the western sector since its inception till shifting location to Jamnagar, where it continued to do the same. In the latters years, the Squadron was assigned both AD and GA roles in addition to the peace time secondary role of Banner Target Towing (BTT).
The MiG-23 MF was one of the first IAF fighters to be equipped with R-23 R and R-23T BVR (Beyond Visual Range) Air-to-Air missiles. It can also carry 96 Rockets or 1.5 tonnes of bombs of 100, 250 or 500 Kg calibers. The fighter aircraft has a top speed of 2.35 Mach i.e. approximately 2,500 Kmph.
Click here for Bharat Rakshak’s MiG-23MF photo gallery.