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Tale of the IAF Maha Virs Wg Cdr Ramesh Sakharam Benegal & Wg Cdr Harcharan Singh Mangat: La Tribune Inde

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Chief Lynx looked at the watery green carpet and dove above Kamalpur in northern East Pakistan. Taking off from Tezpur, he had taken a circuitous route to avoid being detected if Pakistani radars could spot him.

The terrain was all too familiar.

The leader of the “Lynxes” squadron was Ramesh Sakharam Benegal, then squadron commander, commander of the 106th squadron piloting the English Electric Canberras in bombardment and photographic reconnaissance.

In a previous life, Benegal was in prison. He was imprisoned by the British for being a member of the Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose. He was also called “Tokyo Boy”. The Japanese had chosen him to train at the Flying Academy of the Imperial Japanese Air Force during World War II.

A natural choice for the Indian Air Force, Benegal deployed his men and carried out missions himself over Karachi before the naval raid that destroyed the fuel dumps in the Pakistani port city, and to inspect the damage after the Battle of Longewala.

Benegal’s life was at the same time one of the most dramatic, because it was a link through tumultuous times. What runs through him is a thirst for adventure and independence through World War II, India’s freedom movements, British incarceration and finally his career in the Indian Air Force. He wrote a book “Burma in Japan with the Azad Hind”, on his time with the Bose Indian National Army, which provides insight into what he cherished and the values ​​he brought to the service. (He also inspired the biopic on Bose by his nephew Shyam Benegal).

Subhas Chandra Bose, alias Netaji, visited the academy in Japan where Benegal had been seconded to be trained by the Imperial Air Force, he writes. In 1944, Bose was scheduled to visit the academy. The Indian cadets were all in turmoil. Everyone had a portrait of Bose in their bedroom.

“We were forced to stand in front of our rooms because Netaji had expressed his wish to meet with us individually. We all had pictures of Netaji in INA uniform in our rooms and took the golden opportunity to have them autographed by him. Signing forty-five photographs on a visit like this took a long time, but he did it patiently and with a smile.

“Netaji spent at least two minutes with each caddy and asked questions about the well-being of each. When he came to my room, he stunned me by telling me that my brother Sumitra was at the Rangoon headquarters and that he was doing very well. He then asked me if I had received any letters from him and when I replied that no one had written me letters, he said he would remind Sumitra to write to me. He then signed my photo and moved on to the next room. I have since held positions of responsibility as a Commanding Officer and I know what it means to an individual when a senior officer remembers his name and everything related to his family… ”

In a sense, Benegal had been used to danger and hardship since he was a teenager. Born in Rangoon (Burma, now Myanmar), he and his mother tried to flee the country when he was only 15, without success. Months later, he got to know Bose and the INA. He sailed to Singapore to register with Azad Hind Fauj. He was seconded to train with the Japanese and set out on a voyage aboard two torpedoed and landed ships in the Philippines. After the surrender of Japan, he went to look in Madras. He was imprisoned by the British and was one of the accused of treason in the INA trials at Red Fort, but was released by authorities, who increasingly feared the consequences as the fight for freedom in India was on the rise.

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Ramesh Benegal brought to the Indian Army a flavor that did not have its origins in the Royal Indian Air Force, but a tradition of an independence movement that was largely overshadowed by the imposition of a “mainstream” idea. But the values ​​he brought led him to lead a squadron that operated in both the eastern and western theaters of the 1971 war.

His MVC quote reads:

“As an officer commanding an operational reconnaissance squadron, Wing Commander RS ​​Benegal carried out a large number of missions in enemy territory and obtained vital information on the enemy air force and others. facilities. The missions involved flying deep into enemy territory and towards heavily defended targets. The information reported from these missions facilitated the planning of Army, Air and Navy operations and thus directly contributed to the attrition of the Pakistani war machine. It is still to the honor of Wing Commander Benegal that he never returned from any of these countless missions without having fully achieved his objective. By repeatedly flying deep into enemy territory, Wing Commander Benegal demonstrated conscientious dedication to duty and professional competence of a very high standard.

The hero Su-7

The aircraft with tail number B858 can be found in the Indian Air Force Museum in Palam, Delhi today. It has been repainted in its original camouflage colors. Harcharan Singh Mangat, the No. 32 Squadron Commander, piloted the plane.

He is still known as the man who flew a jet with a missile that exploded in it, but did not explode.

Wing Commander (later Air Cmde) Mangat was piloting the Sukhoi-7 on December 4, 1971 – a day after the Pakistan Air Force attacked Indian air bases and formal hostilities were declared. There were 118 anti-aircraft sorties on Pakistani IAF airfields which included, in addition to Sukhoi-7s, MiGs, HF 24s and Hunters.

The Mangat Wing Commander of the Thunderbirds Squadron (32) was piloting the newly imported Sukhoi-7 from then-Soviet Russia when a Sidewinder missile from an Army J6 jet Pakistani air crashed into his plane. Before that, anti-aircraft fire on the ground in East Pakistan had eaten away at the rudder and ailerons of his plane. Mangat limped back to the Kalaikunda base in southern West Bengal.

His experience led to new studies of survivability on the aircraft.

His MVC quote reads:

As the fighter-bomber squadron commander, Wing Commander Harcharan Singh Mangat undertook a number of interdiction and close support missions, as well as numerous reconnaissance sorties, deep into enemy territory. , providing valuable information to the military and air force in their operational planning. pushed forward until he discovered that the other plane in his formation had also suffered severe damage. At this point, enemy interceptors arrived on the scene. Despite this, he pulled his formation out of the dangerous situation and brought her safely back to base. Upon landing, her plane was found to be badly damaged. Only superb flying skill allowed her to bring a badly damaged plane back to a non-stop landing. all dry urity. Wing Commander Mangat displayed remarkable bravery, determination, professional skill and leadership.


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