President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday presented President's Standard to two Indian Air Force ( IAF) squadrons based here in West Bengal. Hasimara is an Indian Air Force (IAF) station, around 15 km away from India-Bhutan border. The squadrons which have been honoured are the 18 Squadron and the 22 Squadron. The 18 Squadron is also called 'Flying Bullets' and came to be known as 'Defenders of Kashmir Valley' during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The 22 Squadron is also called 'The Swifts'.The 18 Squadron was formed in Ambala in 1965, and initially flew the Gnat fighters, getting the nickname 'Flying Bullets'. It was also the first fighter squadron to operate from Srinagar after Independence, making maiden sorties in 1968. In the 1971 war, the 18 Squadron flew in escort duties with Mystere and Vampire across the Pir Panjal mountain ranges. In 1989, the squadron converted to Mig 27 fighters.
The 22 Squadron was formed in 1966 in Bareilly, and is known as 'The Swifts'. In the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, the squadron drew first blood by shooting down three Pakistani F-86 Sabre jets. It was flying the Gnat Mk-1 aircraft at that time and got the MiG 27 fighters in 1990. The 22 Squadron was involved in Operation Vijay and Operation Parakram as well.
The award of President's standard is one of the highest honours bestowed upon an Air Force Unit or a Squadron in recognition of exceptional service rendered by it to the nation, both during war and in peace. Hasimara is an important air base of the Eastern Air Command in northern West Bengal, located close to China, Bangladesh and Bhutan borders. The base was set up after the India-China war. It has two Mig 27 squadrons and Akash missile systems.