President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday awarded the 'President's Standard', a rare honour for its distinguished service, to the 22nd Missile Vessel Squadron, the unit that had bombed and sank Pakistan Navy's vessels in the 1971 war.
The President said the honour is the testimony to the services rendered by the past and present officers of the squadron.
The year also marks the fifty years since the inception of the Missile Vessel Squadron, also known as the 'Killers', which over the past five decades have maintained the capability of delivering a credible offensive punch from the sea.
"The timing of this award could not have been more befitting as our nation is celebrating 'Swarnim Vijay Varsh'. The presentation of the Standard is a testimony to the exceptional service rendered by officers and sailors, past and present, of this squadron to our nation," President Kovind said at the ceremony.
Based in Mumbai, the Missile Vessel Squadron has participated in Operation Vijay, Operation Parakram and most recently, during the heightened security state following the Pulwama attack in 2019 deployed within striking distance off the Pakistan coast.
The 22nd Missile Vessel Squadron was formally established at Mumbai in October 1991 with ten Veer Class and three Prabal Class missile boats.
However, the genesis of 'Killers' dates back to the year 1969, with the induction of OSA I Class missile boats from the erstwhile USSR to bolster the strength of the Indian Navy.
These missile boats were transported to India on heavy-lift merchant ships and commissioned in early 1971 at Kolkata. They were baptised by fire in the same year during the Indo–Pak war of 1971 where they played a decisive role in the outcome of the war.
On the intervening night of December 4-5, 1971, the youngest warriors of a young Indian Navy drew first blood when they launched a devastating offensive on the Pakistan Navy.
Indian Navy ships Nirghat, Nipat and Veer fired their Styx missiles and sank Pakistan Navy ships Khyber and Muhafiz.
Code-named Op Trident, this operation is considered to be one of the most successful operations in modern naval history, with no casualties being sustained by the Indian forces.
The Navy carried out another daring attack on the intervening night of December 8-9, when INS Vinash, along with two frigates, launched four Styx missiles, sinking the Pakistan Naval Fleet Tanker Dacca and inflicting substantial damage to Keamari Oil Storage Facility at Karachi.
The President said the 22nd Missile Vessel Squadron has undertaken a steady journey over the past five decades.
Known for their speed and firepower, these ships had played a crucial role in the 1971 war, he noted.
He said Operations Trident and Python saw Indian ships sinking Pakistan naval ships on the western seaboard and striking a lethal blow to the enemy's war efforts.
"Fifty years ago, on this day, the 8th of December, Killer squadron ships set ablaze the Karachi harbour, crippling the enemy morale, enforcing a blockade on Karachi and achieving total sea control. The fact that these ships, primarily acquired for shore defence, turned out to be the most potent offensive strike force for our Navy in battle symbolises the sharpness and bravery of our Navy personnel," the President said.
Over the years, the 'Killers' squadron has constantly evolved through the induction of the Veer and Prabal class of ships, he said.
The Prabal class ships are built in India. It showcases the Navy's commitment towards indigenisation and the vision of 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'.
The President also said that he looks at the Navy's commitment towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) as a tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who is regarded by many historians as the founder of India's battle-ready naval force in the 17th century.
He said the Squadron has earned several honours and awards for conspicuous gallantry and distinguished service. This includes Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra and Nausena Medals, which is proof of the bravery of the 'Killer' Squadron.
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