By Kaushik Bhattacharya :
Sarang Helicopter Display Team - ‘The Peacocks’ is going to spread its feather on skies of Nagpur to enthrall the people on November 8 and 10. The Team has evolved from the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Evaluation Flight, which was formed at Bengaluru in 2003, to evaluate the indigenous helicopter ‘Dhruv’, prior to its induction into operational service. True to its name the ALH has been a guiding beacon, standing out like the Pole star in the Indian Aviation sector. Designed and conceived by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Dhruv is an all-weather, multi-mission capable helicopter. Notably, it features rigid, hinge-less rotors making it highly manoeuvrable and highly suited for military roles.
The evaluation paved way for the formation of an aerobatic display team with an aim to showcase the professionalism of the Indian Air Force and the milestones achieved by the Indian Aviation Industry. In June 2004, the Flight was converted into 151 Helicopter Unit and the fledgling team was rechristened ‘Sarang', which in Sanskrit, means Peacock, the National bird of India. The synchronised aerial ballet of four brightly painted metal birds draws comparisons with the graceful Peacock! The Unit moved to Yelahanka and subsequently to Sulur, near Coimbatore in 2009, where it has been based since. It is a matter of pride for Nagpur that Gp Capt Sachin Anand Gadre, who is leading the Sarang team, is from the city.
As “Brand Ambassadors of the Indian Air Force”, the Team was tasked with the onerous responsibility to build upon and showcase its display flying capabilities. The Team set the ball rolling with its maiden public display at the Asian Aerospace Airshow in Singapore in February 2004. The Team performed at Chile in June 2004. Sarang Display Team was adjudged the “Third Best Team” among all international participants, in United Arab Emirates during its performance at ‘Al Ain' Grand Prix. It performed in the Indo-German Air show at Berlin, in the Air shows at Waddington, Biggin Hill, RAF Linton-on-Ouse in the United Kingdom, Farnborough Air show in 2008, Bahrain International Air show held at Al Sakhir Air Base in January 2016 and the air display at Mauritius in March 2018 on the occasion of their 50th national day. Apart from displays at International venue, Sarangs have been regularly touring the length and breadth of the country. The Team has featured regularly at Aero India Air show in Bengaluru, apart from gracing ceremonial occasions such as Air Force Day celebrations in Hindan, Graduation Parades at Air Force Academy Dundigal and the Fire Power Demonstration in Pokharan, Presidential Fleet Review, Navy Day, World Military Games, Commonwealth Youth games and ceremonial occasions concerning our sister services.
As part of IAF's public awareness campaign, the Team aims to motivate the youth of the country to take up a challenging and fulfilling career in the Indian Armed Forces. The Unit also serves as an instrument to project our national power. Amongst various operational roles the Unit has participated in several operations towards Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR). The Team was at the forefront of HADR missions in Uttarakhand during the flash floods of 2013, wherein the Unit helicopters rescued close to 1000 people and inducted 12 tonnes of relief material at altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet in inclement weather and hazardous terrain. It has also been involved in providing succour to the people affected by flooding in its area of responsibility from time to time; rescue and relief operations in Chennai, Dindigul, Tirupathi and Nellore are a few worth mentioning. The devastating floods in Kerala in August 2018 tested the mettle of the team yet again.
The team deployed eight helicopters to rescue over 320 civilians and to drop over 77 tonnes of relief material in aid of the people of Kerala. While it is natural to expect daring manoeuvres and precise formation by fixed wing aircraft, it is notably difficult to do the same in helicopters owing to the unstable nature of rotary wing flying. One would find a handful of helicopter display teams across the globe and this makes the Sarang Helicopter Display Team so unique. Manoeuvring in close proximity to three other rotor discs in close proximity of ten metres, there is no room for error.
Therefore only those pilots who are selected after a rigorous selection process, make the cut from a large number of volunteers. The Team flies a 15 minute four helicopter display profile which involves 10-11 different couragious manoeuvres. Synchronised Stall Turn or Dolphin's Leap si the Signature Manoeuvre of the Team. People will experience all these manoeuvers during the air show on Nov 8 and 10. It is the Endeavour of the Team to live up to the Unit motto “Inspire through Excellence” and motivate the youth of the nation to join Indian Air Force.