Brief History of the Daggers – in Pictures

Mr Pushpinder Singh has sent a copy of an old Vayu, which ran a history of the Daggers from the Hurricane days onwards.

“The Last Indian Air Force unit formed during World War II, No 10 Squadron has gone full circle: it began life as a fighter-bomber unit, became the IAF’s first night fighter squadron with its first jet aircraft, and returned to ground attack with India’s first locally designed and built combat aircraft, the Marut. Blooded in two wars, including the 1971 skirmish with its neighbour Pakistan,  No 10 has lived up to its motto ‘Determined to Destroy’. Today it operates locally built Mig 27s.”

Formed on 20 Feb 1944 and equipped with Hurricanes. The first CO was Sqn Ldr RFT Doe, DSO, DFC and Bar.

Fg Offr Moolgavkar in his Hurricane, waving to his dog Tuck during the Arakan Operation, 1945.

The Squadron converted to Spitfires in July 1945. Once all pilots completed their fully ops syllabus, of 15 hrs, the squadron moved off to Burma.

The squadron became an all Indian unit on 5 Jan 46 when Sqn Ldr H Raza took over.

In May 1947 the Squadron was equipped with Tempests.Sqn Ldr H Moolgavkar took over Command in May 1947, the same month the unit was re-equipped with Tempests at Chakeri.

The Daggers also had the distinction of  mounting the first formation flypast of free India. Sqn Ldr Moolgavkar led a formation of six Tempests Mk II over the National Stadium, New Delhi, at a combined Armed Forces parade in August 1947,  where Pandit Nehru took the salute.

A few months later, in October 1947, the Squadron again saw action in Kashmir, Sqn Ldr H Moolgavkar was awarded the MVC .

In December 1953 the Squadron moved into the jet age and was equipped with Vampire fighter bombers. This was however a short stint and in August 1954 the Daggers became the country’s first night fighter squadron equipped with the Vampire NF Mk 54, under the Command of Sqn Ldr David Bouche. It continued in this role for the next 10 years.

Vampire Mk 55 with the birdcage canopy.

A flight of Vampire NF Mk 54s over New Delhi.

It was the only fighter squadron to have as many navigators as pilots and was also the only fighter squadron ever to have a Dakota on its inventory. The aircraft was modified with a radar in the nose radome and was nicknamed appropriately as “Nosey”,  “Cleopatra” or the “Parsi Nak”  (“Nak’ = nose in Guj. As a seasoned Parsi, I am unable to fathom why this nickname was chosen!!)

The Daggers can rightly boast of an immaculate pilot pedigree right from the early days on. We have already come across ACM Moolgavkar, there was also ACM Dilbagh Singh and a host of others – some  famous and well known test pilots were from its stable: Babi Dey, Chandu Gole, Chuchu Tilak and Granny Dhiman.

In April 1964 Air HQ decided to numberplate the Squadron till it was re-equipped with a new aircraft.

On 01 Apr 67, the Squadron was reformed at Jamnagar and equipped with the HAL HF 24, Marut under Wg Cdr VK Murthy.  Subsequently the Squadron moved to Poona in 1969 and was then commanded by the feisty Gabboo Sen. Some very familiar names from that period – Brian DeMagry, Brother Bhargava, Pete Gaynor, Joe Bakshi, CKK menon, Jit Dhawan, Mickey Jatar, Sis Sisodia, Jug Jug Kapoor, Bobby Kasbekar, Batman Batra and Punchi Sidhu, to name a few.

Marut Display Team

In May 1970 Piloo Kacker, an outpoken and outstanding character, took over the Squadron. We shall hear more about him later. Tragedy struck when he met with a fatal accident on 01 Sep 70 at Uttarlai. His place was taken by Aggy Agarwal. Remembering those days, here’s  Brian DeMagry “However, we eventually learnt to love the Marut, which was an excellent and steady weapons platform. Both squadrons moved detachments to Chandigarh in Nov 1970 for the Inter Command Weapons Meet. It was a matter of great pride that Chauhan from No 10 and I from No. 220 topped in rocket and gun firing respectively.”

Polly Singh's picture of AM Minoo Engineer, after his maiden flight and Gabboo Sen. Notice the freshly painted *** for the VCAS.

Polly Singh has sent this vintage photo of the VCAS, AM Minoo Engineer with the CO, Wg Cdr Gabboo Sen. The VCAS had just completed his first flight at 10 Sqn, 1969. Also notice the freshly painted *** on the nose!

The Squadron operated with great distinction, from Uttarlai, in 1971. It’s essential role  being close support, tactical reconnaissance, interdiction and counter air missions.

After an unbroken 13 year stint, the Marut finally made way for the Mig 23 BN

Commander Pacific Air Forces with AM Deshpande, AOC-in-C, SWAC, in 1996. Gen Lorber visited 10 Sqn and flew a sortie in the Mig23 BN.

A Trio of No 10 Sqn Mig 23s

In late 1993 the Daggers were equipped with the HAL built Mig 27 ML. Seen here soaring over the Himalayas.

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4 Responses to Brief History of the Daggers – in Pictures

  1. Dara says:

    Some more of Brian’s interesting stories:

    ‘Piloo took me up for a tactical formation flying sortie, although at that time I had fewer than 15 hours on Maruts. After some very rough manoeuvres at height, Piloo called up to say that the pitot head had broken off and that he had lost all his pressure instruments, namely the ASI, VSI, altimeter. He asked me to join up in close formation and shepherd him in for landing. Gabboo and Mickey rushed to the control tower to watch and if necessary, to give advice. We joined circuit, turned down wind, lowered undercarriage, flaps, etc. and came in on finals. I was very steady on the right-in-close formation, as I had plenty of experience in this sort of thing with “Toofanis” and Mysteres, since, as those aircraft had no trainers, pilots were shepherded by flight commanders on first solos. My one concern was at what height I should go around. I decided to go around low, and when Piloo touched down and I was a few feet off the deck, I opened up, turned down wind and subsequently landed. Back at the tarmac I was informed that Piloo wanted me in his office. I was shocked when he chewed me up for going round “high”, for abandoning the leader, when he had a serious emergency! Later I was summoned to Gabboo’s office, where, not at all to my surprise, I got chewed up by him for coming so “low” when I had such little experience on type. Gabboo, of course, was surprised when I then informed him that I was chewed out by Piloo for going around “high”!’

    ‘On another occasion, Piloo ordered a four aircraft strike mission to carry out simulated gun attacks on Poona airfield, with two aircraft to provide CAP. Gaboo was to lead the strike, MIckey was No 3, I am not sure who 2 and 4 were, possibly Sis and Bobby, and Piloo was to lead the pair to provide CAP. There was excitement in the air as we searched the sky for the strike formation. Suddenly we heard the roaring sound of Gabboo’s formation zooming in at very high speed. We saw Piloo and his No 2 dive and latch on to one pair, (Mickey and his No 2) and after sometime the attackers retreated and the CAP aircraft disengaged. It looked great. The Marut could really clock knots if you gave it the gun. Achieving 600 kts was no big deal and the aircraft handled beautifully.
    For the debrief, Piloo ordered all of us into the briefing room. After Gaboo finished his debrief, which was just a formality, Piloo took over. He chewed out Gabboo (his own OC) and Mickey and kept blasting them about how strikes should not be done, and if they had come down to anything more than 50 ft, then he was a “monkey’s uncle”. Never a dull moment!’

  2. Dara says:

    I did mention that we would hear more about Piloo Kacker. Brian DeMagary, has some interesting stories that he recounts in the same article in Vayu.

    ‘Since “Piloo” (the Flt Cdr at the time) has been a legend, some tales regarding him must be told. When we reported to him at No 10, he singled me out and asked me why I was wearing an “efficiency badge” on my uniform pocket (it was extremely rare to see a mere Flt Lt with one). I certainly was the most junior pilot wearing one, but I had a master green rating on Mysteres and Vampires. “You think you are hot? Well we will see!”

    One day Piloo took up XXX for a tactical formation sortie. XXX was not a very confident flyer and, like most others was terrified of Piloo. As expected, XXX did not perform to Piloo’s standards. After the sortie the CO called all of us youngsters to attend the debrief. He started, “We were supposed to do a formation sortie. That was not formation flying.There happened to be two aircraft flying in the same sky, and in the same general direction.” After chewing up XXX until he was on the verge of tears, Piloo then proceeded to tell us a joke. Piloo had a terrific sense of humour and an inexhaustible stock of dirty jokes.’

    (For more, watch this space…..)

  3. Dara says:

    Sir thank you for the corrections. Have incorporated them.

    As for looking in the mirror……….. well I may just run a poll here for opinions on the shape of my nose from my photograph. Would be most disappointed if the result said it was an unParsi Nak!

  4. Kapil Bhargava says:

    Some minor corrections to this entry: –
    1. Fg Off PK (Babi) Dey did the course ahead of Chandu Gole.
    2. The first CO of No. 10 on Maruts was VK Murthy – not CK.
    3. I thought Gandharva Sen’s nickname has two b-s eg Gabboo.

    On the Parsi Nak: There seems to exist a general belief that Parsi men have slightly protruding hooked noses. Actual evidence does not have anything to do with this belief. Dara should closely look in the mirror and then disqualify himself from possessing a venerable Parsi Nak. Some measurements with vernier calipers might help.

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