President Ram Nath Kovind awarded the President's Colour to the Indian Naval Aviation at a ceremonial parade held at the INS Hansa base near Panjim in Goa on Monday.
The president was given the guard of honour by the Indian Navy on the occasion.
Kovind, who is on a three-day visit to Goa, presented the President's Colour to the Naval Aviation in the presence of Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh.
Goa governor PS Sreedharan Pillai, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and others were present during the function at the INS Hansa base located in Vasco town, about 40 kilometres from the state capital Panaji.
What is President's Colour award?
The President's Colour is the highest honour bestowed on a military unit in recognition of its exceptional service to the nation.
It consists of a 36-inch by 48-inch white ensign with the National Flag in the canton and the state emblem embroidered in gold at the centre. The elephant, signifying strength, is placed diagonally opposite the national flag in the canton, a naval spokesman said in a release.
Incidentally, the navy was the first among the Indian Armed Forces to be awarded the President's Colour on 27 May, 1951, by the then president Dr Rajendra Prasad. And now as the naval air fleet completes 68 years of its existence, it is being bestowed with the honour again.
Subsequent recipients of the President's Colour in the Navy include the Southern Naval Command, Eastern Naval Command, Western Naval Command, Eastern Fleet, Western Fleet, Submarine Arm, INS Shivaji and the Indian Naval Academy, the spokesman said.
What is the navy's aviation wing?
The Indian Naval Aviation came into being with the acquisition of the first Sealand aircraft on 13 January, 1951, and commissioning of the INS Garuda, the first Naval Air Station, on 11 May, 1953.
Today, the Indian Naval Aviation boasts of nine air stations and three naval air enclaves along the Indian coastline and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the spokesman said.
Over the past seven decades, it has transformed into a modern, technologically advanced and highly potent force with more than 250 aircraft, comprising carrier-borne fighters, maritime reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft, the spokesperson added.
The past month has seen naval aviation in the news for a multitude of reasons. According to an article in ORF, the maiden sea trial of the indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) to be named Vikrant and its five-day sail were among the highlights this year.
In the past too, it has added many feathers to its cap.
On the war front, the navy's aviation wing played a crucial role in the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. The aircraft carrier, Vikrant, was effectively deployed on the eastern seaboard because of which the Indian Navy could achieve a complete blockade of East Pakistan through naval and air support. Over 291 combat missions were flown by the carrier air wing which played a major role in the liberation of Bangladesh.
Additionally, helicopters from Western Naval Command were part of the longest coordinated ASW operation off the coast of Kathiawar. Naval aviation has been awarded with one Mahavir Chakra, six Vir Chakras, one Kirti Chakra, seven Shaurya Chakras, one Yudh Seva Medal and a large number of Nao Sena Medals (Gallantry)over the years, highlighting the commitment of the arm to the nation, as per a report in The Financial Express.
The aviation wing is also an important asset in the Indian Navy's relief and rescue assignments in times of natural calamity. Natural calamities like the 2004 tsunami and numerous cyclones including the recent Cyclone Tauktae in May are examples of Indian naval aircraft coordinating with ships under extremely challenging conditions to save lives.