In a poignant ceremony held on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) paid tribute to Lieutenant Alfred Tyrone Cooke for his exceptional contributions during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. The event featured a captivating aerial display depicting a mock air combat scenario, highlighting the pivotal role played by the Kalaikunda airbase during the conflict.
The ceremony also included a static display of various aircraft and equipment, showcasing a range of aircraft sizes, armed with ammunition. Lieutenant Alfred Tyrone Cooke, reminiscing about his time at Kalaikunda Air Force base, expressed his emotional connection to the place where he had spent seven significant years of his life.
“It is beautiful to reunite with my old hunter aircraft, which I used to pilot. 1968 marked the last time I flew one. It’s heartening to return here and witness the young pilots perform a flypast in my honour. I was deeply moved because I had once flown in those very skies. Tears welled up in my eyes. Returning feels like coming back home,” Lieutenant Cooke shared.
Lieutenant Alfred Tyrone Cooke is lauded for his heroic efforts in safeguarding the Kalaikunda base during an attack launched by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1965. He was recognized for his valour with the prestigious Vir Chakra in the same year.
The conflict in 1965 commenced on April 24th when the Pakistan Army initiated hostilities by encroaching into Indian territory in the Rann of Kutch, penetrating several miles into Indian soil. This act represented a clear breach of the Indo-Pak Border Agreement of 1960.
Wing Commander Himanshu Tiwari, the Public Relations Officer for the Ministry of Defence in Kolkata, stated, “Today, we have assembled here to honour Flying Lieutenant Alfred Tyrone Cooke, also known as the saviour of Kalaikunda. In the 1965 war, he successfully defended this vital airfield against Pakistani incursions. We aim to recreate that historic scenario to illustrate how he thwarted the Pakistani aircraft attack and preserved the airfield.”
Air Officer Commanding Kalaikunda, Ran Singh, underscored the strategic importance of the base, highlighting its role in training new pilots. He emphasized, “Kalaikunda Base is of immense significance for the Indian Air Force and the Eastern Air Command. It serves as a training ground for fighter pilots, enabling us to produce skilled aviators capable of countering any potential threats. The aircraft showcased today exemplifies cutting-edge technology, equipping us to neutralize threats both in the air and on the ground, ensuring the safety and security of Kalaikunda.”
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