Gp Capt Ramanathan Sundaresan VrC VM

 Ramanathan Sundaresan was born in 1933 in Vikrama pandiyam village in Tanjore district of present day Tamil Nadu. He joined the Indian Air Force in 1951 and was commissioned in the flying branch in 1953. Initially flying Vampires, he soon converted to flying the Hawker Hunter. He was one of the first pilots to be deputed to Iraq as an instructor pilot between 1959 and 1963.

'Sandy' Sundaresan's flying career nearly ended early when during a hockey match he broke his arm after falling down. The treatment that he received at the Military Hospital left his arm locked rigid. It was clear that with the arm healed as is, he would be grounded as he would have had difficulty in handling the throttle of an aircraft. Not being someone to let it go, Sundaresan applied for leave and went to his hometown. He visited the village of Potthur which was renowned for its traditional treatment methods. There, one of the the village 'Bone Setters' once again re-broke Sundaresan's arm and 're-set' it correctly. After the arm healed, he coupled it with rigorous training and came back to operational flying.

Prior to this , Sundaresan married Ms Madhuram in 1958. They had three daughters from their happy marriage. Sundaresan's hobbies went beyond the ordinary. He was an expert sketch artist and could draw portraits on the fly. He was also an avid auto enthusiast who used to spend hours on car driving trips and car maintenance.

At the beginning of 1971, Sundaresan was the commanding officer of the Hunter OTU at Jamnagar. He was awarded the VM by Air Chief Marshal PC Lal for his services. Just before the hostilities in 1971, he received his command of a squadron, No.14 'The Bulls' then stationed at Kalaikunda.

When the war started in Bangladesh, Wg Cdr Sundaresan was in the forefront of the operations. The first strike was against Chittagong on the morning of Dec 4. This was followed by a strike on a ferry. It was during the third sortie of the day, when Sundaresan was flying a mission near Dhaka with Flt Lt K Tremenhere as his wingman that they were bounced by four PAF F-86 Sabres. Tackling the Sabres, he shot down one of them being flown by Fg Offr Sajjad Noor.

The gun camera film of that kill was described as "nearly unimaginable", for the "precision" with which Sundaresan placed and held his pipper right on his adversary's cockpit, according to a his previous station commander. However there was a price to pay. Sundaresan's wingman was also shot down in the encounter, but luckily he ejected and was liberated from the Pakistani custody when Indian troops took over Dhaka. For his leadership and feat in shooting down the Sabre, Wg Cdr Sundaresan was awarded the Vir Chakra in January 1972.

Subsequently, he was given command of 505 Signal Unit at Lucknow as a Group Captain before being posted to Pathankot Air Force Station as the base commander. He was an avid flier and even in the senior post of Gp Capt , he regularly flew sorties with squadrons under his command.

However Gp Capt Sundaresan was lost during one such sortie in 1978, when a collision occurred with another aircraft. The Indian Air Force had lost yet another of its rising stars.


Pilot Officer Ramanathan Sundaresan  4574 GD(P), after his commissioning in the Indian Air Force in the Flying Branch in 1953.

In the mid 50s , Sundaresan standing far right. Also seen in the picture are RK Jit Dhawan,  BS Kewal Remani, IA Rebello (Standing) and Sqn Ldr JF Josephs, Fg Offr KC Khanna (Sitting). Pic Courtesy: Sqn Ldr JF Joseph.

As a Flt Lt in 1958 with his wife Mrs Madhuram Sundaresan MSc. The Tamil magazine Kumudampublished this photo in an article in 1972. Click on the photo to read the complete article in Tamil.

With his favourite aircraft:
 In Jan 1971, Sundaresan was the Officer Commanding of the Operational Training Unit (later the OCU) of Hunters at Jamnagar (Then under the command of Gp Capt PM Wilson).  This particular Hunter BA-241 is preserved today at the Modern High School on Bharakambha Road in New Delhi.

Part of the Job of the Hunter OCU was to train Hunter pilots in Air Combat and in Air to Ground Gunnery. These Gun camera photographs from Gp Capt Sundaresan's log book shows some spectacular results in the training exercises. From L to R, A hardened Aircraft Shelter under attack and  Two Gnats which had the unfortunate experience of finding themselves in the gunsights of the Hunter

Then Wg Cdr Sundaresan receiving the Vayu Sena Medal from Air Chief Marshal PC Lal.

"Strike ARI Dhaka - Bounced by Sabres - Shot down one, No 2 Shot down" is the entry in Wg Cdr Sundaresan's logbook on his memorable sortie on Dec 4th that describes his shooting down of an F-86 Sabre over Dhaka in Hunter BA-275. Sundaresan's wingman was also downed by another Sabre during the aircombat but ejected safely to become a POW. Incidentally the Hunter BA-275 was lost a week later when it had an engine flame out during a sortie flown by Sqn Ldr RC Sachdeva in the Hilli area.

For his command of No.14 Squadron during the 1971 War, Wg Cdr Sundaresan received the Vir Chakra Award (Left) from President VV Giri in January 1972. Seen on theright is the Medal group of Gp Capt Sundaresan with the VrC and VM.

During President VV Giri's visit to Kalaikunda Airbase in 1972. Wg Cdr Sundaresan was then commanding 14 Squadron.

Taking the salute during the Air Force Day Parade in 1976 at Lucknow. He was then commanding 505 Signal Unit.

Wg Cdr Sundaresan receives the Prime Minister of Iraq. Sundaresan himself served as an Instructor with the Iraqi Air Force in the early 60s

Gp Capt Sundaresan's last command was Pathankot AFS. Here he is meeting up with the Chief Minister of Punjab during the CM's visit to Pathankot Air Force Station.

Meeting the Chief of Air Staff of the Russian Air Force during his visit to India. Air Marshal EJ Dhatighara KC is accompanying the Marshal of the Russian Air Force.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Gp Capt Sundaresan's family for providing us the photographs from his collection. Members of the Bharat Rakshak Forum for translating the Kumudam article.
Copyrights: All photographs are the copyright of Gp Capt Sundaresan's family unless otherwise stated