Squadron Leader V Manoj Nair hailed from Pazhaya Karakkamandapam village in the Trivandrum district of Kerala and was born on 15 Sep 1980. Son of K Viswambharan Nair (Retd Air Force officer) and Smt V Sujetha, he completed his BSc in Mathematics from Kerala University in 2000. Inspired by his father, he developed a strong desire to join the armed forces right from his childhood and continued to follow his dream. Eventually, he passed the Combined Defence Services Examination and got selected to join the Indian Air Force. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 21 Dec 2002 at the age of 22 years.
Having been inducted into the flying stream of the IAF, he got trained as a Helicopter pilot as part of the 170th Pilots' Course. After completing his multi-stage flying training, he joined an operational squadron and served at various Air Force bases. Soon he evolved into a professionally competent Helicopter pilot with expertise in various air operations. He went on to serve with the United Nations mission as part of the Indian contingent in Congo between October 2007 and October 2008. Furthermore, he also became a member of the famed SARANG aerobatic helicopter display team of the Indian Air Force, based at the Air Force base at Sulur, in Tamilnadu. Later he was detailed to undergo the prestigious 'helicopter combat leaders' course conducted by 'Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment '(TACDE), the elite training establishment of the IAF based at Gwalior.
Live Firing Air Mission: 30 Aug 2012
During Aug 2012, Sqn Ldr V Manoj Nair was undergoing the 'Helicopter Combat Leaders'' course at TACDE. The pilots were required to undertake complex and challenging air missions as part of the course to develop into combat leaders. One such air mission was planned on 30 Aug 2012, with two Mi-17 helicopters. Sqn Ldr V Manoj Nair was tasked for this mission along with Wg Cdr Asheesh Sharma in one Mi-17 helicopter (Z-2904) and Wg Cdr Vikram Singh & Wg Cdr Samir Saxena in another Mi-17 helicopter (Z-3089). Both the helicopters took off as planned in the late morning on 30 Aug 2012 along with other aircrew from Jamnagar Air Force base. They were required to fly in "close formation" for the mission, which was an air-to-ground bombing mission over the Sarmat range near Jamnagar IAF base.
However as they reached near the Sarmat range, the rotors of the two helicopters which had taken off loaded with bombs and rockets accidentally got entangled and resulted in a mid-air collision at about 12.05 pm. As a result, one chopper went down immediately and the other went into a spin after its tail rotor snapped and crashed. The Russian-origin Mi-17-1V helicopters involved in the mid-collision were also not too old. The sturdy Mi-17s, used both for bombing missions and troop transportation, were the main workhorses of IAF ever since 50 of them were first inducted in the mid-1980s. The tragic air crash proved fatal for Sqn Ldr Manoj V Nair and other aircrew. Besides Sqn Ldr Manoj V Nair, the other eight brave hearts, who lost their lives included Wg Cdr Asheesh Sharma, Wg Cdr Vikram Singh, Wg Cdr Samir Saxena, Fg Offr Sreejith Maloor, JWO Murugan, Sgt AK Patel, Sgt RK Rana, and Sgt RP Sahni. Sqn Ldr V Manoj Nair was a committed soldier and a professionally competent air warrior, who laid down his life at the age of 32 years in the service of the nation.
Sqn Ldr V Manoj Nair is survived by his wife, an IAF officer Wg Cdr S Rajalakshmi, and two daughters Sharanya and Navya.