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Special Content

Issue no 28, 08 - 14 October 2022

Indian Air Force 90 Glorious Years


Indian Air Force Day is celebrated every year on 8th of October to commemorate the day this defence organisation came into being. Officially established in 1932, this year the IAF will mark 90 years of glorious service since its foundation. Today, it is the fourth largest air force in the world with a highly technical and specialized fighting force that safeguards our skies against enemy invasions.

The Beginning : The IAF is the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces; it protects and secures the Indian airspace and conducts air warfare during a war. It is the youngest arm of the Indian Armed Forces. It was established by the British Empire in 1932, as an auxiliary of the Royal (British) Air Force. On April 1, 1933 the Air Force commissioned its first squadron, No 1 squadron with four Westland Wapiti IIA army cooperation biplanes and five Indian Pilots. King George VI conferred the prefix Royal to the Air Force, in 1945, in recognition of its services during World War II. It remained the Royal Indian Air Force until India became a Republic in 1950. Subsequently, the prefix of Royal was dropped and it was renamed as the Indian Air Force. Expansion and Modernisation In 1953, 54 two-seat night fighters were obtained to reequip the squadron at Palam (Delhi), thus endowing nightintercept capability upon the IAF for the first time. On April 1, 1954, Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee, one of the founding members of the Air Force took over as the first Indian Chief of Air Staff.

The Government began to seek non-traditional and alternative sources of combat aircraft procurement and plans were accordingly framed for major expansion during the period 1953-57. 1955-71 was the time the Indian Air Force entered a new era with the acquisition of jet aircraft. The period also saw two Indo-Pak wars, both of which were marked by the neutralisation of Pakistani Air efforts by the Indian Air Force. The IAF also contributed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo as well as the Sino India Conflict, with dedication and commitment. Particularly significant in IAF was the year 1957, which witnessed true beginnings of the major re-equipment programme that was to raise the Service fully to world standards. Deliveries began of 110 Dassault Mystere IVAs, carrying the service into the realms of transonic flight for the first time, and both Hawker Hunters and English Electric Canberras began to enter the IAF inventory.

The early sixties were accompanied by the IAF's induction of yet more new aircraft types, the most interesting of these arguably being the Folland Gnat lightweight fighter. With its startling agility, the Gnat proffered outstanding cost effectiveness. The real test of IAF airlift capability came in October 1962, when open warfare erupted on the Sino-Indian border. Many notable feats were performed by the IAF during this conflict, including the operation of C-119Gs from airstrips 17,000 ft (5180m) above sea level in the Karakoram Himalayas, and the air-lifting by An-12Bs of two troops of AMX-13 light tanks to Chushul, in Ladakh, where the small airstrip was 15,000 ft (4570m) above sea level.

The Journey Ahead: An epoch-making decision was taken in August 1962 which was to profoundly alter the complexion and strength of the Indian Air Force into the decades ahead. The Government of India signed protocols with the Soviet Union for the very first supply of combat aircraft and missiles for the Indian Air Force. The purchase of 12 MiG-21 fighters from the Soviet Union - the IAF's first combat aircraft of nonwestern origin - and for Soviet technical assistance in setting up production facilities for the fighter in India was followed by the procurement of SA-2 (Dvina) surface-to-air missiles. Re equipment and expansion of the IAF was now being pursued in parallel with major changes in the operational infrastructure. Prior to the Sino-lndian conflict, the IAF had been geared to provide defence against attack from the West only, but appreciation of the vulnerability of the entire Northern and Eastern border had called for profound rethinking of the operational infrastructure. It was now patently apparent that, for a country of the immensity of India, a system of purely functional Commands was impracticable and that, to cater for all potential-threats, operational command would in future, have to be exercised on a regional basis. Thus the Indian periphery was divided into three for purposes of operational control, the Western, Central and Eastern Air Commands eventually emerging. However, in order to maintain uniform standards in training and the Packets. The MiG is a revolutionary aircraft that was introduced to the Indian fleet in the eighties. No less than twenty new aircraft types and sub-types entered the IAF's service over these years, propelling the IAF, or Bharatiya Vayu Sena, into one of the world's better equipped air arms. The same period also witnessed a number of world records set by Indian Air Force personnel. Sqn Ldr Makkar and Flt Lt RTS Chinna set a world record by bombing from their Mi17 helicopter in Ladakh at an altitude of 5,050 meters. Sqn Ldr Sanjay Thapar, was the first Indian to para jump over the South Pole. Exploring new vistas, Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma was the first Indian cosmonaut to venture into outer space as part of an Indo-Soviet space program.

The Indian Air Force Today The last decade of the twentieth century saw a phenomenal change in the structure of the Indian Air Force with induction of women into the Air Force for Short Service Commissions. It was also a time when the Air Force undertook some of the most perilous operations ever undertaken. In 1999, the Indian Air Force undertook Operation Safed Sagar, the most unique air operation undertaken by any air force in the world. In 2016, history was created as India joined the select few nations in the world that have women fighter pilots in their Air Forces when Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi, Flying Officer Bhawana Kanth and Flying Officer Mohana Singh were conferred with the President's Commission. In 2020, Rafale Fighter Aircraft was formally inducted into the IAF. The IAF today is a modern, technology-intensive force. It has become a multi-role capable force. Over the years, it has grown from a tactical force to one with transoceanic reach. The headquarters of the IAF is at New Delhi. For effective command and control, IAF has seven Commands, under whom are various stations and units located at varied locations across the country.

Motto of IAF (Touch the sky with Glory) The Motto of the Indian Air Force has been taken from the eleventh chapter of the Gita, the Discourse given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra during the Great War of Mahabharata. The Lord is showing His Supreme Divine form to Arjuna and the great form of the Lord is reaching the sky with glory, evoking fear and loss of self-control in the mind of Arjuna. The Indian Air Force, similarly, aims to overwhelm the adversaries with application of aerospace power in defence of the nation. (Lord, seeing your form "Touching the Sky With Glory", effulgent, multicoloured, having its mouth wide open and possessing large flaming eyes, I, with my innermost self frightened, have lost self-control and find no peace.) The primary objective of IAF is to defend the nation and its airspace against air threats in coordination with Army and Navy. The secondary purpose is to assist civil power during natural calamities and internal disturbances. The IAF provides close air support to the Indian Army troops in the battlefield and also provides strategic and tactical airlift capabilities. IAF also provides strategic air lift or secondary Airlift for the Indian Army. The IAF operates the Integrated Space Cell together with the other two branches of the Indian Armed Forces, the Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). Other responsibilities include rescue of civilians during natural disasters, evacuation of Indian nationals from foreign countries in case of instability or other problems.

Compiled by: Anuja Bhardwajan & Annesha Banerjee Source: Indian Air Force/ PIB/NIOS