The Indian Air Force (IAF) today, having completed the Platinum
Jubilee of dedicated service to the nation, is a modern, technology-intensive
force distinguished by its commitment to excellence and professionalism. Keeping
pace with the demands of contemporary advancements, the IAF continues to modernise
in a phased manner and today it stands as a credible air power counted amongst
the fore-most professional services in the world.
The primacy of Air Power will be a decisive factor in shaping the outcome of
future conflicts. In line with this dictum, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has developed
into a major 'Component of National Power', which can be applied quickly and
decisively. The IAF has reoriented itself to a multi-role capability of platforms
and equipment, along with multi-skill capability of personnel. The rapid economic
growth of the country dictates the need to protect our security interests extending
from the Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca.
Over the years the IAF has grown from a tactical force to one with transoceanic
reach. The strategic reach emerges from induction of Force Multipliers like
Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRA), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and credible
strategic lift capabilities. There is emphasis on acquiring best of technology
through acquisitions or upgradation, be it aircraft, systems, precision missiles
or net centricity. The main inductions and acquisitions by Indian Air Force
are given in the following paras.
IAF has started upgrading its combat aircraft fleet since the
last few years in order to enhance its operational capability and maintain its
aircraft as modern weapon platforms, capable of meeting the present challenges
posed by the security scenario in our region. Of the available fleet, MiG-21,
MiG-27 and Jaguar aircraft have already been upgraded and Mirage-2000 and MiG-29
aircraft are planned for upgradation. The Indian Air Force is considering upgrade
of its medium lift helicopters comprising Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-17-IVs, as also
the AN - 32 transport aircraft, with the aim of improving their overall capability.
The IAF today is in the process of a most comprehensive modernisation
plan. Over the next few years, the force would induct more Su-30 aircraft, the
Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
There are plans to augment the helicopter and transport fleets too. The IAF
has initiated the process for acquisition of additional Mi-17 IV helicopters,
heavy lift helicopters, Advanced Light Helicopter and Light Combat Helicopters.
For the transport fleet, induction of Boeing Business Jets (BBJ), Flight Refuelling
Aircraft (FRA) and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), Heavy Transport
Aircraft (HETAC), C-130J Hercules and Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) is also
planned. Among trainer aircraft, the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer has been inducted
and the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) would be acquired in the near future.
The IAF is also in the process of acquiring radars in various categories to
meet the Air Defence requirements, accurate and advanced weapons, Network Centric
Warfare systems, etc, to meet its assigned tasks.
The Indian Air Force has seven commands, of which five are operational and two
functional, namely :
• HQ Central Air Command, Allahabad
• HQ Eastern Air Command, Shillong
• HQ Western Air Command, New Delhi
• HQ Southern Air Command, Thiruvananthapuram
• HQ South-Western Air Command, Gandhi Nagar
• HQ Maintenance Command, Nagpur and
• HQ Training Command, Bangalore
The IAF's helicopter fleet has steadily increased in numbers over the past twenty years, blossoming from a handfull of U.S. types in the '60s to over 500 French, Indian and Soviet built types. The pride of the force is, undoubtedly, the Mi-26 heavy lift helicopter which has been operated by No. 126 H.U. with outstanding results in the mountains of Northern India. The bulk of rotorcraft are Mi-17s and Mi-8s, well over one hundred of these types serving in Helicopter Units throughout the country, playing a vital logistic support role. Mi-8s are operated for commando assault tasks, for ferrying supplies and personnel to remote mountain helipads and jungle clearings, carrying out SAR (Search and Research Operations) and logistic support tasks in the island territories, employed with the Indian permanent station in the Antarctica and so on.
The smaller Alouette III, renamed Chetak, is as ubiquitous, being employed for casevac(Casualty Evacuation), communi- cations and liaison duties with the IAF having received over 150 examples of this versatile rotorcraft.
In 1986, however, the Government of India formally constituted the Army's Aviation Corps and most Chetak and Cheetahs operating in AOP Squadrons were transferred from the Air Force on 1st November 1986. The Air Force continues to fly armed Chetaks in the anti-tank role as well as for CASEVAC and general duties while the lighter Cheetah is operated by (FAC) flights.
In May 1984, No. 125 Helicopter Unit was formed with the formidable Mi-25 gunship helicopter, used to much effect in Sri Lanka. The upgraded Mi 35 has followed in April 1990, with No. 104 HU being reequipped with the type. Future requirements for armed helicopters are planned to be met by the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) named DHRUV, developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The IAF replaced its HT-2 primary trainers with the HPT-32 (Deepak), the new piston engined trainer being utilised at the Basic Flying Training School at Allahabad since January 1988 and at Air Force Academy at Dundigal. Flight cadets then proceed to the Air Force Academy, Dundigal for instruction on the HJT 16 Kiran, first on the Mk. I/IA and then on the armed Mk II version or the Polish origin Iskra, for tactical flying. After commissioning, pilots are streamed to various conversion units, depending on their selection and proficiency. Future fighter pilots are sent to operational conversion units (now known as the MOFTU or MIG Operational Flying Training Unit) where operational and tactical flyng is conducted on MIG 21. Thus are born the IAF's leaders and even future spacemen, like Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma, India's first cosmonaut who participated in a joint space flight with the Soviets in 1984.