Maintenance Command was formed at Kanpur on 26 January 1955 with Air Vice Marshal Harjinder Singh MBE PVSM as its first Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief. Kanpur was hub centre of maintenance activities even before independence. The only Base Repair Depot (BRD) of the Indian Air Force existed at Kanpur, along with a Repair and Manufacturing Depot (RMD). A unit called Aircraft Manufacturing Depot (AMD) was subsequently added to undertake manufacture of Avro aircraft. In the perspective of industrial revolution in India, when the role of IAF was more clearly defined, AMD was transferred to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This division of HAL is today known as Transport Aircraft Division or HAL (TAD), and is based at Chakeri, Kanpur. IAF, however, was poised to expand in times to come and Kanpur alone could not absorb the futuristic industrial activities. Nagpur was eventually selected as the new site for setting up Maintenance Command Headquarters.
Phoenix was a legendary bird that lived in Arabia. According to tradition, the phoenix consumed itself by fire every 500 years, and a new, young phoenix sprang from its ashes. In the mythology of ancient Egypt, the phoenix represented the Sun, which dies at night and is reborn in the morning. Early Christian tradition adopted the phoenix as a symbol of both immortality and resurrection. The ancient concept of the Phoenix is, in many ways, the essence of the mythological treatment of themes of renewal and rebirth, particularly considering the emphasis on fire, metaphorically the spark of life and, practically essential for existence.
In May 1978, Air Mshl D Subia PVSM VrC, AOC-in-C, MC used this philosophy to give the Base Repair Depots a uniform UNIT CREST and MOTTO. The genuinely unique crest depicts the mythical bird PHOENIX rising out of the flames with a gear wheel encircling its head. The motto inscribed on the insignia is KAYA KALPA which indicates rejuvenation of the body and explains the role of the Base Repair Depots where aircraft, aeroengines and other technical equipment, having completed certain life, are overhauled and sent out with a new lease of life. 1 BRD, the mother BRD, however, has been allowed to retain its original motto of SAHAYATA SEVA.
Technical activities undertaken by Maintenance Command are effected today in Base Repair Depots (BRDs), Equipment Depots (EDs), Air Storage Parks (ASPs), Air Force Liaison Establishments (AFLEs), Air Force Liaison Cells (AFLCs) and numerous other smaller units. Maintenance Command is responsible for product support, maintenance, repair and overhaul of all de-centralised variants of aircraft, aero-engines, missiles, ADGES Radars, Communication, Power and Air Conditioning equipment, GW equipment, Ground Radar, Radio and Nav aids including GCA, Airborne avionics, EW equipment etc. Additionally, HQ MC oversees production and product support activities of HAL and BEL through Liaison Establishments and Liaison Cells.
To support air operations in the Far East during World War II, No. 322 Maintenance Unit was formed in 1940 in the 21 TATA hangers at Chakeri, Kanpur. The functions included arming of bombers and fighter aircraft like Liberator, Lancaster, Hurricane, Tempest and Dakota. The unit was further expanded to include aircraft storage and servicing activities, while the logistics support and aeroengine storage functions operated at Armapur Estate, 25 Km away from Chakeri. In August 1945, after Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces and hostilities came to an end, this No. 322 Maintenance Unit was disbanded and Royal Air Force Station, Kanpur came into formal existence.
On 15 August 1947, the historic day of India’s Independence, Wing Commander Ranjan Dutta DFC took over the command of Air Force Station, Kanpur from the Royal Air Force. Simultaneously, on this very day, No. 1 Aircraft Repair Depot for servicing and No. 10 Aircraft Storage unit for storage activities were formed at Chakeri, Kanpur. Group Captain DAR Nanda became the first Commanding Officer of both these units. On 09 August 1948, the two units were merged to form No. 1 Base Repair Depot and Group Captain Harjinder Singh MBE PVSM became the first Commanding Officer of this new unit. Nostalgic moments included induction of India’s first jet aircraft, the Vampire in 1954 and the Depot effecting its first major servicing in that very year. Flying Officer Gian Singh still remains a much-remembered name who used to regularly ferry in the Vampire aircraft for servicing at Hanger No.6 of the Depot. 1 BRD has a professionally rich heritage of servicing both fighter and transport aircraft of IAF like Spitfire, Prentice, Austar, Harvard, Otter, Bell Helicopter, Vampire, Toofani, Mystere, Hunter, Avro and presently An-32 aircraft.
Overhaul requirement of transport and helicopter fleet of the IAF necessitated setting up of No. 3 Base Repair Depot at Chandigarh on 20 Aug 1962. Group Captain TMJ Kriplani, the Depot’s first Commanding Officer, set up the requisite facilities with Russian collaboration and commenced the first overhaul of the IL-14 transport aircraft and the Mi-4 helicopter. With induction of new helicopters in IAF, the Depot graduated to overhaul of Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters. In fact, the Depot has today become the knowledge base for all Russian helicopters, and has undertaken number of tasks like life extension of Mi-25 helicopters, repair of Mi-26 helicopters and upgrade of Mi-35 helicopters.
Over a period of time, with the induction of weapon platforms, IAF felt the requirement to increase its capability is maintenance and overhauls of core equipment and associated systems/ subsystems. It led to establishment of various Aircraft BRDs (1 BRD, 3 BRD, 5 BRD, 11 BRD), Engine BRDs (3 BRD and 4 BRD) and System BRDs (7 BRD, 8 BRD, 9 BRD, 12 BRD, 13 BRD, 14 BRD, 15 BRD and 16 BRD) over the geographical spread of India.
302 Maintenance Unit was established in 1939 at Allahabad. During 1942, it was converted into a Universal Equipment Depot, the first ever such Depot in South East Asia as per RAF records, to sustain the air operations of Allied Forces during the Second World War. In 1948 the Depot was renamed as 4 Equipment Depot and was rechristened as 24 Equipment Depot in year 1966. Traversing through the days of providing spares support to aircrafts such as Tempest, Spitfire, Gnat, Marut, Canberra and Hunter aircraft, 24 Equipment Depot now stores spares for Jaguar, Avro and Dornier aircraft, Chetak / Chetah and Cheetal Helicopters, ALH and RPA.
Similarly, 23 Equipment Depot at Avadi (Chennai) dates back to World War II. Christened in December 1944 as 337 Maintenance Unit under the Royal Indian Air Force, it functioned as a Supply Point and a Storage Depot for South-East Asia. It was renamed twice over as No. 3 Equipment Depot in September 1947 and 23 Equipment Depot in March 1966. With the expansion of IAF, several Equipment Depots pan India were established (25 ED at Devlali, 26 ED at Bengaluru, 27 ED at Palam, 28 ED at AMLA, 29 ED at Kanpur) followed by mini EDs (41 ED,42 ED,43 ED, 44 ED, 45 ED & 49 ED) to cater to diverse fleets and systems. Similarly, Air Force Liaison Establishments were set up alongside HAL Divisions to act as an interface between IAF and HAL.
In order to ensure smooth movement of men and material, 31 Movement Control Unit was originally formed as Air Movement Section at Mirpur in erstwhile West Pakistan in 1939. Subsequently, this unit was renamed as Passenger and Freight (P&F) Forwarding Section and remained under 3 Wing which was later converted to a full-fledged Movement Control Unit on 11 May 1967. 31 MCU is the staging base for undertaking Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations. Unit has participated in 18 HADR missions in the last five years providing relief materials and assistance to people in need both in India and foreign destinations. The unit has been conferred the coveted Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Tier-III status by Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs on 17 Jan 2019. Various benefits are available to importers for this including the facility to make deferred payment of Customs duty. This unit thus became not only the first Defence unit but also first Indian Entity to have acquired this status.
32 MCU was formed in the year 1948 as Air Freight & Passenger (Mov) Unit. Subsequently, the unit was rechristened as 32 MCU, AF. Presently the unit is located at Terminal-1 of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. The Unit has obtained (AEO) Tier-II Certificate. 33 MCU was formed on 04 October 1982 at Air Force Station Guwahati to act as a single point ‘passenger and freight handling agency’ for the Eastern region. The Unit acts as gateway for the Northeast and is a major transportation hub for IAF.
AeSI was founded on 17 Nov 1948 with an aim to promote the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of aeronautical sciences and aerospace technologies as well as elevation of the aeronautical profession. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India was the first Patron-in-Chief of the society. Since then, it has grown to 16 branches across the country. Air Marshal RKS Shera AVSM VSM AOC-in-C, HQ MC is Vice President AeSI.
AeSI, Nagpur was formed on 21 Oct 2003 at HQMC, IAF. Air Vice Marshal NR Chitnis VSM, AOES, HQ MC is the present Chairman of the Nagpur branch. AeSI, Nagpur is committed to enhance fraternisation among professionals and provide a platform for interaction between industry, R&D and academia.
Besides regular interactive sessions among the members, the society along with other institutions conducted school outreach programme during Nov 2018 wherein, students participated for various events such as essay, poster making, quiz competition etc. Orange City Science Fair was also conducted along with Raman Science Centre where aero modelling and working science models were show cased by young science enthusiasts. Annual event “VAIMANIKA” was organised in March 19 at Priyadarshini College of Engineering to promote aviation and develop creative talent amongst younger generation. Symposium based on “Self Reliance in Military and Civil Aviation Maintenance” was also conducted during the event.