The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces. Its complement of personnel and aircraft assets ranks fourth amongst the air forces of the world. Its primary mission is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during armed conflict. It was officially established on 8th October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire which honoured India’s aviation service during World War II with the prefix Royal. After India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the name Royal Indian Air Force was kept and served in the name of Dominion of India. With the government’s transition to a Republic in 1950, the prefix Royal was removed.
Since 1950 the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People’s Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai. The IAF’s mission expands beyond engagement with hostile forces, with the IAF participating in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The President of India holds the rank of Supreme Commander of the IAF. As of 1st July 2017, 139,576 personnel are in service with the Indian Air Force. The Chief of Air Staff, an air chief marshal, is a four-star officer and is responsible for the bulk of operational command of the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM at any given time in the IAF. The rank of Marshal of the Air Force has been conferred by the President of India on one occasion in history, to Arjan Singh. On 26th January 2002, Singh became the first and so far, only five-star rank officer of the IAF.
The IAF’s mission is defined by the Armed Forces Act of 1947, the Constitution of India, and the Air Force Act of 1950. It decrees that in the aerial battlespace:
Defence of India and every part there of including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation.
In practice, this is taken as a directive meaning the IAF bears the responsibility of safeguarding Indian airspace and thus furthering national interests in conjunction with the other branches of the armed forces. The IAF provides close air support to the Indian Army troops on the battlefield as well as strategic and tactical airlift capabilities. The Integrated Space Cell is operated by the Indian Armed Forces, the civilian Department of Space, and the Indian Space Research Organisation. By uniting the civilian run space exploration organisations and the military faculty under a single Integrated Space Cell the military is able to efficiently benefit from innovation in the civilian sector of space exploration, and the civilian departments benefit as well.
The Indian Air Force, with highly trained crews, pilots, and access to modern military assets provides India with the capacity to provide rapid response evacuation, search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, and delivery of relief supplies to affected areas via cargo aircraft. The IAF provided extensive assistance to relief operations during natural calamities such as the Gujarat cyclone in 1998, the tsunami in 2004, and North India floods in 2013. The IAF has also undertaken relief missions such as Operation Rainbow in Sri Lanka.
History of the Indian Air Force
Formation and early pilots
The Indian Air Force was established in British India as an auxiliary air force of the Royal Air Force with the enactment of the Indian Air Force Act 1932 on 8th October that year and adopted the Royal Air Force uniforms, badges, brevets and insignia. On 1st April 1933, the IAF commissioned its first squadron, No.1 Squadron, with four Westland Wapiti biplanes and five Indian pilots. The Indian pilots were led by RAF Commanding officer Flight Lieutenant (later Air Vice Marshal) Cecil Bouchier.
The first five pilots commissioned into the IAF were Harish Chandra Sircar, Subroto Mukerjee, Bhupendra Singh, Aizad Baksh Awan and Amarjeet Singh. A sixth officer, J N Tandon had to revert to logistics duties as he was too short. All of them were commissioned as Pilot Officers in 1932 from RAF Cranwell. Subroto Mukerjee later went on to become the IAF’s first Chief of the Air Staff. Subsequent batches inducted before World War II included Aspy Engineer, K K Majumdar, Narendra, Daljit Singh, Henry Runganadhan, R H D Singh, Baba Mehar Singh, S N Goyal, Prithpal Singh and Arjan Singh.
World War II (1939–1945)
During World War II, the IAF played an instrumental role in blocking the advance of the Japanese army in Burma, where its first air strike was on the Japanese military base in Arakan. It also carried out strike missions against the Japanese airbases at Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.
The IAF was mainly involved in Strike, Close Air Support, Aerial reconnaissance, Bomber Escort and Pathfinding missions for RAF and USAAF Heavy bombers. RAF Pilots were embedded in IAF units and vice versa to gain combat experience. IAF pilots participated in air operations in Europe as part of the RAF.
During the war, the IAF went through a phase of steady expansion. New aircraft, including the U.S. built Vultee Vengeance, Douglas DC-3 and the British Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and Westland Lysander, were added to its fleet.
Subhas Chandra Bose sent Indian National Army youth cadets to Japan to train as pilots. They went on to attend the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Academy in 1944.
In recognition of the services rendered by the IAF, King George VI conferred the prefix “Royal” in 1945. Thereafter the IAF was referred to as Royal Indian Air Force. In 1950, when India became a republic, the prefix was dropped and it reverted to Indian Air Force.
Post war, No. 4 Squadron IAF was sent to Japan as part of the Allied Occupation forces.
Partition of India (1947)
With the partition of the Indian sub-continent into two separate nations—India and Pakistan—the military forces were also partitioned. This gave a reduced Royal Indian Air Force and a new Royal Pakistan Air Force in 1947.
First Kashmir War 1947
In a bid to gain control of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pathan tribesmen poured into Kashmir on 20th October 1947, aided by the Pakistani Army. Incapable of withstanding the armed assault in his province, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, asked India for help. The Government of India made its assistance conditional upon Kashmir’s accession to India. The Instrument of accession was signed on 26th October 1947 and the next day Indian troops were airlifted into Srinagar. The agreement was later ratified by the British.
Taking off from Safdarjang, then known as Willingdon Airfield, the IAF landed Indian troops at Srinagar airfield at 09:30 hours IST on 27th October. This was the most instrumental action of the war as the troops saved the city from the invaders. Apart from the airlifting operations and supplying essential commodities to the ground troops, the Indian Air Force had other offensive roles to play in the conflict. Photo reconnaissance, bombing, strafing and interdiction roles were carried out extensively.
On 31st December 1948, both nations agreed to a UN mediated cease-fire proposal marking the end of hostilities. A Line of Control has since separated Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani-held Kashmir.
Congo crisis and Annexation of Goa (1960–1961)
The IAF saw significant conflict in 1960, when Belgium’s 75-year rule over Congo ended abruptly, engulfing the nation in widespread violence and rebellion. The IAF activated No. 5 Squadron, equipped with English Electric Canberra, to support the United Nations Operation in the Congo. The squadron started undertaking operational missions in November. The unit remained there until 1966, when the UN mission ended. Operating from Leopoldville and Kamina, the Canberras soon destroyed the rebel Air Force and provided the UN ground forces with its only long-range air support force.
In late 1961, the Indian government decided to attack the Portuguese colony of Goa after years of disagreement between New Delhi and Lisbon. The Indian Air Force was requested to provide support elements to the ground force in what was called Operation Vijay. Probing flights by some fighters and bombers were carried out from 8th–18th December to draw out the Portuguese Air Force, but to no avail. On 18th December, two waves of Canberra bombers bombed the runway of Dabolim airfield taking care not to bomb the Terminals and the ATC tower. Two Portuguese transport aircraft (a Super Constellation and a DC-6) found on the airfield were left alone so that they could be captured intact. However the Portuguese pilots managed to take off the aircraft from the still damaged airfield and made their getaway to Portugal. Hunters attacked the wireless station at Bambolim. Vampires were used to provide air support to the ground forces. In Daman, Mystères were used to strike Portuguese gun positions. Ouragans (called Toofanis in the IAF) bombed the runways at Diu and destroyed the control tower, wireless station and the meteorological station. After the Portuguese surrendered the former colony was integrated into India.
Sino-Indian War (1962)
In 1962, border disputes escalated into full-scale war between India and China. Indian military and civilian leadership failed to organise and co-ordinate the air assaults efficiently and eventually the Indian Air Force was never used during the conflict apart from occasional supply missions.
Second Kashmir War 1965
Three years after the Sino-Indian conflict, India went to war with Pakistan again over Kashmir. Learning from the experiences of the Sino-Indian war, India decided to use its air force extensively during the war. This was the first time the IAF actively engaged an enemy air force. However, instead of providing close air support to the Indian Army, the IAF carried out independent raid missions against Pakistani Air Force (PAF) bases. These bases were situated deep inside the Pakistani territory, making IAF fighters vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. conflict.
On 1st September 1965, the IAF fighters intervened in an ongoing battle between Indian and Pakistani forces in Chhamb. However, it was inadequate in close air support role. Initially, IAF had sent the obsolete Vampires and later Mystères to stop Pakistani advance.But after incidents of friendly fire, they were not called again for close air support. Two days later, IAF Folland Gnat fighters shot down a PAF F-86 Sabre over Chamb area. The Gnats were effective against the F-86 and earned the nickname Sabre Slayer. According to one Western source, the Gnats accounted for at least 6 Sabre kills.
During the course of the conflict, the PAF enjoyed qualitative superiority over the IAF because most of the jets in IAF’s fleet were of World War II-vintage. Despite this, the IAF was able to prevent the PAF from gaining air superiority over conflict zones. By the time the conflict had ended, Both sides claimed victory in the air war; Pakistan claimed to have destroyed 104 aircraft against its own losses of 19, while India claimed to have destroyed 73 enemy aircraft and lost 35 of its own. Despite the intense fighting, the conflict was effectively a stalemate. More than 60% of IAF’s air combat losses took place during the disastrous battles over Kalaikunda and Pathankot. However, the IAF lost most of its aircraft on ground and the attrition rate (losses per 100 sorties) of the IAF stood at 1.49 while PAF’s attrition rate was 2.16, because the IAF has larger number of aircraft with higher number of take off and landing sorties.
Bangladesh Liberation War 1971
After the 1965 War, the Indian Air Force went through an intense phase of modernisation and consolidation. With newly acquired HF-24, MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-7BM (though the versions of these acquired between 1965 and 1971 did not have night-fight capability) aircraft, the IAF was able to measure up to the most powerful air forces in the world.
The professional standards, capability and flexibility were soon put to the test in December 1971 when India and Pakistan went to war over (then) East Pakistan. At the time, the IAF was under the command of Air Chief Marshal Pratap Chandra Lal. On 22nd November, ten days before the start of a full-scale war, four PAF F-86 Sabre jets attacked Indian and Mukti Bahini positions near the Indo-Bangla border in the Battle of Garibpur. In what became the first ever Dogfight over East Pakistan skies (present day Bangladesh), three of the 4 PAF Sabres were shot down by IAF Gnats, and hostilities commenced. 3rd December saw the formal declaration of war following massive, but failed preemptive strikes by the Pakistan Air Force against Indian Air Force installations in the west. The PAF targets were against Indian bases in Srinagar, Ambala, Sirsa, Halwara and Jodhpur on the lines of Operation Focus. But the plan failed miserably as Indians had anticipated such a move and no major losses were suffered. The Indian response over Pakistan skies however produced severe blows to the PAF.
Within the first two weeks, the IAF had carried out more than 4,000 sorties in East Pakistan and provided successful air cover for the advancing Indian army in East Pakistan. IAF also assisted the Indian Navy in sinking several Pakistani naval vessels in the Bay of Bengal. In the west, the airforce demolished scores of tanks and armoured vehicles in a single battle – the Battle of Longewala. The IAF pursued strategic bombing by destroying oil installations in Karachi, the Mangla Dam and gas plant in Sindh. As the IAF achieved complete air superiority over the eastern wing of Pakistan within a few days, the ordnance factories, runways, and other vital areas in East Pakistan were severely crippled. In the end, the IAF played a pivotal role in the victory for the Allied Forces leading to the liberation of Bangladesh. In addition to the overall strategic victory, the IAF had also claimed 94 Pakistani aircraft destroyed, with some 45 of their own aircraft admitted lost. The IAF had however, flown over 7000 combat sorties on both East and West fronts and its overall sortie rate numbered over 15000. Comparatively the PAF was flowing fewer sorties (though PAF had qualitative advantage; its Mirage III fighter/bombers could fly at night, where no IAF fighter had that capability—the only aircraft in IAF with this capability was the Canberra bomber) by the day fearing loss of planes. Towards the end of the war, IAF’s transport planes dropped leaflets over Dhaka urging the Pak forces to surrender; East Pakistani sources note that as the leaflets floated down, the morale of the Pakistani troops sunk.
Operation Meghdoot 1984
The Operation Meghdoot was the name given to the preemptive strike launched by the Indian Military to capture most of the Siachen Glacier, in the disputed Kashmir region. Launched on 13th April 1984, this military operation was unique as it was the first assault launched in the world’s highest battlefield. The IAF played an important role in the Operation Meghdoot. The IAF Strategic airlifters like the Il-76s, An 12s transported stores and troops, airdropped supplies to high altitude airfields while transport helicopters like Mi-17s, Chetaks transported men and material. The military action was successful as India gained control over all of the Siachen Glacier and all of its tributary glaciers, as well as the three main passes of the Saltoro Ridge. According to TIME magazine, India gained more than 1,000 square miles (3,000 km2) of territory because of its military operations in Siachen. Pakistan tried in 1987 and in 1989 to re-take the glacier but was unsuccessful.
Operation Poomalai (1987)
Failing to negotiate an end to the Sri Lankan Civil War, India sent a convoy of unarmed ships to northern Sri Lanka to provide more than 1000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, but it was intercepted by the Sri Lankan Navy and sent back. Following this, the Indian Government decided to carry out an airdrop of the humanitarian supplies on the evening of 4th June 1987 designated Operation Poomalai (Tamil: Garland) or Eagle Mission 4 as a show of force to the Sri Lankan government, of symbolic support to the Tamil rebel and to preserve the credibility of the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Five An-32s of the Paratroop Training School in Agra, escorted by five Mirage 2000s of the No. 7 Squadron were to carry out the supply drop. The message was conveyed to the Sri Lankan Ambassador to New Delhi that Indian Air Force would be flying a mission at 1600 Hours to drop supplies over Jaffna. The ambassador was told that the aircraft were expected to complete their mission unhindered and any opposition by the Sri Lankan Air Force ‘would be met by force’ by the escorting Mirage 2000s. The air drop was a success and the IAF was unopposed by the Sri Lankan forces. Sri Lanka accused India of “blatant violation of sovereignty”. India insisted that it was acting only on humanitarian grounds.
Operation Pawan (1987)
The IAF supported the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. About 70,000 sorties were flown by the IAF’s transport and helicopter force in support of nearly 100,000 troops and paramilitary forces without a single aircraft lost or mission aborted. IAF An-32s maintained a continuous air link between air bases in South India and Northern Sri Lanka transporting men, equipment, rations and evacuating casualties. Mi-8s supported the ground forces and also provided air transportation to the Sri Lankan civil administration during the elections. Mi-25s of No. 125 H.U. were utilised to provide suppressive fire against militant strong points and to interdict coastal and clandestine riverine traffic.
On 11th May 1999, the Indian Air Force was called in to provide close air support to the Indian Army at the height of the ongoing Kargil conflict with the use of helicopters. The IAF strike was code named Operation Safed Sagar. The first strikes were launched on 26th May, when the Indian Air Force struck infiltrator positions with fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. The initial strikes saw MiG-27s carrying out offensive sorties, with MiG-21s and later MiG-29s providing fighter cover. The IAF also deployed its radars and the MiG-29 fighters in vast numbers to keep check on Pakistani military movements across the border. Srinagar Airport was at this time closed to civilian air-traffic and dedicated to the Indian Air Force.
On 27th May, the first fatalities were suffered when a MiG-21 and a MiG-27 jets were lost over Batalik Sector to enemy action and mechanical failure, respectively. The following day, a Mi-17 was lost- with the loss of all four of the crew- when it was hit by three Stingers while on an offensive sortie. These losses forced the Indian Air Force to reassess its strategy. The helicopters were immediately withdrawn from offensive roles as a measure against the man-portable missiles in possession of the infiltrators. On 30th May, the Indian Air Force called into operation the Mirage 2000 which was deemed the best aircraft capable of optimum performance under the conditions of high-altitude seen in the zone of conflict. Mirage 2000s not only had better defence equipment compared to the MiGs, but also gave IAF the ability to carry out aerial raids at night. The MiG-29s were used extensively to provide fighter escort to the Mirage 2000. The Mirages successfully targeted enemy camps and logistic bases in Kargil and within days, their supply lines were severely disrupted. Mirage 2000s were used for strikes on Muntho Dhalo and the heavily defended Tiger Hill and paved the way for their early recapture. At the height of the conflict, the IAF was conducting over forty sorties daily over the Kargil region. By 26th July, the Indian forces had successfully liberated Kargil from Pakistani forces.
Post Kargil incidents (1999–present)
Since the late 1990s, the Indian Air Force has been modernising its fleet to counter challenges in the new century. The fleet size of the IAF has decreased to 33 squadrons during this period because of the retirement of older aircraft. Still, India maintains the fourth largest air force in the world. The IAF plans to raise its strength to 42 squadrons. Self-reliance is the main aim that is being pursued by the defence research and manufacturing agencies.
On 10th August 1999, IAF MiG-21s intercepted a Pakistan Navy Breguet Atlantique which was flying over Sir Creek, a disputed territory. The aircraft was shot down killing all 16 Pakistani Navy personnel on board. India claimed that the Atlantic was on a mission to gather information on IAF air defence, a charge emphatically rejected by Pakistan which argued that the unarmed aircraft was on a training mission.
On 2nd August 2002, the Indian Air Force bombed Pakistani posts along the Line of Control in the Kel sector, following inputs about Pakistani military buildup near the sector.
On 20th August 2013, the Indian Air Force created a world record by performing the highest landing of a C-130J at the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh at the height of 5,065 metres (16,617 ft). The medium-lift aircraft will be used to deliver troops, supplies and improve communication networks. The aircraft belonged to the Veiled Vipers squadron based at Hindon Air Force Station.
On 13th July 2014, two MiG-21s were sent from Jodhpur Air Base to investigate a Turkish Airlines aircraft over Jaisalmer when it repeated an identification code, provided by another commercial passenger plane that had already entered Indian airspace before it. The flights were on their way to Mumbai and Delhi, and the planes were later allowed to proceed after their credentials were verified.
2019 Balakot airstrike
Following heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after the 2019 Pulwama attack that was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which killed forty-six servicemen of the Central Reserve Police Force, a group of twelve Mirage 2000 fighter planes from the Indian Air Force carried out air strikes on alleged JeM bases in Chakothi and Muzaffarabad in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Furthermore, the Mirage 2000s targeted an alleged JeM training camp in Balakot, a town in the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan claimed that the Indian aircraft had only dropped bombs in the forest area demolishing pine trees near the Jaba village which is 19 kilometres (12 mi) away from Balakot. And the Indian officials claimed to bomb and kill a large number of terrorists in the airstrike.
2019 India–Pakistan standoff
On 27th February 2019, in retaliation for the IAF bombing of an alleged terrorist hideout in Balakot, a group of PAF Mirage-5 and JF-17 fighters allegedly conducted an airstrike against certain ground targets across the Line of Control. They were intercepted by a group of IAF fighters consisting of Su-30MKI and MiG-21 jets. An ensuing dogfight began. According to India, one PAF F-16 was shot down by an IAF MIG-21 piloted by Abhinandan Varthaman, while Pakistan denied use of F-16s in the operation. According to Pakistan, a MiG-21 and a Su30MKI were shot down, while India claims that only the MiG-21 was shot down. While the downed MiG-21’s pilot had ejected successfully, he landed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and was captured by the Pakistan military. Before his capture he was assaulted by a few locals. After a couple of days of captivity, the captured pilot was released by Pakistan per Third Geneva convention obligations. While Pakistan denied involvement of any of its F-16 aircraft in the strike, the IAF presented remnants of AMRAAM missiles that are only carried by the F-16s within the PAF as proof of their involvement. The US-based ”Foreign Policy” magazine, quoting unnamed US officials, reported in April 2019 that an audit didn’t find any Pakistani F-16s missing. However, the same has not been confirmed by US Official citing it as bilateral matter between US and Pakistan.
The Indian Air Force has aircraft and equipment of Russian (erstwhile Soviet Union), British, French, Israeli, US and Indian origins with Russian aircraft dominating its inventory. HAL produces some of the Russian and British aircraft in India under licence. The exact number of aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force cannot be determined with precision from open sources. Various reliable sources provide notably divergent estimates for a variety of high-visibility aircraft. Flight International estimates there to be around 1,750 aircraft in service with the IAF, while the International Institute for Strategic Studies provides a similar estimate of 1,750 aircraft. Both sources agree there are approximately 900 combat capable (fighter, attack etc.) aircraft in the IAF.
Multi-role fighters and strike aircraft
Dassault Rafale: The latest addition to India’s aircraft arsenal, India has signed a deal for 36 Dassault Rafale multirole fighter aircraft. The first five aircraft including three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft arrived on 29th July 2020, at the Air Force Station, Ambala. No 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”, is being raised at this base equipped with Rafale aircraft.
Sukhoi Su-30MKI: The IAF’s primary air superiority fighter with the additional capability to conduct air-ground (strike) missions is Sukhoi Su-30MKI . 272 Su-30MKIs are in service as of January 2020 with 12 more on order with HAL.
Mikoyan MiG-29: The Mikoyan MiG-29 known as Baaz (Hindi for Hawk) is a dedicated air superiority fighter and constitutes the second line of defence after the Sukhoi Su-30MKI. 69 MiG-29s are in service, all of which have been recently upgraded to the MiG-29UPG standard. An additional 21 MiG 29s have been ordered recently with upgraded UPG standard.
Dassault Mirage 2000: The Dassault Mirage 2000, known as Vajra (Sanskrit for Diamond or thunderbolt) in Indian service, is the primary multirole fighter, the IAF currently operates 49 Mirage 2000Hs and 8 Mirage 2000 TH all of which are currently being upgraded to the Mirage 2000-5 MK2 standard with Indian specific modifications and 2 Mirage 2000-5 MK2 are in service as of March 2015. The IAF’s Mirage 2000 are scheduled to be phased out by 2030.
HAL Tejas: The MiG-21s are planned to be replaced by the indigenously built HAL Tejas. The first Tejas IAF unit, No. 45 Squadron IAF Flying Daggers was formed on 1st July 2016 followed by No. 18 Squadron IAF “Flying Bullets” on 27th May 2020. Initially being stationed at Bangalore, the first squadron will be placed at its home base at Sulur, Tamil Nadu. The Tejas will be 40 aircraft of the MK1 variant and 83 of the MK1A variant. The latter will have an AESA radar, improved EW fit and internal changes for ease of maintenance.
SEPECAT Jaguar: The SEPECAT Jaguar known as Shamsher serves as the IAF’s primary ground attack force. The IAF currently operates 139 Jaguars. The first batch of DARIN-1 Jaguars are now going through a DARIN-3 upgrade being equipped with EL/M-2052 AESA radars, and an improved jamming suite plus new avionics. These aircraft are scheduled to be phased out by 2030.
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21: The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 serves as an Interceptor aircraft in the IAF. The IAF have phased out most of its MiG-21s and plans to keep only 125 that have been upgraded to MiG-21 Bison standard. The phase-out date for these aircraft has been postponed several times. Initially set for 2014–2017, it was later postponed to 2019. Currently phase-out is scheduled for 2021–2022.
Airborne early warning and control system
The IAF is currently training the crew in operating the indigenously developed DRDO AEW&CS flying on the Embraer ERJ 145 aircraft. The IAF also operates the EL/W-2090 Phalcon AEW&C incorporated in a Beriev A-50 platform. A total of 3 such systems are currently in service, with possible orders for 2 more. The two extra Phalcons are currently in negotiation over price differences between Russia and India. India is also going ahead with Project India, an inhouse AWACS program to develop and deliver 6 Phalcon class AWACS, based on DRDO work on the smaller AEW&CS.
The IAF currently operates 7 Ilyushin Il-78MKIs in the aerial refuelling (tanker) role.
For strategic airlift operations the IAF uses the Ilyushin Il-76, known as Gajraj (Hindi for King Elephant) in Indian service. The IAF operated 17 Il-76s in 2010, which are in the process of being replaced by C-17 Globemaster IIIs.
The IAF C-130Js are used by special forces for combined Army-Air Force operations. India purchased six C-130Js; however one crashed at Gwalior on 28th March 2014 while on a training mission, killing all 5 on board and destroying the aircraft. The Antonov An-32, known in Indian service as the Sutlej (named after Sutlej River), serves as a medium transport aircraft in the IAF. The aircraft is also used in bombing roles and para-dropping operations. The IAF currently operates 105 An-32s, all of which are being upgraded. The Dornier Do 228 serves as light transport aircraft in the IAF. The IAF also operates Boeing 737s and Embraer ECJ-135 Legacy aircraft as VIP transports and passenger airliners for troops. Other VIP transport aircraft are used for both the President of India and the Prime Minister of India under the call sign Air India One.
The Hawker Siddeley HS 748 once formed the backbone of the IAF’s transport fleet, but are now used mainly for training and communication duties. A replacement is under consideration.
The HAL HPT-32 Deepak is IAF’s basic flight training aircraft for cadets. The HPT-32 was grounded in July 2009 following a crash that killed two senior flight instructors, but was revived in May 2010 and is to be fitted with a parachute recovery system (PRS) to enhance survivability during an emergency in the air and to bring the trainer down safely. The HPT-32 is to be phased out soon. The HPT 32 has been replaced by Pilatus, a Swiss aircraft. The IAF uses the HAL HJT-16 Kiran mk.I for intermediate flight training of cadets, while the HJT-16 Kiran mk.II provides advanced flight and weapons training. The HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 is also operated by the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) of the IAF. The Kiran is to be replaced by the HAL HJT-36 Sitara. The BAE Hawk Mk 132 serves as an advanced jet trainer in the IAF and is progressively replacing the Kiran Mk.II. The IAF has begun the process of converting the Surya Kiran display team to Hawks. A total of 106 BAE Hawk trainers have been ordered by the IAF of which 39 have entered service as of July 2010. IAF also ordered 72 Pipistrel Virus SW 80 microlight aircraft for basic training purpose.
The HAL Dhruv serves primarily as a light utility helicopter in the IAF. In addition to transport and utility roles, newer Dhruvs are also used as attack helicopters. Four Dhruvs are also operated by the Indian Air Force Sarang Helicopter Display Team. The HAL Chetak is a light utility helicopter and is used primarily for training, rescue and light transport roles in the IAF. The HAL Chetak is being gradually replaced by HAL Dhruv. The HAL Cheetah is a light utility helicopter used for high altitude operations. It is used for both transport and search-and-rescue missions in the IAF.
The Mil Mi-8 and the Mil Mi-17, Mi-17 1V and Mi-17V 5 are operated by the IAF for medium lift strategic and utility roles. The Mi-8 is being progressively replaced by the Mi-17 series of helicopters. The IAF has ordered 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, 68 HAL Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), 35 HAL Rudra attack helicopters, 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopters and 150 Mi-17V-5s to replace and augment its existing fleet of Mi-8s, Mi-17s, and Mi-24s. The Mil Mi-26 serves as a heavy lift helicopter in the IAF. It can also be used to transport troops or as a flying ambulance. The IAF currently operates three Mi-26s.
The Mil Mi-35 serves primarily as an attack helicopter in the IAF. The Mil Mi-35 can also act as a low-capacity troop transport. The IAF currently operates two squadrons (No. 104 Firebirds and No. 125 Gladiators) of Mi-25/35s.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
The IAF currently uses the IAI Searcher II and IAI Heron for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes. The IAI Harpy serves as an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which is designed to attack radar systems. The IAF also operates the DRDO Lakshya which serves as realistic towed aerial sub-targets for live fire training.
The number of aircraft in the IAF has been decreasing from the late 1990s due to the retirement of older aircraft and several crashes. To deal with the depletion of force levels, the IAF has started to modernise its fleet. This includes both the upgrade of existing aircraft, equipment and infrastructure as well as induction of new aircraft and equipment, both indigenous and imported. As new aircraft enter service and numbers recover, the IAF plans to have a fleet of 42 squadrons.
Expected future acquisitions
On 3rd January 2017, Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar addressed a media conference and announced plans for a competition to select a Strategic Partner to deliver “… 200 new single engine fighters to be made in India, which will easily cost around (USD)$45 million apiece without weaponry” with an expectation that Lockheed Martin (USA) and Saab (Sweden) will pitch the F-16 Block 70 and Gripen, respectively. An MoD official said that a global tender will be put to market in the first quarter of 2018, with a private company nominated as the strategic partners production agency followed by a two or more year process to evaluate technical and financial bids and conduct trials, before the final government-to-government deal in 2021. This represents 11 squadrons of aircraft plus several ‘attrition’ aircraft. India is also planning to set up an assembly line of American Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon Block 70 in Bengaluru. It is not yet confirmed whether IAF will induct these aircraft or not.
In 2018, the defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave the go ahead to scale up the manufacturing of Tejas at HAL and also to export Tejas. She is quoted saying “We are not ditching the LCA. We have not gone for anything instead of Tejas. We are very confident that Tejas Mark II will be a big leap forward to fulfil the single engine fighter requirement of the forces.”. IAF committed to buy 201 Mark-II variant of the Tejas taking the total order of Tejas to 324. The government also scrapped the plan to import single engine fighters leading to reduction in reliance on imports thereby strengthening the domestic defence industry.
The IAF also submitted a request for information to international suppliers for a stealth unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV)
The IAF has placed orders for 123 HAL Tejas 40 Mark 1 and 83 Mark 1A fighters, 36 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters,, 106 basic trainer aircraft HAL HTT-40, 112 Pilatus PC-7MkII basic trainers, 72 HAL HJT-36 Sitara trainers, 72 Pipistrel Virus SW 80 microlight aircraft, 65 HAL Light Combat Helicopters, 139 Mi-17V-5 helicopters, 18 Israeli SPYDER Surface to Air Missile (SAM) units, 6 Airbus A330 MRTT , 22 AH-64E Apache Longbow heavy attack helicopters, 15 CH-47F medium lift helicopters and IAI Harop UCAVs.
Indian Air Force models available to order from Flying Tigers.
Check out the following models that are available to order from Flying Tigers. Please click on the image or link of your choice to go straight to the model of your choice.
Corgi Aviation Archive has just announced their latest model… Boeing B-17G 42-31713 (UX-T) ‘Snake Hips’ and this is available to pre-order at Flying Tigers today.
Each retailer in the U.K. has only been allocated a small number of these models … so be quick to make sure you get yours safely on order.
Don’t forget NO DEPOSIT necessary with Flying Tigers and if you order with your debit or credit card your payment is not taken until your model is available to dispatch.
Flying Tigers will also consolidate your orders to save on postage costs across all brands !
B-17G Flying Fortress 42-31713 ‘Snake Hips’ arrived at the USAAF’s 92nd Bombardment Group base at Podington in February 1944 and quickly benefitted from a name and nose artwork that her crew hoped would bring them luck in the air battles to come. The aircraft saw extensive action over the next few months and brought her crew through relatively unscathed, until undertaking a mission to the heavily defended synthetic oil plant at Leuna on 24th August 1944.
On the run in to the target, ‘Snake Hips’ took a direct 88mm flak hit in the bomb bay and whilst the explosion did not detonate the bombs, it did blow a gaping hole in the side of the fuselage and start a hydraulic fire which threatened to engulf the bomber. The aircraft dropped out of formation and headed for home, but on attempting to jettison the bombs, several ‘hung’ and members of the crew were forced to deactivate them, in the midst of all this airborne chaos.
With two engines out and the pilot heading for the relief landing airfield at Woodbridge, he ordered his crew to parachute to safety, knowing he could not leave his station and fearing the landing may result in their injury. Fortunately, he managed to land the bomber without further incident and ‘Snake Hips’ became one of the most heavily damaged B-17s to make it back to the UK during the Second World War.
As US heavy bombers began their strategic bombing campaign against German targets in occupied Europe towards the end of 1942, they were hoping that the heavier calibre of guns used on their aircraft would prove decisive against the threat of Luftwaffe fighter attack, particularly when their bombers were arranged in defensive boxes, bringing the firepower of hundreds of guns to bear.
Assembling hundreds of bombers above the English countryside in all weathers as they rose from their respective bases, would prove to be a huge challenge and collisions were relatively commonplace. Once formed up and heading for their targets, accurate navigation was essential if they were to remain in formation and avoid the murderous flak fields, until they were actually on the run in to the target, all the time knowing that the Luftwaffe were ready to pounce, often in large numbers.
During the early months of the campaign, the bombers would have to run the gauntlet of German defences alone, as Allied fighters lacked the range to escort the bombers all the way to their targets and losses were crippling. Once longer range Lightning, Thunderbolts and Mustangs entered service, the bombers had their protection and as a result both bombing accuracy increased and Luftwaffe fighters began to fall to the guns of their ‘little friends’.
Calibre Wings Latest Model Announcements!
Calibre Wings has just announced their latest models which are now available to pre-order at Flying Tigers today.
Don’t forget NO DEPOSIT necessary with Flying Tigers and if you order with your debit or credit card your payment is not taken until your model is available to dispatch.
Please click on the images / links below to go to the model of your choice, or CLICK HERE to see them all.
Flying Tigers will also consolidate your orders to save on postage costs across all brands !
Calibre Wings and Hobbymaster Updated Photo Gallery
Aviation 72 1/72nd scale new model arrivals.
New Aviation 72 1/72nd scale models have arrived at Flying Tigers today. If you have already pre-ordered yours it has already been dispatched in the last few days. Limited remaining stock availability… please click on the image or link below to order your now.
Precision Model Art 1/72nd scale new model arrivals.
Precision Model Art 1/72nd scale models have arrived at Flying Tigers today. If you have already pre-ordered yours it has already been dispatched in the last few days. Limited remaining stock availability… please click on the image or link below to order your now.
Lockdown 2…Flying Tigers Update.
Flying Tigers would like to thank you for your support in these difficult times.
All orders will be dispatched as usual and customer service should not be affected.
We will see some delays in delivery times as demand increases between now and Christmas.
Additionally all retailers are now seeing delays in deliveries into the UK from our suppliers.
The worldwide pandemic is having a major effect in distribution and shipping. Containers are arriving late and then due to port restrictions, they are being held at customs longer than they would in normal times due to Covid-19.
Please bear with us and our suppliers , as it is very difficult to give accurate updates on arrival times.
Due to Covid-19 there may be some disruption to service times from Parcelforce and the Royal Mail.
If you have supplied Flying Tigers with your mobile number and/ or your email address, Parcelforce will notify you by way of text message or email on anticipated delivery day/time.
For Royal Mail delivered parcels these can be tracked through the Royal Mail parcel tracking service. The tracking number will be emailed to you on the “Your order is completed” notification upon dispatch of your order.
If you had requested a delivery to your place of work or to a neighbour, and you would now like your Parcel delivered to your home/billing address please email us and we will make the change. If we do not receive this instruction we will continue to dispatch to your original delivery address.
We are still working hard processing and despatching orders on a daily basis.
You, our loyal customers will be the first to know in the event of any changes or updates in the coming weeks.
Stay safe, well, and look after each other.