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October 08, 2011

The Indian Air Force

Next year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will celebrate its eightieth anniversary. Which triggered this post. You might enjoy watching this seven-minute clip.

1932 to Now
The IAF was officially established in 1932 with four biplanes, six officers trained by the RAF and a few sepoys.  In 1950 when India became a republic, the IAF possessed six fighter squadrons with Spitfires, Vampires and Tempests operating from Kanpur, Poona, Ambala and Palam. It also had a B-24 bomber squadron and a C-47 Dakota transport squadron.

In 1954, when Nehru was prime minister, the IAF - also called Bharatiya Vayu Sena - received the President’s colours in New Delhi. About 1,500 officers and airmen took part in the grand parade with a hundred aircraft of various types, including Jet Vampires and Ouragans (Toofanis).

In the sixties, the Soviet Union became the main supplier of military equipment to India. Obsolescent equipment was replaced with increasing numbers of  HF-24s, MiG-21FLs and SU-7BMs. The IAF acquired the latest MIG and Sukhoi aircrafts from the Soviet Union and Mirages from France. In the seventies, the IAF had a strength of 70,000 personnel and 45 squadrons. In the mid-eighties, the IAF obtained the Anglo-French Jaguar strike fighters as well as a Maritime Jaguar carrying Sea Eagle missiles. The next important acquisition was the French Mirage 2000.

The above is a sketchy outline.  Click here to see some impressive pictures of the fighter planes of the Indian Air Force.

IAF In Action
The IAF has employed its defensive and offensive fighting capabilities to good effect in a number of actions over the years. The last major conflict where the IAF was called upon to display its prowess in active combat was the Kargil war in 1998.

During natural calamities - cyclones, earthquakes and floods - the IAF carries out missions to augment civil air power for relief operations. It rendered invaluable services during the Gujarat cyclone in 1998 and the massive earthquakes in Latur and Gujarat. The peacetime air efforts of the IAF to assist the civil administration in the aftermath of the Tsunami of 2004 are particularly noteworthy.

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