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), Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) 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 MKI 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 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 few years, blossoming from a handful 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 HU with outstanding results in the mountains of Northern India. The bulk of rotorcraft are Medium Lift Helicopters (MI-17/MI-17IV/MI-17V5 and Mi-8s) well over two hundred of these types serving in helicopter units through out the country, playing a vital logistic support role. Induction of the latest machine, the Mi-17 V5, is a quantum jump in our Medium Heli-lift capability in terms of the avionics, weapon systems as well as its hot and high altitude performance. Medium Lift Helicopters of IAF are operated for commando assault tasks, ferrying supplies and personnel to remote mountain helipads, carrying out SAR (Search and Rescue Operations) and logistic support tasks in the island territories, Siachen Glacier, apart from armed role.
The Chetak/Cheetah helicopter fleet has been the backbone in SAR, Casualty Evacuation and RTR (Route Transport Role) role in the IAF. To augment Cheetah helicopter operations in OP Meghdoot sectors, indigenously modified re-engined Cheetal have been inducted in the fleet. This indigenous helicopter has proved its worth and apart from reliability it has shown better load carrying capacity.
Of late, India has taken a conscious decision to go the indigenous development way in so far as procurement of military hardware is concerned. This can be best leveraged in the helicopter capability, as HAL has shown significant capability generation in the successful design and development of the ALH (Dhruv). ALH fleet in IAF has steadily grown from conventional ALH Mk-I to state of the art 'Glass' cockpit ALH Mk-III. ALH Mk-I has been effectively utilized for communication, SAR, Cas Evac roles.
It is also the prime machine for Sarang Helicopter Display Team, which projects the capability of indigenous helicopter apart from skill, motivation and training of IAF pilots. ALH Mk-III has been recent induction which undertakes SAR, Cas Evac and RTR. The Weapon System Integrated version, the ALH Mark IV, is also likely to be inducted into the IAF by 2017.
The first Attack Helicopter Squadron of IAF was raised as 125 (H) Sqn (GLADIATORS) on 01 Nov 1983 and equipped with Mi-25 helicopter Gunships. The Mi-35 was inducted in Apr 1990. 104 (H) Sqn was re-equipped with Mi-35 in 1990.
The Attack Helicopter fleet of IAF has a rich history of participating in operations since its induction. The AH has been deployed in IPKF operation in Sri Lanka, under UN at Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo under Chapter 7 of UN for Peace Enforcement. The machine and men of Gunship Sqns have done Yomen service for Indian Air Force and provided Tactical Foot Print to the Air Power.
The rotary wing capabilities of the IAF are poised to undergo a paradigm altering growth. Induction of the Chinook helicopter will be a boost to the nationís heavy heli-lift capability. The planned induction of Apache Attack Helicopters is yet another instance of the shift in the technology and capability level of the rotary wing fleet by IAF. The prowess of our Helicopter operations have been demonstrated in Uttarakhand very recently, and with all these new capabilities and systems being added on, the IAF will be truly poised to take on any challenges.
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.