Indian Air Force started its journey on 8th October 1932 as an auxiliary airforce for the British royal airforce. the journey of the Indian airforce is filled with great achievements. Indian Airforce has the prime responsibility of securing Indian skies by carrying out aerial warfare during any conflict. Apart from defense, IAF is also playing a key role in relief, rescue, and evacuation processes during natural calamities. The Indian airforce has evolved as the fourth largest airforce in the world operating a wide range of assets. IAF will be celebrating its 88th formation day this year on the 8th of October. in this journey 88 years, IAF has transformed itself into a battle-hardened and modern airforce. in this article, we are going to take a look at the magnificent journey of Indian airforce.
Soon after getting independence from Britishers, the Indian policymakers decided to build a strong defense system . Indian Force has played a critical role in world war ii. before handing over power to the Indian hands Britishers destroyed most of the B-24 liberator bombers. After that IAF remained with Vampires and french built Mysteres. Later IAF inducted french made ouragans/Toofani, Hunters, Gnats, and Canberra bombers. till 1958 IAF was operating 33 squadrons of fighter jets. In 1947 IAF met his first challenge during the Ist Indo Pak war of Kashmir. in this war, IAF played a significant role in defending Kashmir. IAF’S Dakota plane was the first plane to land in Kashmir valley carrying Indian soldiers. IAF has carried both offensive and ground support missions.
In 1962 war India suffered a defeat from China. In this war, the IAF role was just limited to providing support to the ground bases. Many defense experts criticized then government for not using IAF in an offensive role against Chinese forces. But for the first time in its history, IAF with 28 squadrons actively engaged in aerial warfare with Pakistan and destroyed 94 Pakistani planes. IAF was numerically superior over Pakistani airforce but lacked in technology as PAL was operating lethal F-86 which they got from America. But still, IAF managed to destroy airfields and struck deep inside Pakistani territory with vintage aircraft.
In the late ’60s, IAF had acquired HAL built HF-24 Marut and in the early ’70s, IAF started receiving Mig 21’s from soviet, MIG’s played critical role in 1971 war with Pakistan. During this war IAF completely dominated the skies and successfully hunted down Pakistani jets. IAF has achieved a complete air dominance over the skies. IAF satisfied with the operational capabilities of Mig 21 of soviet, went for the procurement of Mig 21 in large numbers.
Along with soviet technology, Indian Airforce procured french Sepecat Jaguar from Britain in 1979. Jaguar is a supersonic ground attack bomber and currently is in service with IAF after undergoing upgrades. The technology was evolving with time and in ’80s Pakistan had acquired the latest multirole F-16 from America. After that IAF in 1985 decided to induct french built Mirage -2000 multirole fighter which is still one of the most potent aircraft in IAF’S inventory. Mirage showcases its capabilities during the Kargil war and recently in the Balakot strikes.
With the procurement of foreign jets, India decided to work on its indigenous fighter Programme to develop an indigenous fighter in order to replace its aging Mig 21 fleet. The work was started on the development of Light combat aircraft in 1983 and jet took its first flight in 2001, later it was inducted in IAF’S service in 2015.
Then came the Kargil war of 1999. the newly inducted assets got a chance to prove their operational capabilities in a difficult terrain.. for the first time, Mirage-2000’s were used at such an altitude of 32000ft in Kargil. Indian Airforce launched operation Safed Sagar on 26th May 1999 and by 11 June all the mission objectives were achieved. Initially, IAF was responsible for providing support to the ground forces, transportation but later on IAF scaled up to target enemy positions on the Kargil peaks. MIrage-2000 played a substantial role during the Kargil war and made it easy for the Indian armed forces to push back Pakistani intruders into their territory. Mirage proved to be a Game changer during the Kargil war.
Kargil taught too many lessons, in keeping these lessons in mind government started the procurement of modern twin-engine SU 30 from Russia, which later on manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited in India with Indian specific enhancements. SU30 MKI remains the backbone of the Indian air force and will remain to the most potent fighter in the IAF’S inventory for coming two decades.
With the changing time, new technologies are evolving around the world, Challenges for IAF is also increasing as China-Pakistan nexus is growing day by day. To meet all these challenges IAF needs to heavily invest in tin the procurement and development of the latest technologies and assets, necessary to defend our skies. Some initiatives are being taken like recently IAF is receiving 36 Rafales from France, S-400 from Russia, both of these will increase IAF operational capabilities by many folds. The deal for Tejas Mk1a is also expected to be finalized by December this year. India has to develop institutional capacity to achieve self-sufficiency in its defence needs. India’s Private sector must be incentivised to take up the defence production and produce a state of the art weaponry.