86th Air Force Day Special: Saluting the Guardians of the Sky

Every year, on 8th October India proudly celebrates the Indian Air Force Day as on this day the Air Force was established in 1932. The day is celebrated to commemorate the official establishment of the Indian Air Force as an auxiliary body of India. Earlier, the Indian Air Force was named as the Royal Indian Air Force but with the transition of government to republic in 1950, the prefix was removed.

On this day, a scintillating air display, which is the hallmark of the Air Force Day, takes place. Skydiving by various IAF aircraft, parades, oath-ceremony are also held every year . This year twenty-eight aircraft including the Dakota 1940 vintage aircraft will be participating in the fly-past ceremony. Not only this, Tiger Moth and Harvard vintage aircraft will also take part in the air display at Air Force Station Hindon (Ghaziabad).

Indian Air Force has actively taken part in various activities including wars, relief and rescue operations, and peace keeping missions. On the occasion of Air Force Day let us look at the significant contributions of the Indian Air Force –

Wars and Operations by the Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force has taken part in several important wars and operations including World War II and Operation Vijay. Let us have a look at the major wars and operations:

World War II (1939) – Royal Indian Air Force played an instrumental role in World War II. It blocked the Japanese Army in Burma and also carried out strike missions against the Japanese Airbases situated at Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. IAF expanded during this time and new aircarft including Vultee Vengeance, Douglas DC-3, Supermarine Spitfire and Westland Lysander, etc. were added to its fleet.

Kashmir War (1947) – During the partition of Kashmir, the Indian Air Force was active in airlifting operations and supplying essential commodities to the ground troops. It also helped in transporting Indian troops to Srinagar.

Operation Vijay (1961) – Operation Vijay was launched in 1961 to free the Portuguese colonies in India. All three sections of the defence forces participated in the Operation Vijay; however, the Indian Air Force played a significant role. On 12 December 1961, the Indian Air Force planes bombarded the radio station situated at Bambolim and also the airport at Dabolim.

Sino-Indian War (1962) – Most of the battle took place in the mountains, nevertheless, the role of the Indian Air Force was significant as it fulfiled the logistics requirement. The Indian Air Force contributed by providing service in the then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and Ladakh.

India-Pakistan War (1965) – In the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the Air Force stayed largely out of the picture, which cost India heavily. Not repeating the mistake, this time, the Indian Air Force actively took part in the 1965 Indo-Pak War and carried out independent raid missions against Pakistani Air Force.

Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) – After the 1965 war, the Indian Air Force introduced several changes. There was modernisation and consolidation; new aircraft including HF-24 and MiG-21 were being acquired. It was during this time when IAF came to be considered as one of the most powerful air forces in the world. During the war of 1971, the Air Force provided successful air cover to the advancing Indian Army in Eastern Pakistan. It also assisted the Indian Navy in sinking Pakistani vessels in Bay of Bengal. The IAF also demolished several tanks and vehicles during the battle. After achieving complete air superiority during the battle, the IAF played a pivotal role in liberation of Bangladesh.

Operation Meghdoot (1984) – Operation Meghdoot, which was launched in 1984, was a unique one as it was carried out in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. The IAF played a significant role in which it transported stores, troops, and relief supplies.

The success of the military action in Siachen Glacier can be attributed to India’s ability to gain control over its tributaries and passes because of the active operations carried by The IAF.

Operation Poomalai (1987) – Operation Poomalai was launched by the Indian Air Force in 1987 to assist Sri Lanka on humanitarian grounds during the Civil War. During the operation, the IAF air dropped relief supplies over besieged town of Jaffna.

Kargil (1999) – The Indian Air Force played a prominent role during the Kargil War by carrying Operation Safed Sagar. IAF deployed 16 fighter jets and MiGs for carrying attacks. The IAF was never permitted to cross the Line of Control (LoC) and so was confided within its own airspace. The IAF was still able to inflict considerable damage on the Pakistani forces during the War. It was the first time that an Air Force was engaged in ground targets and also was well defended by air defence weapons at high mountain peaks of Kargil.

Atlantique Incident (1999) – In 1999, a Pakistan Navy’s aircraft Breguet Atlantic was flying over the Rann of Kutch which was shot down by two IAF jets killing all people aboard.

Operation Sea Wave (2004) – When the East Coast of India was struck by massive earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004 Operation Sea Waves was launched by the Indian Air Force to mount an immediate relief and rescue operation. The Air Force Base in Car Nicobar was also one of the worst hit; however, the Air Force carried a relief and rescue operation using the available aircraft for rehabilitating people and supporting flight infrastructure to accelerate relief flights transportation.

Operation Rahat (2015) – Operation Rahat was conducted when the state of Yemen was in crisis during the civil war. The Government of India evaluated an immediate evacuation of over 4000 Indian nationals who were based in various locations in Yemen. The Indian Air Force deployed three C-17 aircraft to bring the national nationals back from Bjibouti. Total 11 evacuation trips were undertaken by IAF and 2096 Indian nationals were rescued.

Relief and Rescue Operation conducted by the Indian Air Force

The Air Force also renders relief and rescue operations to the citizens of the country in times of natural disasters and calamities. The Indian Air Force has significantly contributed in relief and rescue operations. Recently, in Kerala the Air Force as per the request of the state government, provided urgent assistance in Wayanad in order to relieve the affected people.

It also provided extensive assistance to relief operations during natural calamities like Gujarat cyclone in 1998, Tsunami in 20014, Uttarakhand Floods in 2013, Tamil Nadu floods in 2015 and

Not only in India, the IAF has carried rescue missions for neighbours including Yemen, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Related links on Indian Air Force:

Indian Air Force- Ranks and Recruitment Process

IAF’s Capacity Crisis – Man and Machine

Modernisation of Indian Air Force: Too Little, Too Late?