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Indian Air Force- Ranks and Recruitment Process

April 2, 2018

Indian Air Force - Career, Rank and Recruitment Process

Indian Air Force

Indian Air Force, the air arm of the Indian Defence Services, was officially established on October 8, 1932, to protect the Indian Sky. The President of India is the supreme commander of the Air Force. The rank structure of the Indian Air Force is based on the structure of the Royal Air Force. “Touch the sky with glory” is the motto of the Indian Air Force.

Let us look at the rank structure of the Indian Air Force and also find how to get commissioned in the force.

Commissioned Officers of the Indian Air Force

Rank- Marshal of the Air Force
Description– Marshal of the Air Force is the highest rank in the Indian Air Force which is an honorary war time rank. This rank is known as the five-star rank. Many countries have this rank, but not all use it. Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, DFC, was the only Marshal of Indian Air Force.

Rank- Air Chief Marshal
Description– This is the second highest rank in the Indian Air Force which is a four-star rank. Only an Air Chief Marshal holds the position of Chief of the Air Staff(CAS), who is the professional head and the commander of the Indian Air Force. The current CAS is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa who took office on 31 December 2016, following the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

Rank- Air Marshal
Description- It is a three-star rank in the Indian Air Force and is held by the officers who typically hold very senior appointments of the formation.

Rank- Air Vice Marshal
Description– Air Vice Marshal is a two-star officer rank in the Indian Air Force.

Rank- Air Commodore
Description– It is a single star rank which is the junior most rank in the star category. They act as direct support to air officer commanding.

Rank- Group Captain
Description– It is a senior commissioned rank in the Indian Air Force which is equivalent to Colonel in the army.

Rank- Wing Commander
Description– The rank of Wing Commander is just below the Group Captain but is a senior commissioned rank.

Rank- Squadron Leader
Description- It comes just after the rank of Wing Commander.

Rank- Flight Lieutenant
Description– It is a commissioned air force rank which comes just after Squadron Leader. The officer of this rank can never be addressed as only “Lieutenant”.

Rank- Flying Officer
Description- Flying Officer is also a commissioned rank which is not only held by officers who fly an aircraft. Sometimes ground duty officers or air crew officers also hold this rank.

Junior Commissioned Officers of the Indian Air Force

Rank- Master Warrant Officer
Description- This is the rank in which an officer is designated by warrant, unlike commissioned officers who get designated as an officer by a commission. It is the highest rank in Junior commissioned officers.

Rank- Warrant Officer
Description– It is the second highest rank in the junior commissioned rank.

Rank- Junior Warrant Officer
Description– Usually a technical leader or specialist holds the rank of Junior Warrant Officer.

Non-Commissioned Officers of the Indian Air Force

Rank- Sergeant
Description– This is the rank just below the Junior Warrant Officer and is a non-commissioned rank.

Rank- Corporal
Description– It is a military rank which corresponds to commanding a section or squad of soldiers.

Rank- Leading Aircraftman
Description– It is technically not a rank but it is a title given to Non-Commissioned Officers in the Air Force.

Rank- Aircraftman
Description– It is the lowest of all ranks in the Indian Air Force.

A career in Air Force- Exams to clear and Entries

Indian Air Force has three branches

1)Flying branch – Flying Branch consists of Pilots. Both men and women can become pilots in the Indian Air Force. This branch actually flies the planes during operations and battles. There are three kinds of pilots in this branch:

  • Fighter Pilot
  • Helicopter Pilot
  • Transport Pilot

2)Ground duty This branch of the Indian Air Force deals with control tower and meteorological functions. The officers who are on ground duty are expected to coordinate with the pilots and keep them informed of the weather conditions.

3)Technical branch– Technical Branch is usually concerned with the aircraft and other air force equipment. Other branches include the Logistics, Accounts, Education, Administration, and Medical & Dental Branch.

How to join Air Force after 

12th (10+2)
This entry is for men only. All males who have completed their higher secondary may join National Defence Academy(NDA) by clearing the exam followed by SSB interview. Once the exam is cleared and their training is completed they are eligible to join the air force. The exam is conducted by the UPSC.

After Graduation
Graduates can join any of the branches of the Indian Air Force by passing the Combined Defence Services(CDS) exam which is conducted by the UPSC. One can also give the Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT) to get selected in the Indian Air Force. After selection one gets training at one of the IAF training institutes and later they are commissioned and posted.

After Post-Graduation
After completing post-graduation one can join the technical or ground duty branches of the Indian Air Force. It is more favorable to have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering or Electronics. One can also get entry in the Indian Air Force through Meteorological Branch only after completing a post graduation degree in any Science stream / Mathematics / Statistics / Geography / Computer Applications / Environmental Science / Applied Physics / Oceanography / Meteorology / Agricultural Meteorology / Ecology & Environment / Geo-physics / Environmental Biology with minimum of 50% marks in aggregate of all papers put together (Provided Maths and Physics were studied at Graduation Level, with a minimum of 55% marks in both). Direct applications are there for the candidates.

NCC Entry
National Cadet Corps(NCC), which is also known as the fourth line of Defence, provides an opportunity to join the Indian Air Force if you have completed NCC training and obtained a C Certificate from Air Wing NCC.

UES Entry
University Entry Scheme is for those candidates who are currently studying in Pre-final year of BE / BTech degree course. There must be No backlog/arrears of papers of previous semesters at the time of SSB Testing if you want to join Air Force. On completion of the degree, it is necessary to obtain minimum 60% of marks in aggregate in all papers.

One can get permanent or short service commission based on gender and entry scheme.

How to Join Indian Army

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Indian Air Force- Ranks and Recruitment Process
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Let us look at the rank structure of the Indian Air Force and also find how to get commissioned in the force.


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