By Brig. VK Atray (Retd.) & Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 8th October. Amidst high-altitude jump by sky divers of the Akash Ganga team which took off from an AN-32 transport aircraft , the ‘Vayu Sena Band’ , marching parade by officers and 253 air personnel, including women officers, and resplendent air display of IAF’s inventory Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), French fighter Mirage-2000and Jaguar, and Russian fighters Mig-21, Mig-29 and the Sukhio-30 MKI with the Indo-Russian supersonic missile system Brahmos, Indian Air Force turned 83 with élan.
To compliment this formidable strike force of fighters of IAF were the MI-17V and Dhruv helicopters, advanced jet , trainer aircraft Hawk, Pilatus PC-7 turbo jet trainer, the indigenously-developed Rohini and the Indian Doppler Radar (INDRA) Mark II radar system. And the IAF told the world once again, we are a force to reckon with.
But also this did not deter the IAF from a little bit of introspection. Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha in his annual press conference to commemorate the anniversary , informed that the Indian Air Force requires 6 more squadrons of Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, MMRCA-type fighters in addition to 36 Rafales, provided they are affordable and the good news was that the induction of Rafale fighter jets is expected soon.
Asked if the additional four squadrons of aircraft will be Rafales or if there is a possibility of other players coming in, Raha said, “There are alternatives. I cannot say I only want Rafale. I want capability of Rafale type aircraft. So the government will have a look at it and based on the urgency and type of contract signed with Dassault Aviation, further decisions may be taken by the government. I cannot predict.”
Agreeing that the IAF is facing obsolescence problems like other air forces, he confirmed that the force stands by its order for 120 Tejas fighters, which will be inducted as it is and be upgraded later.
In an era of digitisation and state-of-the-art avionics, IAF cannot be different from the best. The chief stated that IAF will be a fully net centric force in three years.
In times of modern warfare and growing technologies and air-borne threats to security, the government is actively considering to regularise flying of unregulated objects, like smaller UAVs, gliders and drones, as their presence was becoming worrisome, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha informed.
In a response to a question on IAF’s capability of carrying out surgical operations on the terror camps operating in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), similar to one the Indian Army undertook inside Myanmar to demolish Naga insurgents’ camps, Air Chief Marshal Raha responed, “you want to ask about our capability. Yes, we have the capability but the intent would be of the Government.”
Amidst the Indian Air Force’s 83rd anniversary celebrations, the Chief inaugurated the Induction Publicity Exhibition Vehicle (IPEV), at Air Force Station, Race Course, New Delhi. The IAF has been exploring innovative means to connect to today’s tech savvy and button friendly generation bringing IAF closer to the life through impact of direct contact programmes. Last year, the IAF had launched an air combat 3D mobile game towards this pursuit.
The IPEV has been modified to bring various facets and the working of the IAF to aspirants across the expanse of the country. The newly launched vehicle houses an Information Zone which would give aspirants all career related information. It has an Experience Zone in which one can enjoy the thrill of various AF activities like Sarang aerobatics, AWDT, flying ,etc, through Glasstron goggles. The vehicle also has a Simulator Zone where one can experience the joy of flying various aircraft. The aircraft Model Zone displays latest aircraft in its inventory with their features and videos.
The IPEV would be tasked to visit various educational institutes across the country. The creatively designed exteriors and state of art equipment like touch panels, tabs, simulator and video screens would provide the right platform for IAF branding and publicity to today’s youth.
Coming back to the parade, the nine rifle drills performed with fine precision and timing, carrying 5.5-kg bayonet-topped rifles, including a manoeuvre where a team member threw his rifle into the air before moving forward, and the member following him caught the rifle without breaking formation, made the audience gasp in disbelief. Spectators applauded the jaw dropping drill wherein a tunnel formation team members lined up in two queues facing each other and rotated their bayonet-topped rifles. The team leader then marched through the tunnel in such a manner that he didn’t come in contact with a single bayonet. The air warrior reiterated at the parade that he was not only great in the skies but also equally unbeatable on the ground.
The IAF has come a long way since the Indian Air Force Act came into force on 08 October 1932, that date being the date of its formal constitution. From the first flight of the IAF the ‘A’ flight which was formed on 01 April 1933, with the strength of six officers (five pilots and one equipment officer and 19 Havai Sepoys (air soldiers) and an aircraft inventory comprised four Westland Wapiti IIA army co-operation biplanes at Drigh Road Karachi (now in Pakistan). The fledging Air Force which was put into action on 01 Oct 1937 in Wazirstan for Army Co-operation missions against tribals. ‘A’ Flight flew 1400 operational hours keeping its aircraft serviceability at 100 percent, has now grown up to have become one of the most formidable air forces of the world.
Touching the skies with glory, Indian Air Force has not only conquered the skies but also our hearts.