A momentous historical juncture occurred on April 1, 1954, when the prestigious President’s Colour was conferred upon the IAF by the then-President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in a ceremony held at Palam.
Since that significant occasion, the Indian Air Force Day has been commemorated every year on October 8, marking the inception of our nation’s formidable aerial military force.
To provide a more comprehensive historical backdrop, it is noteworthy that the Indian Air Force, officially established on October 8, 1932, boasts a rich heritage deeply rooted in its pivotal role during World War II and the years leading up to India’s independence in 1947.
During the war, the Royal Indian Air Force, as it was then known, played a substantial role in various theaters of operation, including the Burma Campaign and the Eastern Front.
This underscored India’s contribution to the allied war effort and underscored the paramount importance of air power in contemporary warfare.
This year, the Indian Air Force marked its 91st Anniversary at the revered religious site of Triveni Sangam in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh.
The decision to hold Air Force Day celebrations at multiple locations across the country underscores the tradition of showcasing the nation’s military prowess and unity through these flagship events.
This shift symbolizes the decentralized nature of modern military operations and the Indian Air Force’s capability to operate from various strategic locations within the nation.
Furthermore, the choice of Prayagraj, with its profound historical significance as the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati rivers, adds a layer of cultural and historical depth to this year’s celebration.
This aligns with past practices where military displays and parades were often held at significant cultural or historical sites to underscore the unity and heritage of the nation.
The Air Force Day parade commenced at Bamrauli Air Force Station in Prayagraj and featured para hand gliders, para-motoring, demonstrations, and flag-bearing skydivers from the Akash Ganga team.
Alongside displays of heritage and modern aircraft fleet, the Indian Air Force marked the grand parade with awe-inspiring aerial maneuvers.
Dignitaries of note, including the IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, and Air Marshal RGK Kapoor, graced the occasion. Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of the Air Staff, unveiled the new ensign of the Indian Air Force, signifying a change initiated after 72 years.
The breathtaking air show at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers showcased over 100 Indian Air Force aircraft, highlighting the interoperability and collaborative capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces. Prominent aircraft in the display included the ALH Dhruv helicopter of the Indian Army and the P-8I aircraft of the Indian Navy, known for their versatility and capabilities.
The inclusion of the newly acquired C-295 transport aircraft, alongside renowned aircraft such as the Apache, Rafale, Chinook, Jaguar, Tejas, Su30-MKi, MiG-29s, AN-32s, C-17, C-130J, IL-76, Tigermoth, Pilatus, Kirans, and Hawk, emphasized the Indian Air Force’s diverse operational capabilities.
A historic moment was marked by the participation of a female parade commander, Group Captain. Shaliza Dhami, led the march of IAF personnel for the first time. The air show featured impressive displays by various aircraft, including the Su-30 Mki, LCA Tejas, and other display teams.
The vintage fleet of the Indian Air Force, comprising Dakota vintage aircraft, Tiger Moth, and Harvard aircraft, joined the parade to commemorate the 91st anniversary.
The IAF’s helicopter display team, Sarang, and the ‘Suryakirans’ showcased their remarkable signature aerial display tactics. The event witnessed the final flight of the MiG 21s, symbolizing the transition to the Rafales after nearly seven decades of service.
Garuds, the Special Forces unit of the Indian Air Force, made a strong statement with a captivating hell march and Special Tactics and Insertion/Extraction (STIE) display from a Mi-17V5 helicopter.
In his address to the IAF parade, the Chief of the Air Staff emphasized the Indian Air Force’s exceptional performance in overcoming challenges and its unwavering commitment to developing indigenous capabilities. He outlined a visionary path for the Indian Air Force’s future and its pivotal role in a rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape.
While the 91st-anniversary celebration proceeded without a hitch, it’s worth noting that the local turnout for the air display was extraordinary and posed challenges for the local authorities. But, all’s well that ends well. On that note, the Indian Air Force remains resolute in its dedication to ‘integrated jointness,’ synergizing the core competencies of each service to enhance the nation’s defense capabilities.
As it looks ahead to the future, the IAF continues to honor the sacrifices of its predecessors and uphold the revered values of the Indian Air Force.
The author is a Delhi-based, DCC qualified, defence beat writer and independent contributor to print and online publications