By Sayan Chatterjee
It all started in 1932 as the Royal Indian Air Force under then British rule, and its name was changed to Indian Air Force in 1950. The Indian Air Force celebrated its 86th anniversary on October 8, 2018 when the wing of aerial defence mechanism showcased its prowess by putting its mainstream fighter jets, choppers and advanced radio transmission systems on display at the Hindon Air Force Station in New Delhi. A grand parade-cum-investiture ceremony was held as part of the celebrations.
The air display at the Hindon air base began with flag-bearing skydivers from the famous Akash Ganga team dropping out of AN-32 aircraft in their colourful canopies. The parade was later followed by an air display and aerobatics by various Air Force aircrafts and teams like Surya-Kiran, Sarang and others. The air display included supersonic combat aircrafts like, Jaguar, Bison, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and SU-30 MKI and Rudra helicopters.
In a first, a vintage Dakota aircraft that served the Air Force for over 40 years was also displayed as part of the celebrations. The Dakota DC-3 aircraft of 1940 was reportedly used till 1988. It was one of the most versatile transport aircrafts of its time. Tiger Moth and Harvard vintage jets were also there as a part of the IAF’s veteran fleet of combat aircrafts.
Among all, the multi-role light combat aircraft, Tejas, stole the show at the parade, with maximum solo airtime displaying strategic and skillful manoeuvres, reflecting its capabilities to satiate the diverse needs of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy during times of combat.
The Rafale controversy could not overshadow the nation’s pride in the IAF
The celebration was held in the shadow of the massive row over the Rafale fighter jet deal controversy. CAF Dhanoa had said it was a “very good package” for India and the jets would be a “game-changer”.
However, this dim the nation’s pride in the Indian Air Force. President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others extended their heartiest wishes on the day.
A grateful nation salutes our valorous air warriors and their families on Air Force Day. They keep our skies safe and are at the forefront of serving humanity in times of disasters. Proud of the Indian Air Force! pic.twitter.com/7zpdzotATS
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 8, 2018
The successes of IAF in 2018
The year 2018 was a fruitful one for the air-warriors, as they scaled the heights of success in the field of sports and adventure. Some of the wins included one Gold, two Silver and four Bronze during international events. The nation as a whole, and the Indian Air Force in particular, was extremely impressed of these accolades earned, and, exemplary showcase of skill and capabilities, at the Exercise Pitch Black in recent times.
On the day, it was also expressed that IAF is in the process of acquiring new combat systems, upgrading and modernizing its existing inventory of aircraft and weaponry. The mid-life upgradation of Mirage-2000, MiG-29, and Jaguar fleet is already under way. Acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft, the S-400 Missile systems, Apache attack choppers and Chinook heavy lift helicopters would further improvise the capabilities of the defence wing. The ongoing induction of multi-role light combat aircraft – Tejas, Spyder, MRSAM and state-of-art precision weapons are a part of the larger modernisation programme.
With the 86 years of glorious past, IAF today has transformed into a modern and battle-hardened Air Force with strategic reach, and, ranks among the top five, globally. The defence wing intends to persist with its great legacy of commitment and excellence.
Sayan Chatterjee is a Delhi-based publicist who also contributes to print and online publications.
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