Also, IAF plans to induct over 80 aircrafts with better specifications known as Tejas 1A. The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity, and advanced beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 and 300 crore.
It was during the 1962 Indo-China war when India first realized the need for a better and stronger air force as it had to counter the Chinese Mig-15, Mig-17, IL-28 bombers, and Mig-19.

Also, IAF did not take part in the 1962 war even though the Army was in desperate need of logistic supply and backup from the sky. Aware of IAF’s limited capacity, the Prime Minister did not permit to fight in the air.     

The war served as the driving force to enhance the air defence of the country and today it has an estimated 1,380 aircraft which includes around 700 fighters, 6 aerial refueling tanker aircraft, 133 transport aircraft, 158 trainer aircraft, 33 attack helicopters, 156 transport helicopters, 155 utility helicopters, about 200 UAVs and 265 Fighter Aircraft, including the indigenously built Tejas.

IAF is the 4th largest in the world, just behind USA, Russia and China.

Aiming to give foolproof  protection from the sky, the Indian Air Force has seven commands:

• HQ Central Air Command, Allahabad
• HQ Eastern Air Command, Shillong
• HQ Western Air Command, New Delhi
• HQ Southern Air Command, Thiruvananthapuram
• HQ South-Western Air Command, Gandhi Nagar
• HQ Maintenance Command, Nagpur
• HQ Training Command, Bangalore

The legend of the exceptional heroism and bravery of our air force officials would be incomplete without mentioning the braveheart, Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon (in service1967–71) whose outstanding valour, supreme gallantry, and flying skills during the 1971 Indo-Pak War earned him the Param Vir Chakra (posthumous).

Sekhon, the only IAF officer to receive Param Vir Chakra, laid down his life while engaging against six Pakistan Air Force F-86 jets.

Here we list the top aircrafts that make the IAF a formidable attack and defence force:

SU-30 MKI : Twin seater twin engine multirole fighter of Russian origin which carries One X 30mm GSH gun along with 8000 kg external armament has a max speed of 2500 km/hr.  It is capable of carrying a variety of medium-range guided air to air missiles with active or semi-active radar or Infra red homing close range missiles.  

Mirage-2000: A single seater air defence and multi-role fighter of French origin powered by a single engine can attain max speed of 2495 km/hr (Mach 2.3). It carries two 30 mm integral cannons and two matra super 530D medium-range and two R-550 magic II close combat missiles on external stations.

MiG-29: Twin engine, single seater air superiority fighter aircraft of Russian origin capable of attaining maximum speed of 2445 km per hour.  It has a combat ceiling of 17 kilo metre.  MiG-29 carries a 30 mm cannon along with four R-60 close combat and two R-27 R medium range radar guided missiles.

MiG-27: Single engine, single seater tactical strike fighter aircraft of Russian origin having a max speed of 1700 km/hr. It carries one 23 mm six-barrel rotary integral cannon and can carry up to 4000 kg of other armament externally.

MiG-21 BISON: Single engine, single seater multirole fighter/ground attack aircraft of Russian origin which forms the back-bone of the IAF. MIG-21 has a max speed of 2230 km/hr and carries one 23mm twin barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.

Jaguar: A twin-engine, single seater deep penetration strike aircraft of Anglo-French origin which has a maximum speed of 1350 km /hr. It has two 30mm guns and can carry two R-350 Magic CCMs (over wing) along with 4750 kg of external stores (bombs/fuel).

C-130J: The aircraft is capable of performing paradrop, heavy drop, casualty evacuation and can also operate from short and semi prepared surfaces. C-130J is the heaviest aircraft to land at DBO in Aug 2013.

C-17: The aircraft is capable of carrying a payload of 40-70 tons up to a distance of 4200-9000 km in a single hop.

IL-76: A four engine heavy duty/long haul military transport aircraft of Russian origin with a max speed of 850 km/hr. It has a twin 23 mm cannon in tail turret and capacity to carry 225 paratroopers or 40 tonnes freight, wheeled or tracked armoured vehicles.

AN-32 : Twin engine turboprop, medium tactical transport aircraft of Russian origin with a crew of five and capacity to carry 39 paratroopers or max load of 6.7 tonnes.  It has a max cruise speed of 530 km/hr.

Written by Raju Kumar/JPN

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