The Indian Air Force is one of the most formidable air forces in the world. Ever since its inception in 1933, the Indian Air Force has proved its mettle in various wartime and peacetime missions. With a special focus on developing indigenous capabilities, India is further trying to turn the IAF into a modern, agile and powerful force in the world.
1. Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon is the only IAF officer to have been honoured with the Param Vir Chakra.
He was awarded posthumously for his act of conspicuous gallantry in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
2. The Indian Air Force actually never directly engaged the Pakistani Air Force in 1947 war.
But was instrumental in the transport of troops of Indian Army and air support.
3. The IAF was technologically inferior to the PAF in 1965.
But IAF Gnats piloted by brave officers cut down Pakistani Sabres with such ferocity that the Gants came to known as ‘Sabre Slayers’.
4. India is building the 5th generation Sukhoi PAK FA in collaboration with Russia.
When completed, it will be the most lethal fighter jet in the world alongside the US F-22. It is expected to start flying around 2015.
5. At its peak, IAF operated about 224 squadrons.
As per latest available data, the force has a 1,473 strong aircraft fleet, including trainers, transport aircraft and helicopters.
6. The IAF got its first woman Air Marshal in the form of Padmavathy Bandopadhyay.
She was the Director General Medical Services (Air) at the Air Headquarters.
7. The first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Walker Elmhirst, made the IAF an independent service under no control of the Army.
Before independence of India, the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army exercised control over the Air Force too. Air Marshal Elmhirst was also instrumental in turning an incomplete air force into a cohesive fighting machine.
8. The honourary rank of Marshal of the Indian Air Force is the highest achievable rank, and is equivalent to the rank of Field Marshal of the Indian Army.
Arjan Singh is the only officer to have attained this rank.
9. The IAF is the fourth largest, professionally acclaimed, strategic Air Force in the world.
It currently operates 33 squadrons.
10. The Air Force has over 60 air bases spread all over India.
These are grouped into 7 commands.
11. With 16 air bases, the Western Air Command is the largest Air Command.
The smallest is the Central Air Command with 7 bases.
12. Yes, the IAF has a base in a foreign country!
IAF has a base in Farkhor, Tajikistan. Its only base outside India.
13. At 22,000 ft (or 6,706 m), Siachen Glacier AFS is the highest Air Force Station of the IAF.
14. The IAF Roundel (logo on the planes and IAF flag) has changed four times since 1933.
The Ashok Chakra was the roundel from 1947-50.
15. The IAF was referred to as Royal Indian Air Force from 1945 to 1950.
King George VI conferred the prefix “Royal” in 1945. In 1950, when India became a republic, the prefix was dropped.
16. The IAF engaged in conflict outside the country in 1960 when Belgium’s 75-year rule over Congo ended abruptly.
The IAF activated No. 5 Squadron to support the United Nations Operation in the Congo.
17. The IAF destroyed more than 29 Pakistani tanks, 40 APCs and a railway train during the Battle of Longewala in the 1971 Indo-Pak War besides a number of critical installations.
By the time Pakistani forces surrendered, the IAF claimed that 94 PAF aircraft, including 54 F-86 Sabres had been shot down.
18. The IAF created a world record by performing the highest landing of a C-130J at the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh at the height of 16614 feet (5065 meters).
The feat was accomplished on August 20, 2013.
19. The SEPECAT Jaguar and the Mikoyan MiG-27 serve as the IAF’s primary ground attack force.
The IAF currently operates 139 Jaguars and over 100 MiG-27s.
20. IAF’s first HAL-made fighter was HF-24 Marut.
It was designed by the famed German aerospace engineer Kurt Tank and operated from 1961 to 1985.
21. The Tejas is the second supersonic Light Combat Aircraft developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
22. IAF transport aircraft airlifted hundreds of Indian troops to secure the Siachen glacier during 1984 Operation Meghdoot.
23. The indigenously built HAL Light Combat Helicopter will be in service by December 2015.
It is faster and more agile than most other contemporary Combat Helicopters.
24. The IAF’s primary air superiority fighter with the additional capability to conduct air-ground (strike) missions is Sukhoi Su-30MKI.
25. The IAF is the only air force that operates C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J Super Hercules, and Il-76 – the three largest transport aircrafts.
26. The IAF manages Air Force Network (AFNet), a state-of-the-art, fully secure and reliable network (Intranet) and gigabyte digital information grid.
27. Operation Rahat was the biggest civilian rescue operation in the world carried out by any air force using helicopters.
The rescue operation was launched by the IAF to evacuate civilians affected by the 2013 North India floods. The IAF airlifted a total of 19,600 people – flying a total of 2,140 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,82,400 kg of relief material and equipment.