Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
Bharatiya Vayu Sena
|Founded||8 October 1932|
|Part of||Ministry of Defence
Indian Armed Forces
|Headquarters||New Delhi, India|
|Motto||नभःस्पृशं दीप्तम् (Translation:"Touch the Sky with Glory") |
|Colors||Navy blue, sky blue & white
|Anniversaries||Air Force Day: 8 October|
|Chief of Air Staff||Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne|
|Air Force Ensign|
|Attack||Jaguar, MiG-27, Harpy|
|Fighter||MiG-21, Mirage 2000, MiG-29, Su-30MKI, HAL Tejas|
|Helicopter||Dhruv, Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-26, Mi-25/35, AgustaWestland AW101|
|Reconnaissance||Searcher II, Heron|
|Trainer||HPT-32 Deepak, HJT-16 Kiran, Hawk Mk 132, Pilatus C-7 Mk II|
|Transport||Il-76, An-32, HS 748, Do 228, Boeing 737, ERJ 135, Il-78 MKI, C-130J|
The Indian Air Force (IAF; Devanāgarī: भारतीय वायु सेना, Bharatiya Vāyu Senā) is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during World War II. After India achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Dominion of India, with the prefix being dropped when India became a republic in 1950. Since independence, the IAF has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay – the invasion of Goa, Operation Meghdoot, Operation Cactus and Operation Poomalai. Apart from conflicts, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The President of India Pranab Mukherjee serves as the ex-officio Commander-in-Chief of the IAF. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal (ACM), is a four-star commander and commands the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM at any given time in the IAF. One officer Arjan Singh, DFC has been conferred the rank of Marshal of the Air Force, a five-star rank and the officer serves as the ceremonial chief. In its publication the Military Balance 2010, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimates that the Indian Air Force has a strength of 127,000 active personnel. However, various reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates of its strength over the years. Flightglobal estimates there to be to 1,370 aircraft in active service during 2012/2013
|“||Defence of India and every part thereof including preparation for defence and all such acts as may be conducive in times of war to its prosecution and after its termination to effective demobilisation.||”|
Thus, the IAF has the primary objective of safeguarding Indian territory and national interests from all threats in conjunction with the other branches of the armed forces by defending Indian airspace. The IAF provides close air support to the Indian Army troops in the battlefield and also provides strategic and tactical airlift capabilities. The IAF also operates the Integrated Space Cell together with the other two branches of the Indian Armed Forces, the civilian Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to utilise more effectively the country's space-based assets for military purposes and to look into threats to these assets.
The Indian Air Force along with the other branches of the Indian Armed Forces provide assistance in disaster relief such as during natural calamities by undertaking evacuation or search-and-rescue (SAR) operations and air dropping relief supplies in affected areas. The IAF provided extensive assistance to relief operations during natural calamities such as the Gujarat cyclone in 1998 and the Tsunami in 2004. The IAF also provides assistance to other countries during relief activities such as Operation Rainbow in Sri Lanka.
First years of independence (1947–1950) 
After gaining independence from the British Empire in 1947, British India was partitioned into the new states of the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Along the lines of the geographical partition, the assets of the air force were divided between the new countries. India's air force retained the name of the Royal Indian Air Force, but three of the ten operational squadrons and facilities, located within the borders of Pakistan, were transferred to the Royal Pakistan Air Force. The RIAF Roundel was changed to an interim 'Chakra' roundel derived from the Ashoka Chakra.
Around the same time, conflict broke out between them over the control of the princely state of Jammu & Kashmir. With Pakistani forces moving into the state, its Maharaja decided to accede to India in order to receive military help. The day after instrument of accession was signed, the RIAF was called upon to transport troops into the war-zone. And this was when a good management of logistics came into help. This led to the eruption of full scale war between India and Pakistan, though there was no formal declaration of war. During the war, the RIAF did not engage the Pakistan Air Force in air-to-air combat; however, it did provide effective transport and close air support to the Indian troops.
Congo crisis and capture of Goa (1960–1961) 
The IAF saw significant conflict in 1960, when Belgium's 75-year rule over Congo ended abruptly, engulfing the nation in widespread violence and rebellion. IAF sent No. 5 Squadron, equipped with English Electric Canberra, to support United Nations Operation in the Congo. The squadron started undertaking operational missions in November. The unit remained there until 1966, when the UN mission ended. Operating from Leopoldville and Kamina, the Canberras soon destroyed the rebel Air Force and provided the UN ground forces with its only long-range air support force.
In late 1961, the Indian government decided to deploy the armed forces in an effort to expel Portugal from the enclaves of Goa, Daman and Diu after years of disagreement between New Delhi and Lisbon. The Indian Air Force was requested to provide support elements to the ground force in what was called Operation Vijay. Probing flights by some fighters and bombers were carried out from 8–18 December to draw out the Portuguese Air Force, but to no avail. On 18 December, two waves of Canberra bombers bombed the runway of Dabolim airfield taking care not to bomb the Terminals and the ATC tower. Two Portuguese transport aircraft (a Super Constellation and a DC-6) found on the airfield were left alone so that they can be captured intact. However the Portuguese pilots managed to take off the aircraft from the still damaged airfield and made their getaway to Portugal. Hunters attacked the wireless station at Bambolim. Vampires were used to provide air support to the ground forces. In Daman, Mystères were used to strike Portuguese gun positions. Ouragans (called Toofanis in the IAF) bombed the runways at Diu and destroyed the control tower, wireless station and the meteorological station.Successfully re-integrating these parts into India.
Border disputes and changes in the IAF (1962–1971) 
In 1962, border disagreements between China and India escalated to a war when China mobilised its troops across the Indian border. During the Sino-Indian War, India's military planners failed to deploy and effectively use the IAF against the invading Chinese forces. This resulted in India losing a significant amount of advantage to the Chinese; especially in Jammu and Kashmir.
Three years after the Sino-Indian conflict, in 1965, Pakistan launched Operation Gibraltar, a surprise invasion into India which came to be known as the Second Kashmir War. This was the first time the IAF actively engaged an enemy air force. However, instead of providing close air support to the Indian Army, the IAF carried out independent raids against PAF bases. These bases were situated deep inside Pakistani territory, making IAF fighters vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. During the course of the conflict, the PAF enjoyed technological superiority over the IAF and had achieved substantial strategic and tactical advantage due to their sudden attack and whole hearted diplomatic and military support from the US and Britain. The IAF was restrained by the government from retaliating to PAF attacks in the eastern sector while a substantive part of its combat force was deployed there and could not be transferred to the western sector, against the possibility of Chinese intervention. Moreover, international (UN) stipulations and norms did not permit military force to be introduced into the Indian state of J&K beyond what was agreed during the 1949 ceasefire. Despite this, the IAF was able to prevent the PAF from gaining air superiority over conflict zones. The small and nimble IAF Folland Gnats proved effective against the F-86 Sabres of the PAF earning it the nickname "Sabre Slayers". By the time the conflict had ended, the IAF lost 110 aircraft, while the PAF lost 20 aircraft. More than 60% of IAF's air combat losses took place during the battles over Kalaikunda and Pathankot
After the 1965 war, the IAF underwent a series of changes to improve its capabilities. In 1966, the Para Commandos regiment was created. To increase its logistics supply and rescue operations ability, the IAF inducted 72 HS 748s which were built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under license from Avro. India started to put more stress on indigenous manufacture of fighter aircraft. As a result, HAL HF-24 Marut, designed by the famed German aerospace engineer Kurt Tank, were inducted into the air force. HAL also started developing an improved version of the Folland Gnat, known as HAL Ajeet. At the same time, the IAF also started inducting Mach 2 capable Soviet MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-7 fighters.
Bangladesh Liberation War (1971) 
By late 1971, the intensification of the independence movement in erstwhile East Pakistan lead to the Bangladesh Liberation War between India and Pakistan . On 22 November 1971, 10 days before the start of a full-scale war, four PAF F-86 Sabre jets attacked Indian and Mukti Bahini positions at Garibpur, near the international border. Two of the four PAF Sabres were shot down and one damaged by the IAF's Folland Gnats. On 3 December, India formally declared war against Pakistan following massive preemptive strikes by the PAF against Indian Air Force installations in Srinagar, Ambala, Sirsa, Halwara and Jodhpur. However, the IAF did not suffer significantly because the leadership had anticipated such a move and precautions were taken. The Indian Air Force was quick to respond to Pakistani air strikes, following which the PAF carried out mostly defensive sorties.
Within the first two weeks, the IAF had carried out almost 2,000 sorties over East Pakistan and also provided close air support to the advancing Indian Army. IAF also assisted the Indian Navy in its operations against the Pakistani Navy and Maritime Security Agency in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. On the western front, the IAF destroyed more than 29 Pakistani tanks, 40 APCs and a railway train during the Battle of Longewala. The IAF undertook strategic bombing of West Pakistan by carrying out raids on oil installations in Karachi, the Mangla Dam and a gas plant in Sindh. Similar strategy was also deployed in East Pakistan and as the IAF achieved complete air superiority on the eastern front, the ordnance factories, runways, and other vital areas of East Pakistan were severely damaged. By the time Pakistani forces surrendered, the IAF claimed that 94 PAF aircraft, including 54 F-86 Sabres had been shot down. The IAF had flown over 6,000 sorties on both East and West fronts; including sorties by transport aircraft and helicopters. Towards the end of the war, IAF's transport planes dropped leaflets over Dhaka urging the Pakistani forces to surrender, demoralising Pakistani troops in East Pakistan.
Incidents before Kargil (1984–1988) 
In 1984, India launched Operation Meghdoot to capture the Siachen Glacier in the contested Kashmir region. In Op Meghdoot, IAF's Mi-8, Chetak and Cheetah helicopters airlifted hundreds of Indian troops to Siachen. Launched on 13 April 1984, this military operation was unique because of Siachen's inhospitable terrain and climate. The military action was successful, given the fact that under a previous agreement, neither Pakistan nor India had stationed any personnel in the area. The Indian forces, facing no opposition, took control over most of the heights on the glacier.
Following the inability to negotiate an end to the Sri Lankan Civil War, and to provide humanitarian aid through an unarmed convoy of ships, the Indian Government decided to carry out an airdrop of the humanitarian supplies on the evening of 4 June 1987 designated Operation Poomalai (Tamil: Garland) or Eagle Mission 4. Five An-32s escorted by five Mirage 2000s carried out the supply drop which faced no opposition from the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. Sri Lanka accused India of "blatant violation of sovereignty". India insisted that it was acting only on humanitarian grounds.
In 1987, the IAF supported the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in northern and eastern Sri Lanka in Operation Pawan. About 70,000 sorties were flown by the IAF's transport and helicopter force in support of nearly 100,000 troops and paramilitary forces without a single aircraft lost or mission aborted. IAF An-32s maintained a continuous air link between air bases in South India and Northern Sri Lanka transporting men, equipment, rations and evacuating casualties. Mi-8s supported the ground forces and also provided air transportation to the Sri Lankan civil administration during the elections. Mi-25s of No. 125 Helicopter Unit were utilised to provide suppressive fire against militant strong points and to interdict coastal and clandestine riverine traffic.
On the night of 3 November 1988, the Indian Air Force mounted special operations to airlift a parachute battalion group from Agra, non-stop over 2000 kilometres to the remote Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives in response to Maldivian president Gayoom's request for military help against a mercenary invasion in Operation Cactus. The IL-76s of No. 44 Squadron landed at Hulhule at 0030 hours and the Indian paratroopers secured the airfield and restored Government rule at Male within hours.
Kargil War (1999) 
On 11 May 1999, the Indian Air Force was called in to provide close air support to the Indian Army at the height of the ongoing Kargil conflict with the use of helicopters. The IAF strike was code named Operation Safed Sagar. The first strikes were launched on 26 May, when the Indian Air Force struck infiltrator positions with fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. The initial strikes saw MiG-27s carrying out offensive sorties, with MiG-21s and later MiG-29s providing fighter cover. The IAF also deployed its radars and the MiG-29 fighters in vast numbers to keep check on Pakistani military movements across the border. Srinagar Airport was at this time closed to civilian air-traffic and dedicated to the Indian Air Force.
On 27 May, the Indian Air Force suffered its first fatality when it lost a MiG-21 and a MiG-27 in quick succession.[notes 1] The following day, while on an offensive sortie, a Mi-17 was shot down by three Stinger missiles and lost its entire crew of four. Following these losses the IAF immediately withdrew helicopters from offensive roles as a measure against the threat of Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPAD). On 30 May, the Mirage 2000s were introduced in offensive capability, as they were deemed better in performance under the high-altitude conditions of the conflict zone. Mirage 2000s were not only better equipped to counter the MANPAD threat compared to the MiGs, but also gave IAF the ability to carry out aerial raids at night. The MiG-29s were used extensively to provide fighter escort to the Mirage 2000. The Mirages successfully targeted enemy camps and logistic bases in Kargil and severely disrupted their supply lines. Mirage 2000s were used for strikes on Muntho Dhalo and the heavily defended Tiger Hill and paved the way for their early recapture. At the height of the conflict, the IAF was conducting over forty sorties daily over the Kargil region. By 26 July, the Indian forces had successfully repulsed the Pakistani forces from Kargil.
Post Kargil incidents (1999–present) 
On 10 August 1999, IAF MiG-21s intercepted a Pakistan Navy Breguet Atlantic which was flying over Sir Creek, an Indian territory. The aircraft was shot down killing all 16 Pakistani Navy personnel on board. India claimed that the Atlantic was on a mission to gather information on IAF air defence, a charge emphatically rejected by Pakistan which argued that the unarmed aircraft was on a training mission.
Since the late 1990s, the Indian Air Force has been modernising its fleet to counter challenges in the new century. The fleet size of the IAF has decreased to 33 squadrons during this period because of the retirement of older aircraft. Still, India maintains the fourth largest air force in the world. The IAF plans to raise its strength to 42 squadrons. Self-reliance is the main aim that is being pursued by the defence research and manufacturing agencies.
The President of India is the Supreme Commander of all Indian armed forces and by virtue of that fact is the notional Commander-in-chief of the Air Force. Chief of the Air Staff with the rank of Air Chief Marshal is the Commander of the Indian Air Force. He is assisted by seven officers, all with the rank of Air Marshal:
- Vice Chief of the Air Staff
- Deputy Chief of the Air Staff
- Air Officer in Charge of Administration
- Deputy Military Secretary
- Air Officer in Charge of Personnel
- Air Officer in Charge of Maintenance
- Inspector General of Flight Safety.
In January 2002, the government conferred the rank of Marshal of the Air Force on Arjan Singh making him the first and only Five-star officer with the Indian Air Force and ceremonial chief of the air force.
The Indian Air Force is divided into five operational and two functional commands. Each Command is headed by an Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the rank of Air Marshal. The purpose of an operational command is to conduct military operations using aircraft within its area of responsibility, whereas the responsibility of functional commands is to maintain combat readiness. Aside from the Training Command at Bangalore, the centre for primary flight training is located at the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, followed by operational training at various other schools. Advanced officer training for command positions is also conducted at the Defence Services Staff College; specialised advanced flight training schools are located at Bidar, Karnataka, and Hakimpet, Andhra Pradesh (also the location for helicopter training). Technical schools are found at a number of other locations.
A Wing is a formation intermediate between a Command and a Squadron. It generally consists of two or three IAF Squadrons and Helicopter Units, along with Forward Base Support Units (FBSU). FBSUs do not have or host any Squadrons or Helicopter units but act as transit airbases for routine operations. In times of war, they can become fully fledged air bases playing host to various Squadrons. In all, about 47 Wings and 19 FBSUs make up the IAF. Wings are typically commanded by a Group Captain.
Squadrons are the field units and formations attached to static locations. Thus, a Flying Squadron is a sub-unit of an air force station which carries out the primary task of the IAF. All fighter squadrons are headed by a Commanding Officer with the rank of Wing Commander. Some Transport squadrons and Helicopter Units are headed by a Commanding Officer with the rank of Group Captain.
Within this formation structure, IAF has several service branches for day-to-day operations. They are:
Garud Commando Force 
In September 2009, the IAFMM. established its own special operation unit called the Garud Commando Force, consisting of approximately 1500 personnel. The unit derives its name from Garuda, a divine mythical bird of Hindu Mythology, but more commonly the word for Garuda in Sanskrit Language. Garud is tasked with the protection of critical installations; During hostilities, Garuds undertake combat search and rescue, rescue of downed airmen and other forces from behind enemy lines, suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD), radar busting, combat control, missile and munitions guidance ("lasing" of targets) and other missions in support of air operations. It has been suggested that they undertake an offensive role including raids on enemy air bases etc. during times of war.
Apart from protecting air bases from sabotage and attacks by commando raids, they are also tasked to seal off weapons systems, fighter hangars and other major systems during intrusions and conflicts. and disaster relief during calamities.
Integrated Space Cell 
An Integrated Space Cell, which will be jointly operated by all the three services of the Indian armed forces, the civilian Department of Space and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has been set up to utilise more effectively the country's space-based assets for military purposes. This command will leverage space technology including satellites. Unlike an aerospace command, where the air force controls most of its activities, the Integrated Space Cell envisages cooperation and coordination between the three services as well as civilian agencies dealing with space.
India currently has 10 remote sensing satellites in orbit. Though most are not meant to be dedicated military satellites, some have a spacial resolution of 1 metre or below which can be also used for military applications. Noteworthy satellites include the Technology Experiment Satellite (TES) which has a panchromatic camera (PAN) with a resolution of 1-metre, the RISAT-2 which is capable of imaging in all-weather conditions and has a resolution of one metre, the CARTOSAT-2, CARTOSAT-2A  and CARTOSAT-2B which carries a panchromatic camera which has a resolution of 80 centimetres (black and white only).
Display Teams 
Surya Kiran (Sanskrit for Sun Rays) is an aerobatics demonstration team of the Indian Air Force. The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) was formed in 1996 and are successors to the Thunderbolts. The team has a total of 13 pilots (selected from the fighter stream of the IAF) and operate 9 HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 trainer aircraft painted in a "day-glo orange" and white colour scheme. The Surya Kiran team were conferred squadron status in 2006, and presently have the designation of 52 Squadron, Air force ("The Sharks"). Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team is based at the Indian Air Force Station at Bidar. The HJT-16 Kiran is to be replaced by the HAL HJT-36 Sitara. The IAF have already given an order for 12 Limited Series Production aircraft for the Surya Kiran team. Meanwhile, IAF has begun the process of converting Surya Kirans to BAE Hawks. It will take 2–3 years for the team to completely shift to Hawks.
Sarang is the Helicopter Display Team of the Indian Air Force. The name Sarang (Sanskrit for Peacock) is symbolic as it is the national bird of India. The team was formed in October 2003 and their first public performance was at the Asian Aerospace Show, Singapore, 2004. The team flies four HAL Dhruvs painted in red and white with a peacock figure at each side of the fuselage. The Sarang display team is based at the Indian Air Force base at Air Force Station Sulur, Coimbatore.
Over the years reliable sources provided notably divergent estimates of the personnel strength of the Indian Air Force after analysing open-source intelligence. The public policy organisation GlobalSecurity.org had estimated that the IAF had an estimated strength of 110,000 active personnel in 1994. In 2006, Anthony Cordesman estimated that strength to be 170,000 in the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) publication "The Asian Conventional Military Balance in 2006". In 2010, James Hackett revised that estimate to an approximate strength of 127,000 active personnel in the IISS publication "Military Balance 2010".
The rank structure of the Indian Air Force is based on that of the Royal Air Force. The highest rank attainable in the IAF is Marshal of the Indian Air Force, conferred by the President of India after exceptional service during wartime. MIAF Arjan Singh is the only officer to have achieved this rank. The head of the Indian Air Force is the Chief of the Air Staff, who holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal. The current Chief of the Air Staff is Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne with effect from 1 August 2011.
Anyone holding Indian citizenship can apply to be an officer in the Air Force as long as they satisfy the eligibility criteria. There are four entry points to become an officer. Male applicants, who are between the ages of 16½ and 19 and have passed high school graduation, can apply at the Intermediate level. Men and women applicants, who have graduated from college (three-year course) and are between the ages of 18 and 28, can apply at the Graduate level entry. Graduates of engineering colleges can apply at the Engineer level if they are between the ages of 18 and 28 years. The age limit for the flying and ground duty branch is 23 years of age and for technical branch is 28 years of age. After completing a master's degree, men and women between the ages of 18 and 28 years can apply at the Post Graduate level. Post graduate applicants do not qualify for the flying branch. For the technical branch the age limit is 28 years and for the ground duty branch it is 25. At the time of application, all applicants must be single. The IAF selects candidates for officer training from these applicants. After completion of training, a candidate is commissioned as a Flying Officer.
the Air Force¹
|Air Marshal||Air Vice
The duty of an airman in the Indian Air Force is to make sure that all the air and ground operations run smoothly. From operating Air Defence systems to fitting missiles, they are involved in all activities of an air base and give support to various technical and non-technical jobs. The recruitment of personnel below officer rank is conducted through All India Selection Tests and Recruitment Rallies. All India Selection Tests are conducted among 14 Airmen Selection Centres (ASCs) located all over India. These centres are under the direct functional control of Central Airmen Selection Board (CASB), with administrative control and support by respective commands. The role of CASB is to carry out selection and enrolment of airmen from the Airmen Selection Centres for their respective commands. Candidates initially take a written test at the time of application. Those passing the written test undergo a physical fitness test, an interview conducted in English, and medical examination. Candidates for training are selected from individuals passing the battery of tests, on the basis of their performance. Upon completion of training, an individual becomes an Airman. Some MWOs and WOs are granted honorary commission in the last year of their service as an honorary Flying Officer or Flight Lieutenant before retiring from the service.
|Junior Commissioned Officer||Enlisted|
Non Combatants Enrolled and civilians 
Non Combatants Enrolled (NCs(E)) were established in British India as personal assistants to the officer class, and are equivalent to the orderly or sahayak of the Indian Army.
Almost all the commands have some percentage of civilian strength which are central government employees. These are regular ranks which are prevalent in ministries. They are usually not posted outside their stations and are employed in administrative and non-technical work.
Training and education 
The Indian Armed Forces has set up numerous military academies across India for training its personnel. Military schools, Sainik Schools, and the Rashtriya Indian Military College were founded to broaden the recruitment base of the Defence Forces. The three branches of the Indian Armed Forces jointly operate several institutions such as the National Defence Academy (NDA), Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), National Defence College (NDC) and the College of Defence Management (CDM) for training its officers. The Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) at Pune is responsible for providing the entire pool of medical staff to the Armed Forces by giving them in service training.
Besides these Tri-service institutions, the Indian Air Force has a Training Command and several training establishments. While technical and other support staff are trained at various Ground Training Schools, the pilots are trained at the Air Force Academy located at Dundigul. The Pilot Training Establishment at Allahabad, the Air Force Administrative College at Coimbatore, the School of Aviation Medicine at Bangalore, the Air Force Technical College, Bangalore at Jalahalli and the Paratrooper’s Training School at Agra are some of the other training establishments of the IAF.
Aircraft inventory 
The Indian Air Force has aircraft and equipment of Russian (erstwhile Soviet Union), British, French, Israeli, U.S. and Indian origins with Russian aircraft dominating its inventory. HAL produces some of the Russian and British aircraft in India under licence. The exact number of aircraft in service with the Indian Air Force cannot be determined with precision from open sources. Various reliable sources provide notably divergent estimates for a variety of high-visibility aircraft.
Airborne early warning aircraft 
Multi-role fighters and strike aircraft 
IAF's primary air superiority fighter with the additional capability to conduct air-ground (strike) missions is Sukhoi Su-30MKI. The IAF have placed an order for a total of 272 Su-30MKIs of which 146 are in service as of 2011. The Mikoyan MiG-29 known as Baaz (Hindi for Hawk) is a dedicated air superiority fighter and constitutes a second line of defence after the Sukhoi Su-30MKI. 68 MiG-29s are in service, all of which are currently being upgraded to the MiG-29UPG standard. The Dassault Mirage 2000, known as Vajra (Sanskrit for Thunderbolt) in Indian service, is the primary multirole fighter, the IAF currently operates 51 Mirage 2000Hs which are currently being upgraded to the Mirage 2000-5 MK2 standard. The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 serves as an Interceptor aircraft in the IAF. The IAF have phased out most of its MiG-21s and plans to keep only 125 that have been upgraded to MiG-21 Bison standard. These aircraft will be phased out between 2014 and 2017. The MiG-21s are planned to be replaced by the indigenously built HAL Tejas.
The SEPECAT Jaguar known as Shamsher and the Mikoyan MiG-27 known as Bahadur (Hindi for Valiant) serve as the IAF's primary ground attack force. The IAF currently operates 139 Jaguars and over 100 MiG-27s.
Tanker and transport aircraft 
The IAF currently operates 6 Ilyushin Il-78MKIs in the aerial refueling (tanker) role. For strategic military transport operations the IAF uses the Ilyushin Il-76 known as Gajraj (Hindi for King Elephant) in Indian service. The IAF currently operates 17 Il-76s, which are to be replaced by a number of C-17 Globemaster IIIs in the near future.
The C-130J of the IAF is used by special forces for combined Army-Air Force operations. There are currently 6 C-130Js in service. The Antonov An-32 known as Sutlej (name of an Indian river) serves as medium transport aircraft in the IAF. The aircraft is also used in bombing roles and para-dropping operations. The IAF currently operates 105 An-32s, all of which are being upgraded. The Dornier Do 228 serves as light transport aircraft in the IAF. The IAF also operates Boeing 737s and Embraer ECJ-135 Legacy aircraft as VIP transports and passenger airliners for troops. Other VIP transport aircraft are used for both the President of India and the Prime Minister of India under the call sign Air India One.
Trainer aircraft 
The HAL HPT-32 Deepak is IAF's basic flight training aircraft for cadets. The HPT-32 was grounded in July 2009 following a crash that killed two senior flight instructors, but was revived in May 2010 and is to be fitted with a parachute recovery system (PRS) to enhance survivability during an emergency in the air and to bring the trainer down safely. The HPT-32 is to be phased out soon. The IAF uses the HAL HJT-16 Kiran mk.I for intermediate flight training of cadets, while the HJT-16 Kiran mk.II provides advanced flight and weapons training. The HAL HJT-16 Kiran Mk.2 is also operated by the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) of the IAF. The Kiran is to be replaced by the HAL HJT-36 Sitara. The BAE Hawk Mk 132 serves as an advanced jet trainer in the IAF and is progressively replacing the Kiran Mk.II. The IAF has begun the process of converting the Surya Kiran display team to Hawks. A total of 106 BAE Hawk trainers have been ordered by the IAF of which 39 have entered service as of July 2010.
The purchase of 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II aircraft has been cleared by the Cabinet Committee. The decision has been made in the wake of acute shortage of basic trainer aircraft. On 24 May 2012, IAF signed a Rs 2800 crore deal with Pilatus Aircraft to purchase the PC-7s. Delivery is expected in January 2013 and the first course of training would begin in July 2013.
The HAL Dhruv serves primarily as a light utility helicopter in the IAF. In addition to transport and utility roles, Dhruvs are also used as attack helicopters. 4 Dhruvs are also operated by the Indian Air Force Sarang Helicopter Display Team. The HAL Chetak is a light utility helicopter and is used primarily for training, rescue and light transport roles in the IAF. The HAL Chetak is scheduled to be replaced by HAL's Advanced Light Helicopter. The HAL Cheetah is a light utility helicopter used for high altitude operations. It is used for both transport and search-and-rescue missions in the IAF. The Mil Mi-8 and the Mil Mi-17 are operated by the IAF for medium utility roles. The Mi-8 is being progressively replaced by the Mi-17. The IAF has ordered 80 Mi-17V-5s to replace and augment its existing fleet of Mi-8s and Mi-17s, with an order for 59 additional helicopters to follow soon. The Mil Mi-26 serves as a heavy lift helicopter in the IAF. It can also be used to transport troops or as a flying ambulance. The IAF currently operates 4 Mi-26s.
The Mil Mi-35 serves primarily as an attack helicopter in the IAF. The Mil Mi-35 can also act as a low-capacity troop transport. The IAF currently operates 2 squadrons (No.104 Firebirds and No.125 Gladiators) of Mi-25/35s.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles 
The IAF currently uses the IAI Searcher II and IAI Heron for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes. The IAI Harpy serves as an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which is designed to attack radar systems. The IAF also operates the DRDO Lakshya which serves as realistic towed aerial sub-targets for live fire training.
Land-based missile systems 
Surface-to-air missile systems 
The IAF currently operates the S-125 Pechora and the 9K33 Osa as Surface-to-air missile systems. The IAF is also currently inducting the Akash medium range surface-to-air missile system. A total of 8 squadrons has been ordered so far. The S-300 SAM serves as an Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (ATBM) system in the IAF. The S-300 is also able to detect, track, and destroy incoming cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft.
Ballistic missiles 
Future of the Indian Air Force 
The number of aircraft in the IAF has been decreasing from the late 1990s due to retirement of older aircraft and several crashes. To deal with the depletion of force levels, the IAF has started to modernise its fleet. This includes both upgrade of existing aircraft, equipment and infrastructure as well as induction of new aircraft and equipment, both indigenous and imported. As new aircraft enter service and numbers recover, the IAF plans to have a fleet of 42 squadrons.
The IAF has placed orders for 48 HAL Tejas fighters, 75 Pilatus PC-7MkII basic trainers, 72 HAL HJT-36 Sitara trainers, 10 C-17 Globemaster III strategic air-lifters, 65 HAL Light Combat Helicopters, 139 Mi-17V-5 helicopters. and the IAF has also ordered 18 Israeli SPYDER Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs). It was announced in 2012 that India will order 126 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters at a cost of USD 20 billion as part of the MRCA competition, 6 Airbus A330 tanker aircrafts, 22 AH-64E Apache Longbow heavy attack helicopters, 12 VVIP-configured AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters, 15 CH-47F medium lift helicopters and IAI Harop UCAVs. As on January 2013, news reports have begin to appear that India may order an additional 63 Rafale fighter jets from France increasing the total number of the French jets to 189. The IAF has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for 16 C-27J Spartan medium military transport aircraft. A new Request For Information has been issued to replace Hawker Siddeley HS 748 for $ 2.4 billion. The IAF also submitted a request for information to international suppliers for a stealth unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) and the Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) will float a tender for 125 light helicopters.
Indian defence companies such as HAL and DRDO are developing several aircraft for the IAF such as the HAL Tejas, Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), DRDO AEW&CS (revived from the Airavat Project), NAL Saras, HAL HJT-36 Sitara, HAL HTT-40, HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), HAL Light Observation Helicopter (LOH), DRDO Rustom and AURA (Autonomous Unmanned Research Aircraft) UCAV. DRDO has developed the Akash missile system for the IAF and is developing the Maitri SAM with MBDA. DRDO is also developing the Prithvi II ballistic missile.
HAL has undertaken the joint development of the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) (a derivative project of the Sukhoi PAK FA) and the UAC/HAL Il-214 Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) with Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). DRDO has entered in a joint venture with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop the Barak 8 SAM. DRDO is developing the air-launched version of the BrahMos cruise missile in a joint venture with Russia's NPO Mashinostroeyenia. DRDO is also developing the nuclear capable Nirbhay cruise missile.
See also 
- Indian Armed Forces
- Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon the only IAF personnel to be awarded the PVC
- Marshal of the Air force Arjan Singh
- Indian Naval Air Arm
- Indian Army
- Indian Navy
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