The high point of these celebrations was the Air Force Day parade and the enthralling aerial display put up by aircraft of the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindon
On Saturday, October 8 this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrated its 84th anniversary country wide with great enthusiasm and fervour. The high point of these celebrations was the Air Force Day parade and the enthralling aerial display put up by aircraft of the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindon near Ghaziabad. One notable feature of the anniversary celebrations this year was that it was held amidst the escalating tension on the Western borders following the surgical strike on September 29, 2016, by the Indian Special Forces across the line of control in the Kashmir Valley. Since then, the security forces of India have been on a state of high alert and so it is with the IAF too.
The parade was reviewed by Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee. Also present were General Dalbir Singh Suhag, Chief of the Army Staff, and Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff. Amongst the invitees were the former Chiefs of the Air Staff, defence attachés as well as several other dignitaries, both civil and military, serving and retired. A special guest of honour at the event was the former national level cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar who has been conferred with the honorary rank of Group Captain.
Established on October 8, 1932, the IAF has a glorious record of performance and achievements in its 84-year-long history. Initially christened as the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF), it played a stellar role in World War II, thwarting the advance of the Japanese Army in Burma. After the nation became a Republic in 1950, the prefix “Royal” was dropped. Since its inception, the IAF has ensured the security of the Indian air space with great diligence and dedication. Apart from participating in the four violent conflicts with the Pakistan, the IAF has undertaken a number of other operations which include Operation Vijay to claim Goa, Operation Meghdoot to establish control over the Siachen Glacier, Operation Cactus that was India’s intervention in the Maldives and Operation Poomalai to air drop supplies over the besieged town of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. In addition, the IAF has always been in the forefront to undertake humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations both within the country and across the globe. These operations have included evacuation of Indian nationals as well as others stranded in foreign lands owing to turmoil and strife in those countries. The IAF has been a participant in several United Nations peacekeeping missions as well.
Felicitations from Higher Echelons
On the occasion of the 84th anniversary of the IAF, the President of India Pranab Mukherjee lauded the highly professional service through a message, “The IAF has achieved distinction in defending our skies and delivering vital humanitarian aid and disaster relief. Over the last eight decades, the IAF has emerged as an immensely professional and combat-ready force. The nation is proud of the capability and competence of the IAF. Greetings and felicitations to all personnel of the IAF on the 84th anniversary.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi too offered his greetings on the occasion to all personnel of the IAF and their families. In a message on Twitter, the Prime Minister said, “Saluting all air warriors and their families on Air Force Day. Thank you for protecting our skies. Your courage makes India proud”. The Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar also greeted the IAF on the occasion as he tweeted, “Our Air Force plays a vital role in strengthening our national security. I humbly salute its members and their families on Air Force Day.”
The events of the day began with flag-bearing skydivers of the famous Akash Ganga Team of the IAF jumping out of An-32 aircraft with their colourful parachute canopies and performing a series of manoeuvres during their descent to the ground before the spectators. On the tarmac of Air Force Station, Hindon, the entire range of aircraft on the inventory of the IAF was on static display with combat platforms in battle-ready condition. Heralded by the bugle, the contingent on parade consisting of four squadrons with two flights each, marched in smartly to the tune of the No. 1 Air Force Band and took position. The parade was commanded by Group Captain Neeraj Choubey and one of the squadrons was led by a lady officer. In the middle of the parade was the “Nishan Toli” carried by an officer of the rank of Flight Lieutenant escorted by air warriors. The Nishan Toli is a flag which symbolises the bravery, valour and commitment to mission, integrity and excellence of the IAF. It was presented to the IAF by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the nation, on April 1, 1954. Since then, this most revered flag is hoisted on important occasions.
Inspection of the parade by the CAS was followed by the march past during which three Mi-35 attack helicopters of the IAF flew past. The march past was followed by presentation of awards. The chief guest and reviewing officer, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, then conferred the awards of Vayu Sena Medal, Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) and Vishist Seva Medal to individuals selected to receive these. The CAS also presented Unit Citation Awards to three premier units of the IAF for outstanding performance and valuable contribution to the IAF. These units are the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE), No. 31 Squadron now equipped with the Su-30MKI combat aircraft and No. 152 Helicopter Unit that has on its inventory the Mi-17V5 mediumlift helicopters, the latest acquisition by the IAF. The presentation of awards was followed by address by the CAS in which he highlighted the grave security situation the country is currently faced with, the challenges before the IAF and the resolve to confront these with determination and unflinching zeal. The address was inspiring to one and all. The parade was then permitted by the chief guest to march off the parade ground.
What followed was a stunning display of precision and coordination in rifle drill by the Air Warrior Drill Team of the IAF. In conformity with the motto of the team which is “Drill to Thrill”, members of the Air Warrior Drill Team displayed a complex sequence of foot and rifle movements through nine different formations.
The Aerial Display
– C-17 Globemaster III
– Hawk 132 AJT
– LCA Tejas
– Mirage 2000
– MiG-21 Bison
– Su-30 MKI
– Indra Radar
– Rohini Radar
– Tiger Moth
– C-130J Super Hercules
– C-17 Globemaster III
– MiG-21 Bison
– Mirage 2000
– Su-30 MKI
– LCA Tejas
– ALH Dhruv in Sarang Team
– Pilatus PC-7 Mk II
– Hawk 132 AJT
Source: IAF PRO Palam
The aerial display commenced with vintage aircraft, the Tiger Moth biplane, the erstwhile basic trainer aircraft and the Harvard piston engine intermediate trainer aircraft that were in use in the 1950s and the 1960s. These two aircraft that were pulled out of the museum to participate in the aerial display, revived nostalgic memories amongst the veterans who had trained on these platforms. These vintage machines were followed by aircraft that are currently operational in the IAF. Leading the pack were three Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules in vic formation followed by one C-17 Globemaster III, the latest acquisition from Boeing, escorted by two Su-30MKI air dominance fighters. A formation of three Jaguars followed next firing flares as they flew past and broke formation over the spectators. Then came three MiG-21 Bisons followed by the MiG-29 air defence fighters. A formation of three Mirage 2000 followed next with the formation peeling off and discharging flares as they flew past. A formation of three Su-30MKIs followed the Mirage formation and in their wake came a single Su-30MKI that offered a salute to the reviewing officer by way of a Vertical Charlie manoeuvre, spiralling upwards symbolising the motto of the IAF to “Touch the Sky With Glory”!
The high point of the aerial display was the debut by the light combat aircraft Tejas of the recently raised No. 45 Squadron Flying Daggers. A single Tejas piloted personally by the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Group Captain Madhav Rangachari, staged a good ten-minute display, putting the Tejas through its paces before an appreciative audience. This was followed by the well-known Sarang, the helicopter display team of the IAF that has been participating regularly in local and international air shows. As usual, the Sarang team captivated the spectators with some heartstopping manoeuvres especially the high speed cross over a few hundred feet above the ground right in front of the spectators. The Pilatus PC-7 MkII single-engine turbo-trainer followed next. This platform was acquired beginning in 2013 following the premature grounding in 2009 of the basic trainer HPT-32. With its impressive operating envelope, the Pilatus PC-7 MkII is being employed for both basic and intermediate stages of flying training. The final act in the air show the resurrection of the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) now re-equipped with the Hawk 132 advanced jet trainer. This newly constituted six aircraft team wrapped up the air display with a variety of formations.
The highlight of the day was a scintillating aerial display by the Red Arrows aerobatics display team. The world-renowned aerobatics display team of RAF, who were on a world tour, performed at around 12 p.m. at the Hindon airbase. The Red Arrows fly the famous Hawk jets, the advanced jet trainer made by the British BAE systems and have become a symbol of not just British excellence but also Indian manufacturing and technical development.
Apart from being a routine annual event, the anniversary celebrations help rejuvenate confidence in the capability of the IAF. With the formal event behind it, the IAF will now go back to the more challenging task of preparing to contend with the emerging threats to national security!