Demands to establish the Indian Air Force as an independent air wing were made after Indian forces played a commendable role in different theatres during World War I. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was set up after a panel named the Indian Sandhurst Committee examined and approved these demands for an independent Indian air wing. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was established on 8 October 1932 with just 25 personnel! This included six officers and 19 Hawai Sepoys, or air soldiers. The day is marked as the Air Force Day every year.
Here are 10 facts about the Indian Air Force that everybody should know.
- The force began operations with four Westland Wapiti IIA biplanes. These single-engine planes were designated as the “A” Flight of the No.1 (Army Cooperation) Squadron of the Indian Air Force which was to come up at Drigh Road, Karachi. The first flight was made on 1 April 1933 to mark the day the British Royal Air Force (RAF) had come into being.
- The Indian Air Force participated in World War II, providing air cover to ships arriving at the Rangoon (Yangon) harbor in Burma (now Myanmar) and flying reconnaissance missions after Japan joined the war. But the Japanese were far better equipped and a process to upgrade the aircraft at the IAF’s disposal began soon after.
- There was a period after 1945 during which the force was known as the Royal Indian Air Force or RIAF. Its aircraft were used for transport operations in the 1947 war in Kashmir. The prefix “Royal” was dropped after India became a Republic. The subsequent years saw the force being reorganized and reinforced in terms of personnel as well as aircraft and support equipment.
- The first Indian Chief of Air Staff was Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee who headed the force from 1 April 1954 to 8 November 1960. He was one of the six Indians selected for training at the RAF College in Cranwell before they became part of the soon-to-be-created Indian Air Force. The Subroto Cup inter-school football tournament is named is in his honour and is being organized since 1960.
- The IAF consists of seven commands, each headed by an Air Officer Commander-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), with the rank of Air Marshal. Five of these deal with operations and were carved out of the erstwhile No.1 Operational Group. The other two commands handle training and maintenance and succeeded the No. 2 Training Group.
- The Indian Air Force played a stellar role in the 1965 Indo-Pak War. Pakistan had the advantage of the element of surprise and enjoyed superiority when it came to numbers while carrying out a massive attack. But the IAF halted Pakistan’s march in a decisive manner and later even carried out attacks on Pakistan Air Force bases despite losing dozens of aircraft in pre-emptive strikes on its own bases.
- There has been only one five-star officer in the history of the Indian Air Force. He is Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh (15 April 1919 – 16 September 2017) who was the third Indian Chief of Air Staff. He served as the Air Force Chief from 1 August 1964 to 15 July 1969.
- The only Indian Air Force officer to have been awarded a Param Vir Chakra (PVC), the nation’s highest military honour, is Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon. He was honoured posthumously for his gallant role in the 1971 Indo-Pak War.Arun Khetarpal, Major Hoshiar Singh and Lance Naik Albert Ekka are other participants in 1971 Indo-Pak War.
- The Indian Air Force operates the world’s highest airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie in Ladakh, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in the Aksai Chin region. In August 2013, the IAF created a record by landing a massive C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft on the airstrip, located at a height of 16,614 feet (5,065 meters).
- Operation Rahat after the flash floods in Uttarakhand in June 2013 is the largest civilian rescue operation carried out by the Indian Air Force. Nearly 20,000 civilians were rescued in over 2,100 missions. This is said to be the biggest heliborne civilian rescue carried out by an air force anywhere in the world.