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The Indian Air Force (IAF; Devanāgarī: भारतीय वायु सेना, Bhartiya Vāyu Senā) is the air arm of the armed forces of Indiamarker. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict. It was officially established on October 8, 1932 as an auxiliary air force of the Indian Empire and the prefix Royal was added in 1945 in recognition of its services during the World War II. After India achieved independence from the United Kingdommarker in 1947, the Royal Indian Air Force served the Union 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 neighboring Pakistanmarker and one with the People's Republic of Chinamarker. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot and Operation Cactus. Apart from conflicts, the IAF has been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The President of India serves as the 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 has been conferred the rank of Marshal of the Air Force, a 5-star rank and the officer serves as the ceremonial chief.

With strength of approximately 170,000 personnel and 1,700 aircraft, including 852 combat aircraft in active service, the Indian Air Force is the world's fourth largest. In recent years, the IAF has undertaken an ambitious expansion and modernisation program to replace its aging Soviet-era fighter jets. Among the various expansion plans is the MRCA program under which the IAF plans to induct 126 fighter jets at a cost of US$12 billion.


The air force, along with the other branches of the Indian armed forces, can assist local and state governments, if assistance is sought by such government during natural disasters and for maintaining internal security. Also to protect the integrity of the country.


One of the first aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
The Indian Air Force was established as an auxiliary air force of the RAF with the enactment of the Indian Air Force Act of 1932 on October 8 that year. On April 1, 1933, the IAF commissioned its first squadron, No.1 Squadron, with four Westland Wapiti biplanes and five Indian pilots. The Indian pilots were led by Flight Lieutenant (later Air Vice Marshal) Cecil Bouchier. Until 1938, No. 1 Squadron remained the only squadron of the IAF, though two more flights were added. During the Second World War, the Air Force had grown to seven squadrons in 1943 and to nine squadrons in 1945. In recognition of the crucial role played by the IAF, King George VI conferred it the prefix Royal in 1945. Indian National Army youth cadets were trained by Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Academy in 1944.

After Indian independence in 1947, Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) was bifurcated. Three of the ten operational squadrons and facilities located within the borders of Pakistan were transferred to Royal Pakistan Air Force.

In 1947, when a conflict broke out over the control of erstwhile principality of Jammu & Kashmir, the Maharaja of the state decided to accede India in order to receive military help. The day after instrument of accession was signed, the RIAF was called upon to mobilise armed troops into the war-zone. This led to the eruption of full scale war between India and Pakistan without a formal declaration. During the war, the RIAF did not engage Pakistan Air Force in air-to-air combat; however, it did provide effective transport and close air support to the Indian troops. When India became a Republic in 1950, the Royal title was dropped to become the Indian Air Force.

In 1960, when Belgiummarker's 75-year colonial rule of the Congomarker ended abruptly, widespread violence and rebellion engulfed the nation. IAF aircraft arrived in Congo to support United Nations Operation in the Congo and started undertaking operational missions in November. The unit remained there until 1966, when the UN mission ended.
During the Sino-Indian War of 1962, India's military planners failed to deploy and effectively use the IAF against the invading Chinese forces. Three years after the Sino-Indian conflict, in 1965, India went to war with Pakistan again over Kashmir. Learning from the experiences of the Sino-Indian war, India decided to use its air force extensively during the 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 Pakistani Air Force (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 qualitative superiority over the IAF because most of the jets in IAF's fleet were of World War II vintage. Despite this, the IAF was able to prevent the PAF from gaining air superiority over conflict zones. By the time the conflict had ended, Pakistan claimed to have shot down 113 IAF aircraft while the Indians claimed that 73 PAF aircraft were downed. More than 60% of IAF's air combat losses took place during the disastrous battles over Kalaikunda and Pathankot; where most of the losses were on the ground.

After the 1965 war, the IAF underwent a series of changes. In 1966, the Para Commandos regiment was created. With an intention of increasing its logistics supply and rescue operations ability, the IAF inducted 72 Avro 748s which were built by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) under license from Avro. India started to lay more stress on indigenous manufacture of fighter aircraft. HAL HF-24 Marut, designed by the famed German aerospace engineer Kurt Tank, were inducted into the air force. HAL also started working on a new improved version of the Folland Gnat, known as HAL Ajeet. At the same time, the IAF also started inducting Mach 2 capable Sovietmarker MiG-21 and Sukhoi Su-7 fighters.

By late 1971, another war between India and Pakistan seemed inevitable because of the intensification of the independence movement in erstwhile East Pakistan. On November 22, 1971, 10 days before the start of a full-scale war, four Pakistani Air Force (PAF) F-86 Sabre jets attacked Indian and Mukti Bahini positions near the international border. Three of the four PAF Sabres were shot down by IAF's Folland Gnats. On December 3, 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 plan failed as the IAF had anticipated such a move and no major losses were suffered. 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 Bengalmarker and Arabian Seamarker. 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 carring out raids on oil installations in Karachimarker, the Mangla Dammarker 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. 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.

In 1984, India launched Operation Meghdoot to capture the Siachen Glaciermarker in the contested Kashmirmarker region. IAF's Mi-8, Chetak and Cheetah helicopters airlifted hundreds of Indian troops to Siachen. Launched on April 13, 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.

On May 20, 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. Because of Kashmir's high altitude and rigid terrain, the IAF initially expressed its reservations to deploy the slow-moving Mil Mi-8/17 helicopters which had a service ceiling of 10,000 feet. These concerns materialised when the Pakistani forces shot down an IAF Mi-8 helicopter and two fighter jets, MiG-21 and MiG-27, that had reportedly strayed into Pakistan's airspace. After the initial setbacks, the IAF deployed the Mirage 2000 which not only had better defense equipment compared to the MiGs, but also gave IAF the ability to carry out aerial raids at night. The Mirages successfully targeted enemy camps and logistic bases in Kargil and within days, their supply lines were severely disrupted. The IAF also deployed its radars and the MiG-29 fighter jets in vast numbers to keep check on Pakistani military movements across the border. The MiG-29s were also used extensively to provide fighter escort to the Mirage 2000. At the height of the conflict, the IAF was conducting over forty sorties daily over the Kargil region. The IAF's operations in Kargil not only boosted the morale of the Indian Army, but also paved the way for the early recapture of Muntho Dhalo and Tiger Hill. By July 26, the Indian forces had successfully liberated Kargil from Pakistani forces and Islamist militants. On August 10, 1999, IAF MiG-21s intercepted a Pakistan Navy Breguet Atlantic which was flying over the disputed region of Sir Creekmarker. 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 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 during this period because of the retirement of older aircraft. Still, India maintains the fourth largest air force. As new aircraft enter service and numbers recover, the IAF plans to have a fleet of 42 squadrons.

Structure of the IAF

The President of India is the Supreme Commander of all Indian armed forces and by virtue of that fact is the notional Commander of the Air Force. India's Ministry of Defence under the Defence Minister oversees the Air Force, by way of direct civilian leadership. The Prime Minister and the National Security Council provide indirect leadership by shaping government security policy. A Chief of the Air Staff with the rank of Air Chief Marshal commands Air Headquarters and provides military leadership. He is assisted by six officers: a Vice Chief of the Air Staff, a Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, the Air Officer in Charge of Administration, the Air Officer in Charge of Personnel, the Air Officer in Charge of Maintenance, and the 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 rank officer with the Indian Air Force and ceremonial chief of the air force.

Commands and structure

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 center 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.


The IAF operates over sixty air bases, with more being built or planned. Western Air Command is the largest Air Command. It operates sixteen air bases from Punjabmarker to Uttar Pradeshmarker. Eastern Air Command operates fifteen Air bases in Eastern and North-eastern India. Central Air Command operates seven Air Bases in Madhya Pradeshmarker and surrounding states of central India. Southern Air Command, a strategically important Air command, in line with India's latest doctrine of protecting the vital shipping routes. It operates nine Air bases in Southern India and two in the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker. South Western Air Command is the front line of defence against Pakistan, this important Command operates twelve air bases in Gujaratmarker, Maharashtramarker and Rajasthanmarker. India also operates the Farkhor Air Basemarker in Tajikistanmarker


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.


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:
Flying Branch
  • Flying
Technical Branch
  • Engineering
  • Logistics
Ground Branch
  • Administration
  • Accounts
  • Education
  • Medical & Dental
  • Meteorological

IAF personnel

The IAF has a strength of 170,000 personnel. Its rank structure 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 P.V.Naik, appointed on May 1, 2009, following the retirement of Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major.


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, candidate are commissioned as Flying Officers.


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 Centers 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.

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 technical work. More than 250 different designations exist.

Land-Based Air Defence

  • Isayev SA-3 Goa: The Indian Air Force is considering upgrading its Pechora SA-3 missiles with Polish help whilst it waits for the Akash. According to Janes Missiles and Rockets (December 2005), the IAF would like to conduct the Newa-SCM upgrade package upgrade to 20 S-125M Pechora-CC systems, using primarily the Tatra 8x8 chassis, which is licence-built in India. Installation on specially adapted heavy equipment trailers or Tatra 8x8 vehicles was studied at the request of the Indian Air Force. It incorporates a new ZNO-X digital transmitter/receiver block developed by the Przemyslowy Instytut Telekomunikacji (PIT) to replace the original magnetron-based hardware. The unit uses digital technology, including digital frequency synthesis, and has automatic built-in test facilities. While the ZNO-X is an expensive upgrade, it significantly improves system performance. Most of the upgrade work would be done in India, although the core elements of the upgrade would be delivered from Poland.Pechora SAM will be phased out by 2012. As of 2009, no firm SA-3 upgrade program has been signed for.
  • SA-8 Gecko
  • SA-10 Grumble/S-300. Reportedly 6 batteries were purchased in August 1995
  • SA-16 Gimlet - MANPAD

Aircraft inventory

The Indian Air Force has a strength of over 1,915 (combat and non-combat) aircraft. Most are of Soviet/Russian origin. The Air Force also operates some aircraft from Britain and France. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited 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.

Fighter and multi-role combat aircraft

These aircraft are primarily for air defence and air superiority purposes. However, most of them have significant strike and close air support capabilities. The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the IAF's prime air superiority fighter. The Su-30K variant was first acquired in 1996. That year, the IAF signed a US$1.6 billion contract with Russia for the supply of 50 Su-30MKIs and the technology transfer and license to manufacture 140 Su-30MKIs by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The two-seat, multi-role fighter has a maximum speed of 2500 km/h (Mach 2.35) and a service ceiling of 20,000 meters. With one mid-air refueling, it can travel as far as 8000 km, making it a suitable platform to deliver strategic weapons. In 2007, the IAF spent US$700 million to upgrade its remaining 10 Su-30Ks and 8 SU-30MKs to MKI Std variant and signed a contract for the supply of 40 additional MKIs with Russia.

The MiG-29 (NATO: Fulcrum) is the IAF's dedicated air superiority fighter. It has a top speed of 2,445 km/h (Mach 2.3) and is armed with a 30 mm cannon along with R-60 & R-27 R missiles. The IAF began deploying MiG-29s in 1984, becoming the second air force to do so.. Since their induction, the IAF's MiG-29s have undergone a series of upgrades including more efficient and powerful radar (Zhuk-ME), weapons system, and engines.
Indian Air Force Mirage 2000H.
Mirage 2000, capable of flying at 2,500 km/h (Mach 2.35), are the IAF's premier multirole fighter jet. These aircraft can carry a wide range of weaponry including two 30 mm integral cannon, two Matra Super 530D medium-range missiles, two R550 Magic close combat missiles and various ground attack munitions.

Since 1963, over 450 MiG-21 combat aircraft have served in the IAF. Most of these MiGs have been upgraded since induction. In 1996, India signed a US$300 million deal with Russia to upgrade 125 MiG-21 Bis, and a multi-million dollar deal was awarded to Israel's Elta for upgrading the avionics of the MiGs. Because of their frequent crashes, the MiG-21s have been dubbed flying coffins by the media. As of 2007, about 250 MiG-21s remain in service with the Indian Air Force and are planned to be replaced by the indigenously built HAL Tejas starting 2010. IAF has had problems in aircraft maintenance with many crashes in recent years. During the 2005-09 period, 32 MiG series fighters in service with the IAF crashed, resulting in the death of five pilots.

Strike, attack and close support aircraft

IAF Jaguar
Squadrons of Jaguar (known as the Shamsher in Indian service) and MiG-27 aircraft serve as the IAF's primary ground attack force. The twin-engine Jaguar IB, with a top speed of Mach 1.6, is capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The IAF has 100 Jaguar IS and 8 maritime strike Jaguar IM aircraft. The single-seat MiG-27 carries one GSh-6-30 six-barreled 30 mm cannon, 4000 kg of general-purpose ordnance, SPPU-22 and SPPU-6 gun pods, and various guided air-to-surface missiles. In January 2009, India successfully completed the upgrade programs on the Air Force's MiG-27 ground attack variants. DRDO carried out the avionics upgrades on the fighter aircraft. In the upgraded MiG-27s, the avionics system is built around a modular mission computer termed Core Avionics Computer (CAC). The upgraded ground attack fighters are equipped with Inertial Navigation and Global Positioning System (INGPS) providing accurate navigation during aircraft sorties. To provide more accuracy to the aircraft's weapon systems, accurate ranging sensors such as Laser Designator Pod (LDP) and Laser Ranger and Marked Target Seeker (LRMTS) have been integrated in it also. To improve situational awareness of the pilot during air combat, a digital map generator has been integrated along with a digital video recording system, which helps in mission analysis and debrief support.

Airborne Early Warning aircraft

In 2004, the IAF ordered 3 IAI Phalcon Airborne Early Warning radar system from Israel Aerospace Industries, which is considered to be the most advanced AEW&C system in the world. The air force will use 3 newly acquired Ilyushin Il-76 Phalcon as the platform for this radar. In May 2008, India appears to have ordered an additional three Phalcon radar-equipped IL-76s from Israel, pushing up the value of the deal from US$1.1 to 1.5 billion. An Indian defense delegation headed by Defense Secretary Vijay Singh, visited Israel in November 2008 to discuss the purchase of the planes and missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It has been reported that India has placed a follow-up order for 3 more Phalcon radar equipped IL-76 from Israel at a cost of $1.5 billion, pushing the total number to be acquired up to 6. The first Phalcons arrived in India on May 25, 2009 and are expected to be commissioned into service by 2010. IAF Air Chief said that it would take a year and a half to get each and every combat plane in IAF to link with Phalcon.

Transport aircraft

The IAF operates 25 Ilyushin Il-76s for military transport duties such as heavy lift at all operational levels. The Il-76 MD is a strategic air-lifter with a payload of 95,000 lb and a range of over 5,000 km (2,700 nm; 3,100 statute miles). In 2003, the IAF orderd 6 IL-78MKI aircraft from Uzbekistan and are fitted with aerial refueling pods from Israelmarker. India took delivery of the tankers in 2004.

IAF has a fleet of 64 Avro 748 which has a payload of 5,136 kg (11,323 lb) and has a range of 1,715 km (926 nm; 1,066 mi). The air force also operates a fleet of 94 twin-engined turboprop Antonov An-32 and 73 Dornier Do 228 utility aircraft. In an effort to infuse fresh life into its transport fleet, the Indian Air Force will begin an upgrade programme for its Antonov An-32s and Dornier Do 228s in 2009.

Training aircraft

HAL HJT-36 Sitara
The HPT-32 Deepak is IAF's basic flight training aircraft for cadets. Developed during the late 1970s, it has been in service with the IAF since 1984.

The IAF uses the HAL HJT-16 Kiran mk.I for intermediate flight training of cadets, while the HJT-16 Kiran mk.II provides Stage II flight training. In 2004, the IAF placed an order for 66 BAE Hawk Mk 132 Advanced Jet Trainers in a deal worth over 1 billion GBP. Deliveries began in November, 2007 and induction in February, 2008. Pilot instructors and engineers were trained in the UK, and the aircraft is scheduled to replace the mk.II. HAL is developing the HJT-36 Sitara to replace the Kiran mk.I.


HAL Dhruv
An important objective of the IAF is to support ground troops by providing air cover and by transporting men and essential commodities across the battlefield. For this purpose the Air Force maintains a fleet of helicopters. Helicopters in service with the IAF are:
Light Utility Medium Utility Heavylift Attack

Unmanned aerial vehicles

The primary role of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is to provide aerial surveillance and reconnaissance. The IAF operates IAI Malat built Searcher II and Heron UAVs. Israel Aircraft Industries and Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE). India's leading unmanned aerial vehicle research agency are also jointly developing three new UAVs.

UAVs can also be used as a pilot-less target aircraft. HAL Lakshya, indigenously developed pilotless target aircraft, was inducted into the IAF in July 2005. Another UAV, the HAL Nishant Remote Piloted Vehicle (RPV) has also been developed, with an endurance of over 3 hours. The UAV can be used to carry out ground attacks and aerial surveillance.

Ongoing expansion

Future aircraft

Production line of Hawk 132 at HAL's facility in Bangalore, India
As of 2008, the Indian Air Force plans to induct 126 multi-role combat aircraft (with an option for an additional 74 aircraft), 280 Su-30MKI air superiority fighters (Ordered at cost of US$8.4 billion, 120 are already in service with the IAF), 220 HAL Tejas, 47 SEPECAT Jaguar combat aircraft. Additionally, the Indian Air Force has signed contracts for 66 BAE Hawk Mk.132 trainers (deliveries underway), 80+40 combat helicopters, 3 new Long Range UAV, 6 mid-air refueling plane, 225+ HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer aircraft and some additional medium-range transport aircraft.

The Indian Air Force began the upgradation of its MiG-29 fleet in 2007. India awarded Russia a US$965 million contract to upgrade its multi-role MiG-29 into MiG-35 warplanes, on Monday March 10, 2008. According to the deal, Russia will re-arm the twin-engined MiG-29s with air-to-air missiles, and the upgraded MiGs will feature increased fuel capacity and state-of-the-art avionics.

Confirmed sales

In early 2008, the IAF signed a deal to acquire 6 C-130J Super Hercules, modified for special mission roles, for US$1.06 billion. Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver the planes in 2011. In December 2008, India and Russia inked a deal for the supply of 80 Mi-17V-5 (also known as Mi-171) medium lift helicopters at a cost of US$1.2 billion. The two countries had earlier negotiated a price of $650 million, but early in 2008 Russia asked for a revision of the contract price. Russia is expected to deliver the Mi-171 to the IAF in 2010. The deal also envisages a US$405 million "offset" obligation by Russia. The new choppers, which have an 18,000 ft operational ceiling, will replace 50 Mi-8s currently in service with the IAF, some of which are over 35 years old, and boost IAF's capability to support high-altitude posts in Siachen and Ladakh sectors. The helicopter will come with the circuitry and hard points to carry weapons.

Under procurement

Because of delays in inducting the indigenous HAL Tejas, the IAF issued an Request of Intent (RoI) for the procurement of 126 multi-role combat aircraft to replace around 250 Cold War-era MiG-21 it operates. Contenders for the $10 Billion contract are the MiG-35 from Mikoyan of Russia, the Rafale from Dassault Aviation of France, the Eurofighter Typhoon, JAS 39 Gripen from Saab of Sweden, the F-16IN from Lockheed Martin and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from Boeing.

In May 2009, the IAF picked Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) over Russia's Ilyushin Il-78 as the future tanker for the air force. The deal is worth approximately US$1 billion.

On May 26, 2009, the Indian Ministry of Defense invited bids for 22 combat helicopters and 15 heavy-lift helicopters in a deal worth US$2 billion. Companies which have expressed their interest in the tender include — Russia's Kamov and Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant, Europe's AgustaWestland and Eurocopter and United States' Bell Helicopter and Boeing. Boeing submitted its initial bid on Oct 23, 2009 offering the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter and the CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift, twin-rotor helicopters.

On June 15, 2009, the IAF announced that it was interested in purchasing about 10 C-17 Globemaster III tactical military transport aircraft. The IAF will be sending a proposal to the Indian Defense Ministry to acquire these aircraft through US Government's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.

A tender for supply of 317 light helicopters will be floated by Ministry of Defence combining the requirements of Indian Air force (125) and Indian Army (197). Unnamed government official stated that Letters of Interest (LOI) have been sent to Kamov, Bell, Augusta Westland and Eurocopter. In February 2008, Bell withdrew from the race, citing differences in offset clause with the Government of India. HAL has also recently joined the race with its Light Observation Helicopter (LOH). Although it is still on the drawing board, HAL officials seem to be confident to deliver in time.

Under development

HAL Tejas
HAL initiated the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme in 1983 to develop a replacement aircraft for IAF's ageing MiG-21. After development during the 80s and 90s the first flight occurred in 2001. The aircraft has since been christened HAL Tejas. The IAF plans to induct 220 Tejas aircraft. It has ordered 28 limited production aircraft. These aircraft are expected to enter service in 2010.

In October 2007, India and Russia signed a pact to develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft. The Indian version will be a two-seater, air superiority fighter. Another agreement was signed between India's Hindustan Aeronautics and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in December 2008 which detailed the joint development and production the aircraft. Work on the program will start by mid-2009 and the program is expected to be completed by 2017. During this period, these companies will form a joint-venture for the development of a Multirole Transport Aircraft, which will replace the IAF's ageing fleet of Antonov An-32s. Both HAL and UAC will invest US$300 million each on the program.

In 2004, Defence Research and Development Organisation revived the Airavat Project, which was India's first attempt in developing an indigenous AEW aircraft. A $210 million deal signed with Brazil's Embraer in 2008 for the supply of three Embraer EMB-145 regional jets. India has sent a request for proposal to six vendors for the supply of Active Array Antenna Unit (AAAU) and various other sub-systems. These vendors include Israel's Elta, the European consortium EADS, France's Thales, Sweden's SAAB Erikson and the United State's Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

HAL has developed HAL HJT-36 Sitara for the IAF which carried out its maiden test flight in 2003. These aircraft are scheduled to replace the aging HJT-16 Kiran mk.I as intermediate jet trainer. The company is developing an Attack Helicopter for the IAF based on HAL Dhruv. It is being designed to fit into an anti-infantry and anti-armour role and will be capable to operate from altitudes an 6,500 metre. First flight of HAL LCH (Light Combat Helicopter) is expected in 2009.

Aerospace Command

The IAF is setting up an aerospace command. This command will leverage space technology including satellites. The command will be utilised by all the three services of the Indian armed forces and also for civilian purposes by ISRO. On October 22, 2001, ISRO launched the Technology Experiment Satellite (TES). Its onboard 1-metre resolution camera was the testbed for Indian space based imagery intelligence. ISRO launched follow-up military satellite CARTOSAT-2A on 28 April, 2008. It carries a panchromatic camera (PAN) with a resolution less than 1-metre but lacks night time and cloudy weather observation capability. ISRO launched a sophisticated radar-imaging satellite on 20 April 2009 called RISAT-2. It is capable of imaging in all-weather conditions and has a resolution of one metre. ISRO has denied that the spacecraft is spy satellite; however, experts believe that the satellite will allow India's security agencies to monitor military activities and movements of suspected terrorists in neighboring countries as well as enable the IAF to carry out precise strikes against targets like terrorist training camps.

Surface to Air Missile Systems

  • Barak SAM - India and Israel have agreed to expand their missile development cooperation with a longer-range version of their extended-range Barak ship defense system for the Indian Air Force.
  • Trishul(Trident): Development of Trishul is complete. It has met the IAF requirements during its various developmental flight trials. DRDO is presently in dialogue with IAF for possible induction. Frontier India reports that Indian Air force is considering to induct small quantity to meet partial requirement of LLQRM (Low Level Quick Reaction Missile) System.. However it is not known if IAF has placed a formal order of Trishul SAM System.

  • SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby): In June 2007, India signed a $250 million to purchase SPYDER mobile air defense missiles from Israel. The two countries signed an additional $4 billion deal for the joint-development of a medium range surface-to-air missiles. However, the procurement of SPYDER missiles was delayed because of an ongoing investigation against Israel Aerospace Industries and RAFAEL by Indian intelligence agencies for its alleged kickbacks in the Barak-I deal with the Indian Navy. In August 2008, a $2.5 billion deal was signed by India and Israel to develop an advanced version of the SPYDER.

Akash missile.
  • Maitri LLQRM (Low Level Quick Reaction Missile): DRDO is in talks with MBDA to develop Maitri LLQRM for Army, Air force and Navy. Sources said that DRDL is preparing feasibility report and is awaiting formal clearance from defence ministry.

  • Akash: Indian Air force has approved the induction of Akash Missile System and had initiated the process of inducting the system. Akash has successfully demonstrated its performance through number of flight tests. DRDO and IAF jointly began a ten day intensive trial of Akash on December 13, 2007 aimed at making IAF familiar with the system.

IAF currently operates two squadrons of Akash. It is happy with the missile and is in the process of acquiring more squadrons for deployment in the North East.

Surface to Surface Missiles

  • Prithvi II: 250 km Prithvi-II Ballistic Missile is under IAF service which could be used to target airfields, command and control centers etc.

Air to Surface Missiles

See also



External links

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