Guardians of the sky


Aditi Saraswat

The INDIAN AIR FORCE DAY is the air arm of the Indian Armed Forces. Its complement of personnel and aircraft assets ranks fourth amongst the air forces of the world. Its primary mission, is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct Ariel air force during armed conflict. It was officially established on 8 October 1932, as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire, which honored India's aviation service during World War II. After India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the name Royal Indian Air Force was kept and served in the name of Dominion of Indian. With the government's transition to a Republic in 1950, the prefix Royal was removed after only three years.

Since 1950, the IAF has been involved in four years, with neighboring Pakistan and one with the People's Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the IAF include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot,  and Operation Poomalai. The IAF's mission expands, beyond engagement with hostile forces, with the IAF participating in United Nations Peacekeeping Missions.

The President of India, holds the rank of Supreme Commander of the IAF. As of 1 July 2017, 139,576 personnel are in service with the Indian Air Force. The Chief of Air Staff, an Air Chief Marshal, is a four star officer and is responsible for the bulk of operational command of the Air Force. There is never more than one serving ACM (Air Chief Marshal) ,at any given time in the IAF. The rank of Marshal Of The Air Force has been conferred by the President of India on one occasion in history, to Arjan Singh. On 26 January 2002, Singh became the first and so far, only five star rank officer .


The IAF's mission is defined by the Armed Forces Act of 194, the Constitution of India, and the Air Force Act of 1950. Defence of India and every part there, 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 demobilization.

The IAF provides close air support, to the Indian Army troops on the battlefield as well as strategic and tactical airlift capabilities. The Integrated Space Cell is operated by the Indian Armed Forces, The Civilian Department of Space, and The Indian Space Research Organisation. By uniting the civilian run, space exploration organizations and the military faculty is able to efficiently benefit from innovation in the civilian sector of space exploration, and the civilian departments benefits as civilian.

The Indian Air Force, with highly trained crews, pilots, and access to modern military assets provides India with the capacity to provide rapid response evacuation, search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, and delivery of relief supplies to affected areas via cargo aircraft. The IAF provided extensive assistance to relief operations during natural calamities such as the Gujarat cyclone in 1998, the tsunami in 2004, and North India floods in 2013. The IAF has also undertaken relief missions such as Operation Rainbow in Sri Lanka.


The President of India is the Supreme Commander of all Indian  Armed Forces ,and by virtue of that fact is the National Commander-in-chief of the Air Force. The Chief of the Air Staff with the rank of Air Chief Marshal is the Commander of the Indian Air Force. He is assisted by six officers, all with the rank of air marshal.


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 primary flight training is done at the Air Force Academy (located in Hyderabad), followed by operational training at various other schools. Advanced officer training for command positions is also conducted at the Defence Services Staff College; specialized advanced flight training schools are located at Bidar, Karnataka and Hakimpet, Telangana (also the location for helicopter training). Technical schools are found at a number of other locations.

Within each operational command, there are from nine to sixteen bases or stations, each commanded by an air commodore. A station typically has one wing and one or two squadrons assigned to it.

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 and units..
Squadrons are the field units and formations attached to static locations. Thus, a flying squadron or unit is a sub-unit of an air force station, which carries out the primary task of the IAF. A fighter squadron consists of 18 aircraft; 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.

Flights  are sub-divisions of squadrons, commanded by a squadron leader. Each flight consists of two sections.

The smallest unit is the section, led by a Flight Lieutenant. Each section consists of three aircraft.

Within this formation structure, IAF has several service branches for day-to-day operations.

Rank structure
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.

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 and  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 below 25 years of age 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 duty of an airman, 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 airmen of Technical trades are responsible for maintenance, repair and prepare for use the propulsion system of aircraft and other airborne weapon delivery system, Radar, Voice/Data transmission and reception equipment, latest airborne weapon delivery systems, all types of light, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic systems of airborne missiles, aero engines, aircraft fuelling equipment and heavy duty mechanical vehicles, cranes and loading equipment etc. The competent and qualified Airmen , from Technical trades also participate in flying as Flight Engineers, Flight Signallers and Flight Gunners. The recruitment of personnel below officer rank is conducted through All India Selection Tests and Recruitment Rallies. All India Selection Tests are conducted among 15 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.

Why is Indian Air Force Day celebrated on 8 October
October 8 is celebrated as Air Force Day in India. It commemorates the anniversary of the official foundation of the Indian Air Force in 1932.

Every year since India became a republic in 1950, the Air Force Day is celebrated on Oct 8.The Indian Air Force, the air arm of the Indian armed forces, is entrusted with the prime responsibility of safeguarding the Indian airspace, as well as to carry out aerial warfare on enemy air crafts and destroy strategic installations during war time.On 1 April 1933, the IAF commissioned its first squadron, designated as the No.1 Squadron. The Squadron's manpower comprised off six RAF-trained officers and 19 Havai Sepoys (literally, air soldiers).  The aircraft inventory comprised of four Westland Wapiti IIA army co-operation biplanes at Drigh Road as the "A" Flight nucleus of the planned No.1 (Army Co- operation) Squadron.

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