It was Dussehra on Oct 8th this year. A festival which is celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm across the country. According to Hindu religious text Ramayana, it is the day when Lord Rama had eliminated Lanka king, Ravana. The festival is celebrated as a symbol of victory of good over evil.
And, the same morning the Indian Air Force celebrated its 87th anniversary; when the wing of aerial defense mechanism of our nation not only showcased it prowess by putting its mainstream fighter jets, choppers and advanced radio transmission systems on display at the Hindan AFS of New Delhi, but, also strengthened its valor as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh officially received the first Rafale fighter jet made for India by the French aviation major Dassault, that very day.
It all started in 1932 as the Royal Indian Air Force under then British rule, and its name was changed to Indian Air Force in 1950. Following the tradition, a grand parade-cum-investiture ceremony is being held at the Hindan – Air Force Station.
The air display at the Hindon airbase began with flag-bearing skydivers of the famous Akash Ganga showcasing accuracy landing in their colourful canopies. The parade later followed by air display and aerobatics by the Air Force’s various aircraft and aerobatic teams like Surya-Kiran (SKAT) and Sarang display team of IAF.
This year the air display was special, so as IAF warriors who participated in the Balakot airstrike, flew past three Mirage 2000 aircraft and two Su-30 MKi fighter aircraft as a package display making the ‘Avenger’ formation during the event. The main attraction of this year’s air display was Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman (VC) leading a MiG formation and flying a MiG Bison Aircraft.
In a first, newer procurements of IAF like Chinook – the tandem rotor, heavy lift, and AH-64 combat choppers – Apache made a noting mark with their presence in action. A vintage fleet of aircraft that has served the Air Force for over decades was also displayed as part of the celebrations; Tiger Moth and Harvard vintage jets were there as a part of IAF’s veteran fleet of aircraft.
Of all, multirole light combats indigenous aircraft – Tejas, steals the show at the parade, with maximum solo airtime displaying strategic and skillful maneuvers, which reflected its capabilities to satiate the diverse needs of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, in hours of combat concern.
Speaking on the occasion, CAS Air Chief Marshal, Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria assured the nation of the IAF’s sacred resolve, defending the sovereignty of the Indian skies and safeguarding the national interest at all cost.
The President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister greeted air warriors on the occasion. In his message, President Ram Nath Kovind said the country proudly honours its air warriors, veterans, and families of the Indian Air Force. They safeguard the Indian skies with courage and commitment. He said India remains forever indebted to the brave men and women in blue for their selfless devotion and sacrifice.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said the sky guardians with their valour, dedication, sacrifices and skills are the pride of the nation and every Indian is always indebted to them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said a proud nation expresses gratitude to its air warriors and their families. He said the Air Force continues to serve India with utmost dedication and excellence.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, also greeted the Indian Air Force on its 87th anniversary, saying the force is a symbol of valour and courage. In a tweet, he said the entire nation is proud of the Indian Air Force’s dedication and commitment to safeguarding the motherland. Amit Shah said he salutes Air Force heroes and their families
All the three Chiefs – Army Chief General Bipin Rawat along with Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria and Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh paid floral tributes at the National War Memorial on Air Force Day. With the 87 years of glorious past, IAF today has transformed into a modern and battle-hardened Air Force with strategic reach, and, stands with a ranking 5 globally. The defense wing intends to persist with its great legacy of commitment and excellence.
(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications)