It all started in 1932 as the Royal Indian Air Force under then the British rule, and its name was changed to Indian Air Force in 1950. On 1st April 1954, the President’s Colour was awarded to the IAF at Palam by the President (then) Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Since then, Indian Air Force Day is celebrated on October 8 every year to mark the foundation day of the formidable aerial military force of our nation.

On Oct 8th, 2020 the Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrated its 88th anniversary in all elegance and discipline amidst this Indo-China border tension, and continuing pandemic situation. The wing of aerial defense mechanism not only showcased its prowess and put its mainstream assets, heptrs, and advanced radio transmission systems on display at the Hindan AFS of New Delhi today, but, a grand parade-cum-investiture ceremony later followed the day. 

As an attendee, I must say it was a perfectly planned event that transpired in presence of all the air-force warriors and eminences from the other department of the Indian Armed Forces. Being truthful, for a moment I paused to realize how much of mental strength it demands for our air-warriors to put together an event in such a spick and span manner, given adverse situations are already prevailing there in parallel. Be it to tackle the Indo-China border tension with all operational readiness or, to aid the civil side of the nation and abroad to contain an uncalled pandemic; our air warriors proved today to be a multitasking, efficient, and potent force who are always ready and can justify all its active roles sensibly.

Coming to the commemorative side of the event, it commenced with a glorious aerial display by the flagship sky diving team – Akash Ganga of IAF. The divers plunged out of AN-32 aircraft at a height of 8000 feet with their colorful and signatory canopies. As their vocation stands, “Chatri Mata Ki Jai” the 1st Sqn was led by Sqn Ldr. Manoj Goswami. A skilled and accurate landing was showcased by the skydivers later one after the other at the parade ground over multiple in air manoeuvres.

At the center static display of the parade ground, this year’s AF day theme was – Innovate – Integrate and Intimidate. Assets that has been showcased were a C-17, AEW&C platform, Chinooks, MiG29, Akash – Surface to air missile system, ALH Dhruv, Mirage2000, the new entrant in the IAF family a – Rafale, LCA Tejas, Jaguar, indigenously built Central acquisition radar system – Rohini, Su-30Mki, Apache, and a C-130 J respectively.

The parade-cum-investiture ceremony commenced with an aerial salutation for the eminences in presence by three Mi-17 hepts. The formation was led by Wng Cdr. Nikhil Mehrotra, IAF.

An efficiently coordinated aerial display was later followed by the parade, with the first formation by the two twin-engine, tandem rotor, heavy-lift helicopter Chinook as led by Wng Cdr. Rahul Sharma carried heavy loads proving their role as a force multiplier for the IAF.

The second formation was, by a Mi-35 attack helicopter and Apache, as they made their mark with the ‘Eklavya’ formation as led by Grp Capt. Raj Sekhar Reddy, IAF.

In Hercules formation later entered the aerial arena in Vic formation three C-130J Super Hercules, as formation led by Grp Capt. V P Singh, 77 Sqn, IAF. Ensuing their mark, they arrived in Globe formation a C-17 flanked by two Mig-29 and Su-30Mki, and the formation was led by Grp Capt. AK Patnaik, IAF.

The next formation was the ‘Bahadur’ formation depicting the truly intimidating capability of the IAF, formation comprising five fighter aircrafts with a MiG-21 Bis in the lead flanked by two MiG-29 and two Su-30Mki. The Bahadur formation was led by Wng Cdr. M Rana, IAF.

The twinjet multirole air superiority fighter aircraft Su-30 Mki made its mark in a, ‘Trishul’ formation in the arena, consisting of three Su-30Mki led Grp Capt. SP Dogra, IAF.

Streaking from the horizon, ‘Vijay’ formation was the show stealer for this year depicting the victory ready always consisting of the newly inducted Rafale in lead flanked by two Jaguars, and two Mirage2000 the formation was led by Grp Capt. Neeraj Shyam, IAF.

The indigenous LCA Tejas, also made quite a mark with its maneuvers like half-roll looping, followed by a slow-speed run by a Su-30Mki and Rafale parallelly.

The French prodigy Rafale, also showcased an inverted flight and Cuban roll maneuver, which is said can be used as a maneuver for weapon delivery on any adversary. The aircraft later concluded its showmanship with a, ‘Vertical Charlie’ at the parade on date.

The vintage fleet of IAF also featured themselves, in formation a Dacota vintage aircraft depicted the true culture of India was flanked by two Dorniers. The formation was led by Grp Capt. Ajay Menon. Not leaving much behind, an old 1930 designed Tiger Moth aircraft also swayed all along at the parade for a while to commemorate the 88th IAF Day.

The Su-30Mki, also staged a vertical Charlie, before the audience rested their pulse to mesmerizing air-display by the SKAT (Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team) and the helicopter air display team of the Indian Air Force – Sarangs.

On the occasion of Indian Air Force Day, 2020 Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief, Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria assured the nation that the Indian Air Force will evolve and be ever ready to safeguard India’s sovereignty and interests in all circumstances.

“I want to assure the nation that the Indian Air Force will evolve and be ever ready to safeguard our nation’s sovereignty and interests in all circumstances,” said CAS Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria at Hindon airbase.

“As we enter the 88th year, the IAF is undergoing a transformational change. We are entering an era which will redefine where we employ aerospace power and conduct integrated multi-domain operations,” he added.

Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria further stated that this year has indeed been an unprecedented one. As COVID-19 spread across the globe, our nation’s response was firm.

“The tenacity and resolve of our air warriors ensured that IAF continued to retain its capability to undertake full-scale operations throughout this period,” said the IAF Chief.

“I commend all air warriors for quick response in the recent standoff on the northern frontiers when we deployed our combat assets at short notice to handle any eventuality and provided proactive support to all requirements of deployment and sustenance for Indian Army,” he added.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff, General Manoj Mukund Naravane and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh attended the 88th Indian Air Force Day celebrations at Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad.

Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh has conveyed best wishes to the air warriors and their families on 88th Air Force Day-2020 of Indian Air Force (IAF) here today. He said in a message, “Eighty-eight years of dedication, sacrifice and excellence mark the journey of the IAF which is today a lethal and formidable force to reckon with.”

Raksha Mantri expressed that the Nation was proud of its men and women in blue and saluted the prowess of the IAF as it stands ready to face challenges and deter adversaries. “We remain committed to enhancement of IAF’s combat capability through modernisation and indigenization, ” Shri Rajnath Singh tweeted.

Raksha Mantri also expressed confidence that the IAF would always guard the Nation’s skies, come what may, adding, “Here’s wishing you blue skies and happy landings always”.

With the 88th year of glorious past, IAF today has transformed into a modern and battle-hardened Air Force with strategic reach. The Defence wing intends to persist with its great legacy of commitment and excellence. This year ahead of the air force day, Indian Air Force also shared their anthem through a special video. The video is bound to leave us countrymen feeling proud.

(The writer is a Delhi-based independent contributor to print and online publications. He is a DCC qualified defence beat writer)