The Indian Air Force (IAF) completed 85 years yesterday. Created on October 8, 1932 as an auxiliary part of the erstwhile British Empire’s Royal Air Force, the IAF played a crucial role in the upcoming 2nd World War. Its’ first ever, No: 1 squadron was composed of all males from diverse backgrounds and religious identities.
Two of India’s most well-known pilots and Chiefs of Air Staff Subroto Mukherjee and Arjan Singh were both inductees in the first squadron. From fighting against Japanese forces in the Burmese region WW2, to aiding Indian soldiers in the 1961 Congolese Crisis, from besting Pakistan multiple times over the latter’s attempts to invade Kashmir and East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) to carrying out multiple humanitarian and relief operations across the length and breadth of the country, the IAF has stood the test of time and has remained committed to protecting India’s skies against foreign interference.
One of my earliest encounters with the rich and amazing legacy of the IAF was when I watched Rang De Basanti. The charisma & the smartness of the Air force officer (portrayed amazingly by R. Madhavan) was superb. On another occasion, when I went to visit a relative in Pune, due to their house’s close proximity to an Air Force Base, I was a frequent spectator to aircrafts buzzing and flying in the sky at astonishing speeds.
Another movie which really filled me with respect and admiration for the air force was the American film, Top Gun. Though the story is based on a US Naval Aviator and his exploits as a young, brash but skilled pilot, nevertheless it was an eye-opener for me into the wildly dangerous but wildly adventurous life of a fighter pilot. Cartoon shows such as Swat Kats filled me with awe. The amazing dog fights, speeds breaking the speed of sound, fabulous air maneuvering stunts and the pure ‘attitude’ of T-Bone and Razor, the two anthropomorphic cat pilots, was un-putdownable.
Coming back to the IAF, its arsenal and grit is equally impressive. From Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Dhruv utility helicopter to the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), from Su-30MKI fighter craft to C-130J Super Hercules military transport plane & Dornier Do 228 utility aircraft, the IAF boasts of a strong support system of aircrafts offering multiple utilities and benefits. Apart from these fantastic flights, the IAF is also among the few institutions in the world to have women fighter pilots. Though the decision for the same came after a protracted struggle, it was nevertheless heartening to see women dominating the skies on the same level as their male counterparts.
Though the IAF still has a long way to go towards becoming a technological and aerial superpower with no equal in the world, it nevertheless is aggressively working towards this goal. We hope it “Keeps on touching the sky and beyond with glory for all eternity.”