History of Indian Air Force

  • IAF was effective right from the first campaign which was in 1948 where Pakistan intruded into J&K. The IAF played a very critical role.
  • In 1962 Indo-China war air power was not used. So the loss was ours.
  • In 1965 Indo-Pakistan war air power was used with little less coordination, but they played an effective role.
  • In 1971 India had complete air superiority because we have 12 to 14 F 86 Sabre’s which made a difference. In East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) there are many tributaries of small rivers. Crossing these rivers was a problematic area. This was overcome by the IAF, providing a huge amount of helicopter support.
  • In 1999 Kargil war, there was effective use of air power. This was first time in the history of air power that weaponry was delivered from high altitudes and with accuracy. No other air force in the world had done before which was a tremendous achievement for IAF.


The importance of Air Force

  • Air power today is the most lethal component of the 3 services. The flexibility and mobility, the precision of striking the targets which are 1000s of miles away very accurately.
  • From 1999 to 2016, new technologies have emerged, evolved and changed. It is not the air force but the air space we are looking at.
  • We always discuss about the number of squadrons saying we must have 42 or 44 squadrons. The fact is we have 33 at present. We are going to retire about 11 squadrons of MIG-21 and MIG-27 by 2022. These aircraft have to be replaced. The 36 Rafale air craft takes 70 months to come in. Engineers, pilots, and technicians have to be trained for it. Considering all these we need to think of a balance force.


Need to modernize:

  • To derivate from threat perception in future days.
  • Doctrine which has now become two front war policy.
  • Net centric warfare.
  • Aerospace kind of IAF to handle space assets in a required manner.
  • Force multipliers that is air to air refuelers.
  • To protect the airspace in a high manner.



  • The induction rate in the air force has been slow.
  • MIG 21 is accident prone as mentioned.
  • Cost of making aircrafts indigenously has proved to be costly.
  • The concern for the military in general, for the country and for the political leadership is to manage the two fronts. The immediate threat is from the western front i.e., Pakistan. The medium or the long term would be china. It is very important to make the threat assessment and based on that is to counter the threat.
  • There is a lack of collaboration between PSUs and the private sector wrt airforce.
  • For Pakistan it will have to be complete air superiority which means the IAF must be prepared to carry counter air operations and effective air defence operations.
  • The expenditure diverted is not enough and is a concern.
  • For the Chinese threat, it should be the missiles. It will not be platform based like fighter aircraft, because they have the technology. For this the force levels have to be different. We need an integrated air and missile defence system, ballistic missile defence system. It will be a different formulation of the threat assessment for the two neighbours.
  • Today technology is power. We should have a smaller number but high technology which is very effective for its objectives rather than having quantities. Certainly we need quantities, but the overwhelming factor should be technology.
  • Order outflow is a concern.
  • CAG’s Audit Report of2019 on ‘Capital Acquisition in Indian Air Force’ revealed the following findings:
    • Volume I consisting of seven chapters discusses the systematic issues in the acquisition process. It includes details of ten acquisition contracts.
    • Volume-II consists of audit findings relating to the acquisition of Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft through an Inter Government Agreement (IGA) with the Government of France. This includes examination of the pricing.
    • To acquire the right product at the right price, it is essential that the qualitative requirements (Air Staff Qualitative Requirements in the IAF-ASQRs) truly reflect the users functional need. This helps in generation of maximum possible competition and technical and price evaluation is done objectively.
    • Audit noted that IAF did not define the ASQRs properly. As a result none of the vendors could fully meet the ASQRs. ASQRs were changed repeatedly during the procurement process.
    • Audit noted that the vendor response to solicitation of offers was low, which restricted competition. Number of vendors who responded to the Request For Proposal (RFP) was far less than the number of vendors who were invited to bid.
    • Defence Ministry faced difficulties in realistically estimating the Benchmark price, making it difficult to establish the reasonability of price. This also caused delay in price evaluation and contract negotiations.
    • There were severe delays at various stages of the acquisition process. Against three years envisaged in Defence Procurement Process, four cases took more than three years and seven cases took more than five years to reach the contract conclusion stage.
    • Delays in acquisition were essentially due to a complex and multi-level approval process, where objections could be raised at any stage.


The issues being faced by IAF with respect to maintaining numerical adequacy are:

  • Even if the Air Force gets the sanctioned 42 squadrons, India’s strength would be “less than the combined strength of our two adversaries.
  • IAF fleet strength has been plagued by poor decision-making, poor acquisition strategy and shoddy quality control and contract delivery.
  • It is stymied by serious constraints on India’s defence budget, the meagre achievements of the country’s domestic development organisations and India’s inability to reconcile the need for self-sufficiency in defence production with the necessity of maintaining technological superiority over rivals
  • The IAF had also ordered 43 Tejas jet fighters with another 83 planned for the Mark 1A version. However, though there is a value in procuring them to encourage domestic R&D, these aircraft are simply not capable of combat flying. The present version of the Tejas is an excellent aircraft as a Lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT), but the IAF doesn’t set much store by this concept, unlike most advanced air forces.
  • For example it has yet to get 25 Su-30MKI that were to be delivered by 2017 by HAL. Upgrades, such as that of 47 Mirage 2000s have also been delayed. Likewise none of the 61 Jaguars which were to have been upgraded have yet joined service.
  • The LCA, is, of course, a story of its own marked by delays and performance problems. In addition, in the last 10 years, 90 combat aircraft have crashed.


Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas

  • Tejas is a single-engine lightweight multirole fighter jet.  It is the smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary supersonic combat aircraft.
  • It will replace the country’s aging MiG-21 fighters.
  • It is manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • LCA Tejas has a limited reach of a little over 400-km. It will be mainly used for close air-to-ground operations.
  • The first squadron of indigenously designed and manufactured Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas was inducted into Indian Air Force (IAF). The first squadron of LCA Tejas has been named as ‘Flying Daggers’
  • LCA Tejas is not the first indigenous fighter to be inducted into the IAF. In 1967, IAF had formed the first operational squadron with the indigenous HF24 Marut fighter

The HAL Tejas Mark 2, or Medium Weight Fighter (MWF),[2] is an Indian single-engine, canard delta wing, Multirole combat aircraft designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC)[3] of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

It is a further development of the HAL Tejas, with an elongated airframe, close coupled canards, new sensors, and a more powerful engine. The Tejas Mark 2 is being designed and developed to replace multiple strike fighters of IAF viz, SEPECAT Jaguar, Dassault Mirage 2000 and MiG-29.] The first flight of Tejas Mark 2 is expected to be in 2023 with series production to begin by 2026