While the 85th anniversary of the IAF was celebrated across the nation, the main event at the national level was the Air Force Day Parade at Air Force Station, Hindon.
On Sunday October 8 this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrated its eighty fifth anniversary country wide. Unfortunately, this year, the fervour and enthusiasm normally associated with the event, was somewhat subdued on account of two depressing episodes. First of these was the somewhat sudden demise of 98-year old Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, an iconic figure who with his unmatched record of professionalism, valour and leadership, stood tall in the IAF fraternity. Even after his passing away, his memories will continued to be a source of inspiration for future generations and will be cherished forever. The second and a rather traumatic event was the crash of the Mi-17 V5 helicopter during a logistic support mission to forward posts in the North East in which rather tragically, seven brave hearts lost their lives. These included five officers and men of the IAF and two soldiers from the Indian Army.
While the 85th anniversary of the IAF was celebrated at all units and stations of the IAF all over the country, the main event at the national level was the Air Force Day Parade and the enthralling aerial display of put up by aircraft of the IAF at Air Force Station, Hindon near Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. The parade was reviewed by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), IAF. Amongst the dignitaries present were General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Army Staff and Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff. Also present were defence attaches as well as several other senior functionaries both from the civil and the military, serving as well as retired. A special guest of honour at the occasion was the former national level cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar who has been conferred with the honorary rank of Group Captain.
Established on October 8, 1932, the IAF has a glorious record of performance and achievements in its history of 85 years. The fledgling IAF played a stellar role in the campaign against the rebels in the North West Frontier Province as also in World War II, thwarting the advance of the Japanese Army in Burma, now Myanmar. Since its inception, the IAF has ensured the security of the Indian air space with great diligence and dedication. Apart from participating in the several violent conflicts with the Pakistan, the IAF has undertaken a number of other minor operations which include Operation Vijay to claim Goa, Operation Meghdoot to establish control over the Siachen Glacier in the disputed Kashmir region, Operation Cactus that was India’s intervention in the Maldives and Operation Poomalai to air drop supplies by transport aircraft over the besieged town of Jaffna in Sri Lanka. In addition, the IAF has always been in the forefront to undertake Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations both within the country and across the globe. These operations have included evacuation of Indian nationals as well as others stranded in foreign lands owing to turmoil and strife in those countries. The IAF has also been a participant in several of the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions as well as well as in air exercises with the Air Forces of other nations including of the major powers.
On the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the IAF, the President of India Ram Nath Kovind lauded the highly professional service through a message which said, "On Air Force Day, I salute the valour, commitment and dedication of our brave air warriors. They safeguard our skies." Prime Minister Narendra Modi too offered his greetings and felicitations on the occasion to all personnel of the IAF and their families. In a message on Twitter, the Prime Minister said, “On Air Force Day, best wishes to our courageous air warriors and their families. Their determination and prowess ensure that our skies are safe." Union Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre also greeted air warriors and their families on the occasion.
The events of the day began with flag-bearing sky divers of the famous Akash Ganga Team of the IAF jumping out of AN-32 aircraft with their colourful parachute canopies and performing a series of manoeuvres during their descent to the ground before the spectators. On the tarmac of Air Force Station, Hindon, the entire range of aircraft on the inventory of the IAF was on static display with combat platforms in battle ready condition. Heralded by the bugle, contingent on parade consisting of four squadrons with two flights each, marched in smartly to the tune of the No1 Air Force Band and took position. The parade was commanded by Group Captain Syed Muzaffer Yunus, Commanding Officer of a Mi-17 V5 Helicopter Unit in Northern sector.
In the middle of the parade was the “Nishan Toli" carried by an officer and escorted by six air warriors. The Nishan Toli is a flag which symbolises the bravery, valour and commitment to mission, integrity and excellence of the IAF. It was presented to the IAF by Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of the nation on April 01, 1954. Since, then this flag is most revered and is hoisted on important occasions.
The CAS assured the nation that the IAF is prepared to fight a war at a short notice and is fully geared up to respond to any security challenge.
Inspection of the parade by the CAS was followed by the march past during which three Mi-35 attack helicopters of the IAF flew past. The march past was followed by presentation of awards. The Chief Guest and Reviewing Officer Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa then conferred the awards of Vayu Sena Medal, Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) and Vishist Seva Medal to individuals selected to receive these.
This was followed by address by the CAS in which he highlighted the grave security situation the country is currently faced with and the uncertainties in the present geo-political environment in the region. The evolving scenario may require the IAF to fight a short and swift war. He assured the nation that the IAF is prepared to fight a war at a short notice and is fully geared up to respond to any security challenge to the country in the most befitting manner. He went on to say that the focus was to transform the IAF into a technology-intensive force in the next few years to significantly enhance its overall prowess.
What followed was a stunning display of precision and coordination in rifle drill by the Air Warrior Drill Team of the IAF. In conformity with the motto of the team which is “Drill to Thrill”, members of the Air Warrior Drill Team displayed a complex sequence of foot and rifle movements through nine different formations. The standard of performance this year was significantly better than that in October 2016.
The aerial display commenced with vintage aircraft, the Tiger Moth bi-plane, the erstwhile basic trainer aircraft and the Harvard single piston engine intermediate trainer aircraft that were in use in the 1950s and the 1960s. These two aircraft that were pulled out of the museum and participated in the aerial display, revived nostalgic memories amongst the elderly veterans who had trained on these platforms.
These vintage machines were followed by aircraft that are currently operational in the IAF. These included the C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift transport aircraft, the C-130 J Super Hercules, Sukhoi Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, Mig-29s, Jaguar and the Mig-21 Bison. The high point of the aerial display was the display by the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas of the recently raised No 45 Squadron Flying Daggers. A Tejas piloted by the Commanding Officer of the Squadron, Group Captain Madhav Rangachari, staged an impressive air display, putting the Tejas through its paces before an appreciative audience despite the poor visibility.
The grand finale of the aerial display was the performance by the Sarang helicopter team that put up a remarkable sequence of manoeuvres while in formation by rotary wing platforms. Wrapping up the air display was the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) equipped with the Hawk 132 Advanced Jet Trainer. This was even more impressive with its air display of a variety of manoeuvres in formation including aerobatics.